Taking Talent Old School: How to Create a Positive Candidate Experience

Mark Fogel candidate experience, Candidate Pool, Hiring Managers, Mark Fogel, Old School, Online Applications, Recruiting

We constantly hear stories about bad experiences candidates have in our recruiting processes – and not just about the lack of personalization in the pipelining process. I have my own war chest of stories and a few as a candidate, not as the recruiter.

 A couple of year back I personally sent out over 600 resumes in a 10-month period while exploring a change in employment. For the metrics freaks out there I received back 62 personal (or HRIS system) responses and 38 “you are qualified but we are passing on you” emails. I also received 12 emails and 7 phone calls that converted to 3 interviews. During that same time, I had 3 organizations interview me because of referrals. I also had 4 recruiters find me unsolicited and that converted into a handful of interviews. Only half the experiences where I interviewed would get a passing grade and only one would get an “A” if I was grading the experience.

So do the math and the measurement, and my numbers are actually good compared to the normal response rate of sending your resume into the black hole of applying for a new position. The experience of applying for jobs and interviewing is harsh for everyone and especially for the older folks in the room.

One inexperienced recruiter asked me inappropriate questions then abruptly stopped when her computer failed, and she didn’t have a teleprompter to assist in interviewing. Obviously an example of an experienced senior HR executive being interviewed by a rookie who didn’t know what she was doing or how to handle adversity. If this is an example of an experienced HR pro with 15 years in the C-suite, I can’t image the experiences of the typical candidate daily.

Let me offer a few examples of how to create a positive experience for your candidates – one that will be less bitter for your candidates and just might yield you some good will.

During my time recruiting for Limited Brands corporately two decades ago we had a goal of all interviewed candidates being brand ambassadors regardless of whether they received an offer or not. We viewed candidates as customers (many were literally) and wanted their experience to be as positive as a great shopping experience, where even if you didn’t make a purchase, you came back again, and told friends and families to do the same.

Positive Candidate Experience Interviewing Protocol:

  1. Treat all candidates as if they are the only candidate. Give them a fair shot, don’t shorten an interview because you liked someone else. Often my first reaction changed – not often, but enough that short selling someone on their first 5 minutes could lose you the best person for a role.
  2. Follow up quickly if there are inquiries from the candidate during the process.
  3. Use a rubric so that you ensure you cover the same topics with everyone. Certainly, going off script is fine, just make sure every candidate has the same baseline for you to make decisions on.
  4. At the end of each process talk to each candidate you pass on personally. No “Dear John” letters. The conversation can be short and sweet – however, the candidate has invested in the process too, and should be shown some dignity and respect. Most candidates know you are speaking to multiple folks so do not compare or contrast. You can reaffirm they have positive qualities and skills. Let them down easy. Also, offer to keep your eyes out for other roles.

People will boomerang for a different position down the road. Sometimes they will refer a colleague after the fact. Sometimes they will use your product or service as well.

Some recruiters will scoff at calling folks afterward. They will tell you they don’t have time to do that. To that I say bullshit. If every job has 6 candidates interviewed in person, then it’s 15-20 minutes to make 6 phone calls. Most folks waste that on non-valued work on any given day. Schedule a half hour once or twice a week or every other week to let folks down in a graceful way. I have never had a single candidate get mad at me for doing so. In fact, most sincerely appreciate the “human” in human resources instead of a cold letter.

Here are a couple more tips for helping those who don’t make your cut:

  1. Give the candidate brief advice or feedback on their interviewing. It does not cost anything to be nice.
  2. If you’re partnering with another recruiter either internally or externally, share all the strong points you saw in the candidate. Often hiring managers complain about weaknesses instead.
  3. Get back to the candidate quickly -so they can focus on other opportunities.
  4. If you know someone else who may need them outside your company, point them in the right direction or help them make a connection.

Paying it forward may not make a difference to you filling a position, but it is valuable to others…especially candidates….