7 Reasons Your Hiring Process Repels Candidates

The hiring process is tough on everyone, especially the job seeker. It’s even a little bit harder on them actually, since while talent acquisition and management pros are used to dealing with the complicated ins and outs of applicant tracking systems, assessment programs, video and mobile technology and much, much, more — job seekers only have to deal with the front end of those systems when they’re looking, which is not “quite” every day.

And when they do go through your hiring process, they hate it. Here are the top reasons why:

Complaint: Nobody ever sees their resume. It descends into a black hole and never gets read. Now you and I know why that might be, but job seekers rarely do.

How you can help: If your ATS doesn’t have a great search capability or you’re not giving your job ads clarity, you need to rethink this crucial part of the process.

Complaint: The interview process takes forever. If candidates have one major complaint, this would be the one. It’s even a frequent frustration of HR professionals when they are looking for work.

How you can help: While you may not be able to change your recruiting cycle overnight, you can certainly set expectations by educating candidates early on about how long it will take.

Complaint: This isn’t the job they signed up for. Because job ads aren’t always updated according to shifting company needs, responding to a notice on a job board can be a gamble for many job seekers.

How you can help: Deliberately vague-sounding job descriptions should be chucked and more specific language should be used, especially if the job requires new technology experience or has changed from a solo position to one on a team.

Complaint: They don’t know what they don’t know. Job seekers feel like some of the most uninformed people on the planet because they are. While sites like Glassdoor and LinkedIn help them to get a window into your company, many still feel in the dark about when they might hear back from you, whether or not they should follow up, and how long they need to wait before checking in about a position.

How you can help: Take advantage of the candidate communications built into so many of today’s hiring platforms to give candidates updates on where they are in the your system. Make sure you don’t expect them to start right away especially if they’ve been waiting to hear back from you for weeks. Once you narrow down candidates to the shortlist or the final hire, be sure to let the remaining candidates off the hook by letting them know it’s a “no.”

Complaint: Useless hoops. Whether employed or unemployed, candidates hate jumping through hoops, especially when they can’t make the connection between the job they’re being hired to do and a drug test, credit check, or personality assessment.

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What you can do: It’s likely that company policy dictates these sorts of tests, so do what you can during the interview or on your website to explain why you need certain information. And if you have any say in making the policy, reduce your organization’s cost and applicant headaches by doing away with unnecessary assessments.

Complaint: Information imbalance between employer and applicants. It’s frustrating for job seekers to have to put all their cards on the table when employers are so cagey about their own. Asking for precise past salary numbers while keeping your budget for a position under wraps isn’t fair. And hiring for a position that isn’t really open yet and not telling candidates makes for many upset job-seekers.

What you can do: Pay attention to what you’re asking of your applicants and try to make the information flow a two-way street. Don’t request tons of information when you can’t provide accurate context for the work they’ll be doing. Make sure your hiring teams understand the employer brand and how to communicate the company or team culture to candidates before they come into the office and discover it themselves.

Complaint: You’re not accessible. We’ve all heard the one about the applicant who simply gives up midway through a 45-question snoozer of an application. Don’t have a website optimized for mobile? Does it take you days to respond to emails when scheduling screenings? Is you career site buried four clicks down on your corporate site? All of these things makes it tough for candidates to go through your process, robbing you of the applicants you need the very most.

What you can do: Make sure that the communications you control are accessible; that means creating excitement around your brand via video, mobile, and even your job ad. Create custom short-links for your most-in-demand jobs and add them to your email footer. And whenever you reach out to a candidate, remind them of your company name and the job you’re interviewing them for.

While not every HR professional, recruiter, or hiring manager can take every complaint out of the hiring process, everyone can do something, whether it’s during your personal interactions or on a broader policy based level. Don’t start off your relationship with employees with a painful experience.


26 Comments on “7 Reasons Your Hiring Process Repels Candidates

  1. A common theme that links many of these complaints together is transparency. With most systems, you can easily become at least a little more transparent.

    1) Write your ads geared towards the job. Vague ads get you large quantities of the wrong candidates. Some will be poor quality and some will be a right fit in your mind, but when you bring them in for an interview, they bail because they thought they were applying to something else. If you write your ads geared towards the actual position with the actual software and experience they really need, it will weed out many of the unqualified candidates and your ad will likely be on top of the search results when the right candidate does a relevant search on a job board or search engine.

    2) Set up automatic replies in your system. Every time you step a candidate in the process they should get an automated reply EXCEPT for the offer/denial stage. Be a human and tell the candidate they didn’t get the job with a personalized call or note (or at least one that seems personalized).

  2. This is a well timed article; especially if we are thinking about changes that could improve the candidate experience. What I find sad is that most of us are aware of the shortcomings of our present approach to the hiring process and yet seem afraid to make the necessary changes.

  3. These are all very common complaints job seekers encounter while looking for positions. It’s smart to know what these common complaints are so you can optimize your hiring process in order to find the best people. For instance, if you interview process takes forever you might want to consider utilizing online video in your hiring process. This way interviews can be more easily scheduled around packed schedules and even across large geographical regions. This can help shorten endless interview processes and get candidates into positions faster.

  4. Thanks,Imo.
    Things are so bad because the people at the top JUST DON’T CARE.
    Either they had their paths smoothed so they didn’t have to go through the crap the rest of us did, or (typically for “employers of choice”) they regard the crap as a perverse initiation ritual which everyone should go through…..

    I know of a firm that will very affordably outsource the entire candidate care process to make sure each and every candidate has a professional if not actually pleasant process. I have yet to receive any queries about this firm, so it appears this is a topic people like to complain about, but are unwilling to remedy.

    Happy 2013,

    Keith keithsrj@sbcglobal.net

  5. I agree with Keith that upper management can talk the talk but wont walk the walk. Here is an interesting challenge, have you manager apply for a job and see what s/he has to go through.

    I would love to see the candidate experience become easier and really live up to a true positive experience.

  6. @Doug – that is great advice. More often than not, this easy “spot check” is overlooked on all levels.

    If your apply process takes you, as the creator/creating company, 10+ minutes to complete, you can imagine how long it would take the job seeker… if they ever complete the process at all. Many job seekers will walk away from a long apply form.

  7. I believe the best method is to keep it simple. Getting through the process faster means beating your competition to great candidates. Hire Faster!

  8. @Jon thank you for the additional points. I completely agree with you, the key is transparency. My team and I preach transparency and authenticity in everything we do.

    As a vendor we interact with many clients both nationally and internationally. We often have to really push our clients to change the traditional thinking especially when creating videos about their organization.

    @Doug I talked to one company that has all their HR Managers and senior executives apply for roles within the company each year. This really helps them to understand the candidate experience and simplify. I was told that when they first started doing this most people were shocked about the number of steps it took to apply.

  9. @ Doug: Thank you.

    @ Jon: The goal should be 60 s or less to find the job, 60 s or less to apply-
    1) Upload your resume to the company,not the job- you’re into the system and you get an acknowledgement
    2) You apply for a specific job by answering 5-6 immediate- answer, vital-to-the job, pull-down menu, multiple-choice questions. You pass: you get a “Congrats! You’ve applied.” message. You don’t pass: you get a “Sorry, please try another position.” message.

    This gets everybody into the system quickly and easily without discouraging them (as my slightly different method earlier might) and lets recruiters see only pre-qualified people.

    @ Imo: how do you get (and keep) clients to do what’s best for them and not just what they want to do?

    Happy 2013,


  10. @Keith great question. Unfortunately, there is no easy answer to this question. I wish I did have a formula that worked perfectly because I would be a very rich man.

    The challenge is that it is human nature to resist change. When working with clients you are dealing with the individual’s resistance to change and the organization’s resistance as a whole. What has worked for us is to find a champion within the organization that seems more open to listening and understanding.

    Then we work tirelessly to tell them and SHOW THEM WHY what we are recommending is the best for them. Our genuine approach often helps the situation. They do not feel like we are making recommendations solely for our benefit. We make sure we are authentic and transparent in our interactions with clients. Sometimes we make recommendations that are great for them but not the best for us. At the end of the day it is more important that we give them what they need and not necessarily what we want them to have. At the end of the day this helps to build trust in the relationship and keeps them coming back for more.

    It sounds a lot easier that it is. The key is to make sure that you are confident in what you are suggesting to a client and then do not fall prey to their initial pushback or any initial concerns you may initially receive from other players.

    I hope all of this is helpful.

    Happy 2013,

  11. @Keith – I hate prescreeners that disqualify a candidate. It isn’t all the time, but every once in a while you will find a job req that asks for at least 5 yrs of a specific type of experience. Sometimes the right candidate will only have 4 yrs in that specific requirement but a ton more outside of that specific requirement. If your system filters a good candidate out just because he missed on one piece of the puzzle then your system is doing your company an injustice. Filtering candidates by drilling down on specific requirements vs looking at the candidate from the big picture view hurts the hiring company.

    Prescreeners are good if it is something like “do you have java experience” or “can you lift 50 lb boxes all day” if that is a core requirement of the job. But once you get into something like “at least 5 yrs java experience” you could be filtering out some really good candidates.

  12. @Imo – I totally agree. In sales they always say your biggest competitor is status quo and it is true.

    The HR industry, at least in my opinion, seems very slow to change. They key is to get them to know that you are working to improve their results (hire more, reduce costs, reduce time to hire, etc) and to get them to agree to be accountable for their results. Get them to measure what they are doing now, so that whatever you are promising to improve on is actually realized. If I save you 3 weeks per hire, that means nothing if they don’t know what the average time to hire is before the change.

  13. Yes, the article is spot on. The answers are nothing new however. The problem, as so many noted, is not with the answer but will the problem itself. It must come from the top as Keith said. True search is not simple. Doing it well takes a recruiter years to perfect. The answer is NOT faster and easier. The answer is total alignment between talent strategy and business strategy. The answer is knowing how to effectively communicate with candidates. The answer is having professional recruiters that are paid commensurate with their experience. The answer is NOT giving recruiters 20+job reqs and expecting them to do a good job.

  14. @ Imo. Thank you. I’d expect preliminary Biz Dev could/should determine what the client is looking for/willing to do upfront to see…

    @ Jon: Good point. That’s why a great deal of time and attention should be paid to the questions, so that they are truly vital to the job. Instead of asking:
    “Do you have 5 years of java?”
    Y or N,
    it would have
    “Java experience:”
    0-1 yr
    2-4 yr
    5-7 yr
    8 or more year
    The goal is to maximize upfront the number of people who apply, but minimize the number of un(der)qualified resumes/profiles/assessments/whatever we have to eyeball. In essence, it works to automate what a screener or sourcer would do when they select
    resumes/profiles/assessments/whatever to send over to a recruiter, or when the recruiter does it him/herself.


  15. @Keith – Many skills are transferable. To simplify the argument, If you ask “how many years of experience lifting 50 lbs boxes of bananas” and are screening out everyone that says under 5 yrs, then you may screen out someone that has 3 yrs lifting 100 lb boxes of apples, 2 yrs of 50 lb boxes of berries and 3 yrs of 50 lbs boxes of bananas. The same thing goes with many computer languages.

    If someone can write in a certain language and is an expert in that language for 4 yrs and then has 4 yrs java experience, I would want that guy (in theory) over the person that has 5 yrs Java experience… but he would never make it through the prescreen qualifier.

    It makes more sense to say “do you have java experience” and filter those out that don’t have any and then take a good look at the overall experience of the candidates to see who the best fit is.

  16. Thanks, Jon. I’m trying to minimize the tradeoff between maximum application and recruiter overload on the one hand and minimal application and recruiter efficiency on the other. I’d rather have people weeded out because they have transferable skills but not specifically what the managers are insisting upon than weeding them out because the application process is too cumbersome. Again, I think extensive discussion and careful review/pre-testing of the questions can minimize many of the problems you mention.



  17. Being a masters student in Occupational Psychology it is my pleasure joining this informative platform. The article came at the right time as l am working on my assignment on validity & reliability of the interview method as a selection method. This adds a practical & real life flavor to my discussion as l link it to theories. Some of the ideas are worth pursuing & worth researching on as part of a dissertation such as candidate’s perception of the fairness of interviews as a selection method (face validity) and the effectiveness of computer prescreening methods(pros & cons).
    To contribute to the debate, the major challenge is that managers think that they are competent enough to carry out recruitment & selection on behalf of the organization using interviews in particular without any prior professional training. All the above challenges then arise such as poor job descriptions & analysis which in turn leads to a chain of defects mentioned by other contributors on the platform.

  18. @Upenyu – Part of the problem is that there isn’t much formal training out there that is good. I’ve taken HR courses myself and found that the way they teach you to write descriptions doesn’t take into account how job seekers are searching.

    With most job searches beginning on general search engines and followed by Job Search Engines, the content becomes super important. The wording of your ads must match what job seekers are searching for if you want to maximize your results with these sources. I’m sure someone out there is teaching SEO in the context of job descriptions, but there is so much old, stale information out there that you really have to know what you are searching for in the first place to find it.

    Also – no one really needs to take course on how to write ads (do it if you have the budget!)… just figure out job seeker behavior and mimic your ads to take advantage of what people are searching for.

    Example: Don’t write computer programmer as your job title if you really want a HTML5 Developer. People with specific skills will search on that specific skill.

  19. It’s time to do a complete overhaul of the selection system – so many companies have simply got outdated and inflexible processes and systems in place.

    We’ve been recruiting and hiring using only a few simple tools – an ATS, first round asynchronous video-to-video interviews, second round face-to-face interviews.
    Everybody gets a chance, everything is completely transparent to the job seekers and best of all – it’s really easy to manage.

    Admittedly, we are hiring using our own tools.
    Still, a simple ATS + Video interviews is just a combination that *works*.

  20. “Job seekers feel like some of the most uninformed people on the planet because they are.” haha this is so true! Glad you pointed this out because I know I felt this way while applying for jobs. Communicating with job candidates is key. They’re updated automatically in so many other areas of their life–with online shopping, buying movie tickets (etc). Companies who realize this are at an advantage.

  21. First you have to know where the jobs are before you mount a strategy to go after them. Most executive job seekers look to executive recruiters and job boards for open positions. The problem with this is recruiters get 15% of all executive searches and fill half of them, and only 1% of anybody ever gets a job from a job board. Managers are crucial to the development and implementation of any company’s business plan, never mind the performance of the Chief Executive Officer. This is why executive hiring is 85% chemistry – the Chief Executive has to have confidence and trust in the people implementing his strategy. Hence, CEO’s usually hire from within, word-of-mouth, personal or direct contacts. They can’t use human resources because its like sending a Private out to hire a General and executive recruiters only get 15% of all searches because the CEO’s know once they hire recruiters, they start selling them candidates and this is counter to the chemistry match they are looking to make. The reason executive recruiters only fill half of the searches they undertake is because the CEO fills the search with a personal contact or network referral before the recruiter finds the right person.

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