10 Things Candidates Hate; 10 Things They Love

Originally published April 17, 2007.

In an earlier article, I made a case for cultivating a more civil attitude during the interview process as actually a means of growing a long-term referral base and to stem negative reverberation from bad candidate experiences.

In this article, I want to highlight some of the actions that drive candidates crazy so we can try to avoid them at all costs.

The Top-10 Things Candidates Hate

  1. Having no clue whom they are meeting with for an interview, how long they will interview for, and arriving somewhere on time in order to wait alone in a lobby, room, or restaurant (and feeling very conspicuous when they don’t need a job!) while looking at their watch (every five seconds) for the late interviewer.
  1. Taking a personal day off on one, two, or three occasions to interview at XYZ Company, only to fall into the Black Hole of No Feedback and never to be spoken to again. Add that their wife continues to harp on the fact that they missed Johnny’s recital by taking personal days to go interview for a new job when “You have a perfectly acceptable one right now.” This is when your picture goes up on the dart board in their rec room.
  1. Learning after the fact that someone on the interview team thought that their resume showed too many positions when they actually worked for the same company for 10 years, but it changed names 10 times. This is the reality of never being able to address an objection, real or not, that comes up during the process that can be addressed.
  1. Navigating a ridiculous, invasive online application that does not save after each field, crashes unexpectedly, is hard to complete thoroughly, and yet is viewed as a negative if it is incomplete.
  1. Walking in to an interview with a person more junior than themselves to discover that said Bozo is reading the resume for the first time and is asking impossibly inane questions such as, “So, why do you need a job with our company?” when they were headhunted.
  1. Feeling like they really are the right person for the job but somehow can’t get an interview. Whether that is because of a poor resume, undeveloped communications skills, or not connecting at the right level.
  1. Going through a more thorough interview process than a candidate for the Supreme Court. I am ashamed to admit this, but I have actually facilitated interviews that have lasted longer than one year (fortunately NOT at Deloitte.)
  1. Enduring a background check that is conducted by hourly workers on a different continent who raise red flags on your background because your university verified your degree as a B.S. in Sociology and Anthropology instead of a B.S. in Women’s Studies (which is no longer offered). Did I mention that the candidate has already resigned, given their start date, and had their goodbye party? Yes, no kidding.
  1. Enduring a formal interview process, complete with a one-hour phone screen with HR, a call with a junior team member asking basic questions, and then getting the green light to attend a cattle call. All of this when the candidate has only agreed to being “open to talking” and is NOT looking for a job. In fact, they really only signed up to have a beer with a career-level counterpart on the inside.
  1. The number-one pet peeve of all candidates is talking to misinformed, condescending, and unoriginal HR generalists or entry-level recruiters who answer all questions with, “Because that’s the way we do it here and we cannot do it differently.” Or who answer every question with “I don’t know.”

This is not only a reflection of the corporate cultures of both big and small companies, but is made worse by third-party recruiters who send one qualified person to 12 companies and tend to generalize about them all.

We are all guilty of a few spineless process moments that cause our candidates pain and suffering. So what do they like? What wins every time with a candidate?

Article Continues Below

The Top-10 Things Candidates Love

  1. Talking to someone who is knowledgeable about their background, their company, what their potential career path may be, and who can have an unbiased conversation about options that exist.
  1. Entering an interview process that is transparent.
  1. Getting a courtesy telephone call to the effect of, “What we have is no for now, not forever. We value your time and are sorry about the outcome.”
  1. Having someone help them go through the online application process or be on hand and be knowledgeable about the system.
  1. Getting a list of information that is needed to complete the online application such as W2s, phone numbers, references, and yes, even documentation to present in lieu of a real, live company that has since closed (Enron).
  1. Having an honest conversation about objections to their history and being allowed to counter.
  1. Getting help on resigning and also being granted some flexibility on start dates if they have real plans to travel, have surgeries, or a need to keep a schedule of their former employer.
  1. Being asked for feedback on the questions asked during the interview process or what they felt were high and low points of the interaction. Also, having the chance to weigh in on the overall candidate experience.
  1. Having flexibility in the process and a chance for their questions to be answered versus being interrogated without any real dialogue about their concerns.
  1. Being treated with respect at every level regardless of whether they are the right candidate.

I’m willing to hear arguments that being service-oriented in this process is going to reduce the quality of the process, the applicant pool, and the hiring manager’s ability to be selective. That’s a cop-out. It’s harder to do this in a high-volume, low-level environment.

But your role can be automated when you refuse to be the human buffer between the process and your candidate. If the worst outcome you get is that every candidate that you interact with wants you to represent them as their Agent for Life, that is not a bad thing.

In the future, it is the person with the candidate connections who will win, not the person who created the horrendous process. I bet that organizations unwilling to change or analyze the process will not win the next generational wave of top talent.

Allison Boyce is a senior recruiter/global field services at Cloudera. She is a former  international sourcer/recruiter at Guidewire Software.


17 Comments on “10 Things Candidates Hate; 10 Things They Love

  1. Allison, as usual, I absolutely love reading your articles. I am printing this out for training purposes – that’s how super this article is. As a TPR, I often have to keep putting myself in my candidates’ shoes (for me to keep a frame of reference that isn’t only about making a placement). What I’m saying is that this article is great for not only Corporate Talent Acquisition, but also TPRs as well. Again, outstanding job!

  2. I have had the opportunity to work with very savvy sales executives who earn from $250K-$1M/year in personal income selling enterprise solutions as a C-level.. All professionals who are willing take time to meet with me deserve: ‘you are an A player.. but we have another A player whom we know better.. sorry..’
    I have been turned around by this level candidate several times and they ended up getting the job.. Especialy in sales, I want to see them save the meeting with me.. this often increases their interest because the recruiter adds more value than ‘ OK.. the VP of sales will call you this month’.. and so far, no one has sued me or the hiring authority for discrimination for being honest..

  3. I loved the article and as a proponent of transparency and support in the search process, I appreciate and value your remarks.

    And I have two small ‘quibbles’ with what you wrote.

    >Feeling like they really are the right person for the job but somehow can’t get an interview. Whether that is because of a poor resume, undeveloped communications skills, or not connecting at the right level.

    I am of the opinion that companies are often blamed for the failings of the individual. I believe iit is unfair for firms to be criticized for the laziness of a potential employee for not taking the time to communicate clearly how they are a fit.

    Seacond, you wrote:

    ‘This is not only a reflection of the corporate cultures of both big and small companies, but is made worse by third-party recruiters who send one qualified person to 12 companies and tend to generalize about them all.’

    As a third party recruiter in a contingency relationship with firms, I have the dilemma of serving multiple masters who may fail to clearly communicate their needs, wants and nuances despite best efforts to obtain them. Being left to ‘guess’ at the nuances often results in generalized statements, rather than specifics.

    Thus, I am of the opinion that without transparency being extended to third party recruiters, firms get what they have invested.

    Again, two small quibbles in an otherwise accurate and enjoyable article.

  4. If organizations followed these practices consistently it would save everyone a lot of headaches.

  5. Too often we forget how we were treated as applicants. That was when we swore that we would never ever treat a candidate like ABC company treated us.

    This is a very good reminder of how to treat people, especially as a dreaded Headhunter.

    Thank you

  6. Your points are all excellent! Your article was a pleasure to read. I would add to hate number

    7.Navigating a ridiculous, invasive online application that does not save after each field, crashes unexpectedly, is hard to complete thoroughly, and yet is viewed as a negative if it is incomplete.’

    Navigating an online process with questions that have nothing or little to do with the actual position and the markers for success.

    Thank you,


  7. Hey Allison;
    Perfect article. I would like add a personal observation over here.
    Multiple point of contacts:
    This is also one pet-peeve. As they dont know whom to talk to when they need a clarification on something. Everyone is calling them for a different reason.
    Pre-Joining Induction:
    This may not have to be a comprehensive one. A PPT or a White-Sheet will also do. The one that informs about the company’s departement the person will be joining. Lets him/her know the enganement model and other relevant details.

  8. Allison, as someone who has counseled candidates in their search and taught recruiters how to interview I want to thank you for this article. You capture the reality of candidates gripes and gratitude very well and with humor. Thank you,

  9. Allison, I love your hair :).

    Ahh, but the article: G-R-E-A-T and relevant article.. I have a question that requires feedback though. To your point of ‘respect’; How do we instill a sense of urgency in hiring managers that have no sense of how to treat candidates appropriately.

    By this I mean that they are fine once contacting the candidate but take forever to move to the first step? As a recruiter I sometimes dread to discuss timeline and next steps with candidates in a call after I have started engaging them (heck many times I dread the screening) because I KNOW that certain hiring managers will likely not call the candidate in the approprite timeframe I have laid out.

    Success or failure can be made when setting out the process timeline: I beliebve many managers still don’t understand the shelf life of GREAT candidates despite all we do to educate them.

    My end of first phone call goes like this:

    ‘The hiring manager is John Smith, hes a Director of sales within XYZ group. The next step is that John will be calling you over the next couple of days to drill down a little deeper, give you a lower level overview of the role and the pros and cons and find out what would make you an ideal candidate for this role, what you want in the next GREAT step in your career. It’s also your opportunity to find out if this role is good fit for you, but at this time I believe it is a great fit.’

    ‘After John calls you and discusses the opportunity and you both feel positive about moving forward, John would either come to meet you or have you come to our offices in XXX where you would meet John and some of his team. After that it would be a follow up call or meeting with his VP and thats the process. If succesfull at that stage we would offer you an opportunity to be part of the UGS sales organization.’

    At this stage I have set in stone what should happen next… how do you recommend we actually get this to happen most of the time?

    Thanks for the article and anyones input.


  10. I would love to get this in the hands of every person responsible for recruitment – TPR or internal. Thanks for writing!

  11. I passed this article on to our recruiting team and all felt it was very appropriate, as are the comments. Howie

  12. Thank you very much. I am about to start my new job in recruiting agency and I think this article will help me a lot.

  13. As an agency recruiter allow me to speak on behalf of what OUR candidates HATE and LOVE;
    On-site corporate recruiters who ask you to reveal all contact details of your candidate and then refuse to reveal hiring managers name, title or contact info while expecting you to set up an interview.
    What our candidates LOVE:
    When we stand up to them and point out that this is a reciprocal relationship and trust goes both ways, and that this is unacceptable.

  14. Allison, great article. I’d like to add this one to the ‘Hate’ list. This happened to a friend and colleague of mine while interviewing with a Fortune 100 company for an executive level position.

    He shows up for a full day of interviews, scheduled to run 9am to 4pm. No one offers him any coffee or water, no one shows him where the restrooms are, no breaks between interviews, and no lunch is offered. In fact, an interview is scheduled right through the lunch hour.

    Hey, maybe they wanted to test his physical endurance.

    I think they forgot the basic rule, that candidates are people too!

  15. Also enjoyed the article and was in agreement with the points made. Additionally, one thing that really makes a difference during the recruiting process is to provide a realistic and therefore achievable time frame for the hiring decision. This includes projecting calendars and availabilty of decision makers. Candidates appreciate having a better sense of control or at least informed status right from the start!

  16. I have encountered every one of the 10 sins and more. Sad to say it’s not only the more junior people who are guilty of reading a candidate’s resume for the first time when they are sitting in front of them.

    So few companies really graps that their applicant handling is one of the most valuable PR opportunities they will ever have. And so few recruiters seem to understand the importance of letting unsuccessful candidates know the verdict, preferring to default to no feedback means no luck. Unsuccessful candidates really appreciate the call, they are delighted, albeit disappointed initially, when you explain how and why they were not successful this time around.

    Perhaps when more reviews, and bonuses, reflect ‘scores’ on interview participation/feedback, and quality of hire, we’ll hear fewer comments like ‘Do I REALLY have to interview this person?’ And everyone will be on time.

  17. Great discussion, great article. Two points:

    I cannot think of any companies who have no customers to satisfy. At least not any companies still in business. If a happy customer tells three people about a company, and an unhappy customer tells ten there is a side benefit to treating candidates with respect. What is the viral impact of a bad experience for a candidate? How many people in your industry can they have contact with? What if they are a stockholder? Great way to kill your hard-earned employer-brand.

    On a side note, every company I have worked for has had some version of the ‘VIP email’ As in, ‘Mr. Big from Corporate will be in the office tomorrow. Please clean up that sty you call an office and comb your hair.’ I am sure we have all received (or sent) that one. One of my clients routinely sends out an all-office ‘VIP Candidate will be here tomorrow. Please make sure you introduce yourself and let him know what a great place XYZ Industries is.’ Guess what his offer-to-acceptance ratio is?

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