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New Year’s Resolutions for Recruiters: Sympathy for the Job Seeker

Published: Jan 03, 2017
New Year’s Resolutions for Recruiters: Sympathy for the Job Seeker

If you’ve ever been unemployed, underemployed, or even an employed-but-active job seeker in the past decade, you know a certain kind of pain. Heck, even those passive job seekers who entertain the courtship of a recruiter know the feeling.

They say it’s a candidate’s market out there right now, especially for highly skilled and specialized workers, and yet, they suffer the same poor candidate experiences as those young and unskilled workers just joining the workforce. (Not that anybody deserves such treatment – you may also want to hire that young and unskilled person when they gain more skills and experience.)

When you’re on the other side of the fence as a recruiter or employer, it’s easy to get bogged down in your own processes and difficulties, and neglect to sympathize with job seekers who don’t have the benefit of your point of view.

To refresh your memory, the average job search goes something like this:

  1. After a lot of searching, you find a cool job post and think it’s a great opportunity that you’re qualified for and would enjoy. Maybe it’ll change your life!
  2. You carefully craft a cover letter, update or tweak your resume to suit, and hit “apply”.
  3. Then you click “apply”, and wind up in an Applicant Tracking System that makes some of your previous work feel repetitive. You fill out your contact info again and copy and paste the content of your resume and cover letter into a plain text format.
  4. You might have to re-enter your education or work history with names and dates, and at the end, answer a few screening questions about diversity, your qualifications, or your legal working status.
  5. Those last few questions tacked onto the end are probably designed to knock you out of the application process if you don’t answer the right way, giving you a sinking feeling as you hit the “submit” button.
  6. The whole rigamarole is sometimes followed by an email confirmation of receiving your application, but most often it’s silence.
  7. Lots of silence.
  8. Lather, rinse, repeat.

What applying for jobs on terrible ATS/job board platforms feels like.

What applying for jobs on terrible ATS/job board platforms feels like.

By prioritizing the internal paperwork of HR over communication and making it easy for the applicant, the ubiquitous Applicant Tracking System delivers a poor experience to candidates. A bad candidate experience can be just as negative as a bad customer experience – it can threaten an organization’s reputation, ability to hire, and sales.

Recruiters, hiring managers, and HR professionals should take a look at their recruiting and hiring processes, and start improving the candidate experience. Listed below are a few New Year’s resolutions to consider, for the sake of your employer brand, your candidates, and your future employees. You may not be able to implement all of them all at once, but even adopting one or two can make a difference.

Post Jobs with Conviction

You’ve probably done it at some point. Jobs get posted, and then things change. You or your team changes their mind about whether or not to hire for that role right now, or at all. Sometimes there are changes made to budgets, a project changes its direction, or maybe you or your team is unclear on just what type of talent and resources are needed.

More often than not, a dead-in-the-water job post is published with the best of intentions, but it’s still good practice to avoid it whenever possible. If the role is something you are hiring for on an ongoing basis or you do not have a definite timeline for hiring, go ahead and tell them there’s no fixed closing date for the job opening.

Communicate with Candidates Whenever Possible

When you receive an application and never inform the candidate where they stand with you, they begin to think of you as an impenetrable wall standing in the way of opportunity. Recruiters are often reluctant to tell candidates they’ve been rejected, but trust me – you don’t want to be that wall. One person might be wrong for one role, but perfect for one in six months, so you might wind up not telling them anything. However, keeping them in the dark can do just as much damage, if not more, than a solid “not this time”.

Tell applicants if their application will be reviewed, if they are under review, or if they are out of the running. Let them know it’ll take months before you can update them on their status, if that’s the case. The right candidate might move on and forget all about you by the time you’re ready to reach out or make an offer.

The further along the hiring funnel you take someone before rejecting them, the more important it is to leave communication channels open. Give feedback where possible, even if it’s just “I’m sorry, the other guy already knows our system and you don’t.”  It can help heal hurt feelings and prevent burnt bridges. Remember, you’re building your brand as an employer as well as a talent pool from which you can draw in future.

It’s also a good idea to give rejected candidates options for the future – tell them to subscribe to job alerts and follow your organization on social media. Even if they’re not right for your company, they might share new opportunities with someone who is right – if they still like you.

Keep it Simple & Mobile-Friendly

In software and web design, we talk a lot about “user experience” or “UX”. It’s design, psychology, and technology all mixed up together, and it kinda boils down to “is it easy and pleasant, or is frustrating and difficult?” Your online application process can have a good or bad UX, and it is inseparable from your candidate experience.

Do you have several sets of screening questions, psychometric tests, and other assessments as part of your screening process? Think about triaging it so that you waste the least amount of time for people you won’t consider for a role. Respect candidates’ time, and save the detail for your shortlisted candidates.

I shouldn’t have to tell you that your job posts, careers page, and application process should be mobile-friendly. If they’re not, it’s possible that some candidates will go out of their way to save a job and apply on a desktop later, but the ones you lose may be the great talent you really wanted.

Ignoring the fact that candidates use mobile to search and apply for jobs means you’re losing more candidates at the very first opportunity you have to attract them. With a smartphone in everybody’s hand, people are more connected than ever, and job posts, job search, and application processes that don’t work on mobile lose not only candidates, but the ability to be share publicly and privately via text, messaging apps, and social media.

Sympathy for the candidate is at the heart of these New Year’s resolutions for recruiters, but they also have a direct impact on your employer brand, on who you do hire, and on your ability to build a talent community that acts as a long-tail hiring funnel.