HR warned not to mistreat the unsuccessfuls; it may come back to bite you

by 12 Jun 2012

When a candidate is unsuccessful, an all too common practice is for HR to discard them without a second thought. And with good reason. Narrowing the candidate pool is a unenviable task and sheer time constraints preclude many in HR from going the extra step in personalising the notification.

Yet as many candidates share their experiences online, employers may need to re-think their strategy with regard to candidate experience. As one HR expert points out, unsuccessful candidates may wield much more pull than one might realise: they can be customers of the organisation, and a bad employment experience can be a one way ticket to brand damage. “We all know the power of negative word of mouth on image and reputation and what may have started out as an opportunity to communicate a strong employer brand may actually end up damaging it,” Brett Minchington from Employer Brand International said.

According to Minchington, not much has changed in the past 20 years as to how companies manage unsuccessful candidates. “Candidates may have progressed through a series of interviews and tests before being told that they did not succeed in their application. Others, who may have sent their resume but received no reply, may be left in the dark wondering why they were deemed unsuitable.” He added that those companies that recruited using manual practices found it ‘tiresome’ and ‘unrewarding’ to ensure a positive experience for all candidates. Others who had implemented applicant tracking systems have been lazy to change the default rejection letters. “This sends a clear message that candidates are unimportant to them,” he said.

Research conducted in the US by internal communications agency Tribe Inc showed that of those candidates who had a negative experience, more than 70% said they would be likely to discourage others from applying to that company in the future. What’s more, of those who were treated with courtesy and even a personal touch, almost 90% said they would be likely to encourage others to join that company in the future.

“Any company can become best in class by implementing easily achievable changes to the hiring process…follow the golden rule – treat applicants as you would want to be treated,” Elizabeth Baskin, CEO of Tribe Inc. said.

 At every stage of the application process, the company has an opportunity to make an impression on the candidate. Details such as the timings of follow-up phone-calls, who makes the call, and who will sign a letter of rejection become particularly important. The personal touches in those letters will have particular significance when dealing with those candidates who have reached the final stage of the process. Don’t forget: if you make an unfavourable impression at this stage, you are doing so with candidates you felt were strong enough to consider hiring.

Minchington suggests that companies can improve their recruitment process with some simple strategies:

  • Establish a clear strategy for handling all candidate communications
  • Train staff responsible for the candidate experience in how to deliver an experience that adds value to the employer brand
  • Establish measures for candidate experience (e.g. candidate satisfaction) and track and report on performance.

-Patrick Durrant


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