Do we really care about the candidate experience?

Do we really care about the candidate experience?

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about 2 months ago

by Russell Adams

Do we really care about the candidate experience?

Do we really care about the candidate experience?

I was prompted to write this after observing my colleagues go through a tough situation with one particular client of ours.  Tough, not because the roles they were recruiting were difficult to fill but because of numerous issues simply getting our candidates through a recruitment process.

I will try to elaborate.

Due to tough conditions in some parts of the market and with a glut of candidates available, companies have had the pick of the bunch. In these areas it really has been a ‘buyers’ (client) market. Companies in the happy position of being able and willing to recruit have held all the cards and conversely, candidates have had to accept that they are one of many and so need to do whatever it takes to land a rare job offer.

Unfortunately on some occasions it appears this situation has had an adverse effect on the ‘candidate experience’ which we recruiters often talk about and which is often held aloft by companies as something they are truly and rightly proud of.

The Candidate Experience is, broadly speaking, how candidates are treated when they go through a recruitment process. How they are communicated with, what information they are given, how they are made to feel and if they are unsuccessful and how they are rejected from the process. This experience should be important to companies (particularly in the Retail, Hospitality and Consumer sectors) because each candidate is likely to be a current or potential customer. In a competitive market where a strong brand is so important, it is important to ensure that your brand as anemployeris as strong as your brand for consumers.

It is also really important for recruitment agencies, as we need our candidates to come back to us for all their subsequent career moves. We work in an industry with such a poor overall reputation that individual companies simply cannot afford to lose candidates or damage relationships.

What has got me flummoxed at times in the last six months, has been the disregard of the impact on candidates of poor recruitment processes, whether that be due to sketchy information, elongated timescales or poor assessment techniques.

Before I go any further, this is not about apportioning blame. As the ‘middleman’, our job is to deliver for our clients and support our candidates and, when all goes smoothly, it is a fantastic privilege. We must take the rough with the smooth and, irrespective of our lack of responsibility for how companies choose to assess people or treat them through the process, we need to act as a buffer and minimise the impact on the candidate and client if things aren’t as professional as they should be.

What worries me is that a lot of processes suffer from a lack of common sense and worst still, a lack of common courtesy and professionalism. We have seen examples of this and often I think it is because, when planning a recruitment process and assessment method, the assumption is that candidates should bend over backwards. In principle, I agree with this and if you are serious about getting a new job, you will need to be extremely flexible about making yourself available and doing what is required from a process point of view.

Feedback in general is a recurring issue in recruitment. We sometimes find ourselves in a position of having to make excuses to candidates who, several weeks after interview, may at best have a verdict but don’t have any detailed feedback about how they performed. This reflects badly on the agency and the company concerned. The worst culprits are line managers and I feel for our in-house contacts who you can hear cringing as they explain that they have been trying to get feedback for weeks from an unruly hiring manager! For the hiring manager, you can understand the logic – why waste more time if a candidate is unsuitable. However, surely this comes down to basic manners and levels of professionalism: if someone has taken the time to meet you, the least they deserve is a response and some feedback.

There are more extreme examples. We heard recently about a candidate who, after receiving a verbal offer from a client (thankfully not one of ours) and agreeing a start date 4 weeks hence, received no paperwork and no returned calls despite chasing them for 3 weeks! Needless to say, he accepted a role with another business.

There are numerous examples like this and let’s be clear, anyone working in recruitment is going to struggle to keep everyone happy when there are so many complexities and variables involved.

Interestingly, at some point probably later this year the market will of course turn, at which point there will be more vacancies and the best candidates will be in high demand. When things return to a candidate driven market, as they inevitably will, the Candidate Experience may become a deal breaker for candidates who view this as an indicator of the professionalism and company culture of their potential employers. People have long memories and those who have suffered a poor experience during this tough market are unlikely to forget. 

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