An Applicant’s Bill of Rights, Part 2

Applicants are not stupid. They realize that 90% of companies treat applicants worse than most people treat their pet dog. Because applicants know the rules and where the power resides, they generally accept the indifferent treatment that recruiting functions offer. But what if you were to become one of the few firms that instead decided to treat applicants with some degree of courtesy? For example, if you offered them a “bill of rights” guaranteeing some degree of responsiveness and respect, wouldn’t applicants (after they got over the initial shock and disbelief) tell everyone about how your company is different? If you were the first to offer an applicant’s Bill of Rights (and assuming that you back it up with actions), your firm might just find itself with a boatload of applicants who believe that the way a company treats them directly reflects the way they treat their employees. Try it and you’ll find that the buzz will be amazing! Applicants are volunteers. They are volunteering their time when they participate in your selection process. Smart companies realize that fact upfront and thus, they treat them like volunteers throughout every step of the hiring process. Additional Applicant’s Rights In addition to the potential elements of an applicants Bill of Rights that I provided last week, this part includes:

  • More examples of rights for possible inclusion in your own applicant’s Bill of Rights
  • A list of applicant responsibilities and your expectations for any applicant
  • A sample version of an applicant’s Bill of Rights

The listing of applicant promises and rights are categorized according to the different elements in the recruitment process. 6. Your Corporate Career Website We promise, wherever possible…

  • To operate a corporate career site that doesn’t waste an applicant’s time by being cumbersome and by asking for unnecessary information. We will make the process of filling out an application or submitting a resume simple and “applicant friendly.”
  • To make relevant jobs easy to find, especially for those who are unfamiliar with the unique or unusual job titles that our organization utilizes.
  • To immediately remove already filled jobs and never to post “ghost jobs” (where no real job exists).
  • To, on request, proactively send out relevant job openings to applicants via email, so that they do not have to visit our web site to search for relevant openings
  • To provide applicants with easy to find and complete “applicant focused” information so that you can make an informed decision about whether you want to invest your time in applying for a job.
  • To provide selected finalists for a position to electronically schedule their own interview time.
  • To provide applicants with periodic feedback on their status and what remains in the selection process.
  • To provide, wherever feasible, a chance for applicants to utilize the website in order to self assess their interests, cultural fit, and skill levels, so that they don’t waste their time applying for jobs that don’t fit their interests and the needs of the corporation.
  • To make sure that there are sufficient resources to ensure that not a single application that is submitted to the corporate website will ever go unscreened or “unread.”

7. Legal Issues, Ethical Issues and Due Process Protections Some organizations might be reluctant to over-promise in this area, but if you have the courage and you want to differentiate yourself, here are some elements to consider. We promise, wherever possible…

  • Not to intentionally deceive, hide negative information about the firm, or in anyway mislead the applicant.
  • To acknowledge the candidate’s right to privacy and ensure that any information provided is not utilized outside the selection process.
  • To maintain confidentiality and keep candidates’ candidacy a secret from their current employer as long as possible, in order not to negatively impact their current employment situation.
  • To ensure that we meet both the spirit and the letter of the laws on discrimination that protect applicant rights, we will design and maintain a process that provides protected and diverse individuals with equal opportunity
  • To provide reasonable access whenever possible at all phases of the selection process for people with disabilities and special needs, including readers, Braille materials, and signers where appropriate.
  • To provide applicants with access to the necessary corporate policies relating to hiring, so that they understand the “rules of engagement.”
  • Not to require any processes or tests that are not directly related to the job. We also accept the responsibility to periodically update and improve the selection process (as a result of feedback) to ensure that the process provides applicants with the best opportunity to present their qualifications.
  • In order to ensure that we continually improve the recruiting process, to survey at least a sample of our applicants to get feedback on how well they are treated according to this Bill of Rights.
  • To provide rejected applicants for exempt jobs with a process that allows them a “second level of review” if they deem the process to be dramatically unfair or if they feel they faced discrimination.
  • To provide finalists for exempt jobs with a reasonable opportunity to find out what they must improve on in order to have a realistic chance if they reapply. We also understand our responsibility to be clear and honest if the applicant has no realistic chance of getting a job in the immediate future.

8. Administration and the Hiring Process On some occasions, you need to raise the expectations of applicants about specific elements of the hiring process. Some of the administrative “rights” you might consider including are listed below. We promise, wherever possible…

  • To provide the applicant with a “one-stop shopping” process within the company in order to minimize the number of individuals they must speak with in order to obtain the information they might need.
  • To ensure that applicants are treated professionally and with respect, we acknowledge our responsibility to educate and hold managers and recruiters accountable so that they act professionally in every phase of the hiring process.
  • To provide applicants with upfront money for travel expenses wherever possible, and if not, to rapidly and fairly reimburse applicants for any allowed travel expenses.
  • To return expensive “portfolios” or other valuable materials that applicants may have provided during the hiring process.
  • To acknowledge the diversity of applicants by providing a selection and screening process that is flexible enough to meet the unique needs of an applicant.

9. The On-boarding/Orientation Process We promise, wherever possible…

Article Continues Below
  • To provide the new hire with the information, help, equipment, and training they need in order to get off to a fast start in their new job.
  • To make sure that any new hire’s manager knows and understands any aspect of their job expectations that were discovered during the hiring process, including why they took the job, why they left their last job, and what motivates and excites them.
  • To periodically revisit the new hire during their initial period to ensure that we made every effort to keep the promises that we made during the hiring process.

An Applicant’s Responsibilities Not every organization will feel comfortable providing applicants with a set of expectations along with their Bill of Rights. However, I do recommend that you include this section in order to make it clear that you have high expectations that applicants will also be totally honest and act professionally throughout the selection process. Our Expectations of Applicants With every set of rights, there are often an equivalent set of responsibilities. Just as you, the applicant, expect to be treated a certain way during the hiring process, our organization also has expectations about how you should act throughout the hiring process. We expect you to act professionally and to treat our recruiters and managers with respect. We reserve the right to judge how you acted during the hiring process as a partial indication of how you will act later as an employee, if you are hired. We expect every applicant, wherever possible…

  • To be honest in all of your dealings with us and not to purposely mislead your potential employer
  • To present an accurate and to the point resume
  • To respond promptly when you are asked to supply information
  • Not to pursue an offer from out firm primarily as a “whipsaw” for the purpose of getting a superior counteroffer from your current boss
  • To let the company know when asked, “what are your decision criteria for accepting this job” and the minimum offer you will accept
  • To be honest about any factor that might limit your ability to do this job including disability, pregnancy and health issues
  • To present us with a list of references that will give an honest and accurate description of your capabilities
  • To respond as soon as possible to any job offer and if you reject it, to be honest and forthright in the reasons for rejection
  • Not to accept an offer for an interview unless you are serious about the position and are willing to adequately prepare for the interview so that the people present get an accurate view of your capabilities.
  • To keep your word and not to later reject a job offer that you initially accepted (because you eventually got a better offer after ours was accepted)

Limiting the Number of Applicants It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that if your organization is inundated with resumes, it will be much more difficult to adhere to your Bill of Rights because, in most cases, volume kills customer service. Although there are some exceptions to this rule, the best approach for recruiting managers to take is to focus on getting a smaller number of higher quality applicants to apply. This is the approach that many recruiting departments have taken to prioritize positions and attempt to restrict the number of unqualified and barely qualified candidates. Some approaches you might consider include:

  • Prioritize your jobs and candidates so that your recruiters can focus on the most important jobs and the most qualified candidates.
  • Include a statement that makes it clear that the screening process is extremely rigorous and only those applicants that meet each of the job requirements will be considered.
  • Limit the number of jobs that applicants can apply for at one-time, in order to decrease “job spamming.”
  • Split your website into two sections, and offer an extended Bill of Rights only in the section that contains mission critical or key jobs.
  • Refine your ATS screening criteria so that unqualified applicants are immediately screened out .
  • Focus on the process of asking your own top performers directly to recommend referrals so that you increase the number of pre-screened and pre-sold highly qualified candidates.
  • Reduce your emphasis on media that reach broad audiences, like newspapers and large job boards, because they invariably attract a large number of under-qualified applicants.
  • Refine your system so that you automatically send out announcements of position openings only to candidates who clearly meet each of your requirements.
  • Consider offering a “realistic job preview” on your website that serves to discourage the unqualified and the casual job looker.

A Sample Applicant’s Bill of Rights The purpose of this article series was to expose the reader to a list of elements, or “rights,” that could be included in your firm’s “Applicant’s Bill of Rights.” Because the list of rights that should be considered for inclusion was very long, it might be valuable to provide a shortened sample version to give you a better idea of what the final product might look like. Here is a sample Bill of Rights that might be utilized by a large but conservative Fortune 500 corporation with a high-volume of applicants. We promise, wherever possible..

  1. To treat applicants like customers and keep them informed on a periodic basis
  2. To ensure that job descriptions, want ads, website information, and brochures contain accurate and current information about the job responsibilities and the required skills, so that applicants get a realistic job preview.
  3. To acknowledge the candidates right to privacy and ensure that any information provided is not utilized outside the selection process.
  4. To immediately remove any “already filled” jobs and never post “ghost jobs” (where no real job exists) on the website.
  5. To ensure that we meet both the spirit and the letter of the law on discrimination that protect applicant rights, we will design and maintain a process that provides protected and diverse individuals with equal opportunity
  6. To limit the number of interviews to a reasonable number, so that the applicant does not suffer through “death by interview.”
  7. To respect your current boss and your job-related time constraints by making a good-faith effort to provide interview times and locations that fit your needs.
  8. To make a fair offer within the range of the applicant’s expectations the very first time. We promise to play no games by initially making lowball offers.
  9. To provide reasonable access whenever possible at all phases of the selection process for people with disabilities and special needs, including readers, Braille materials, and signers where appropriate.
  10. In order to ensure that we continually improve the recruiting process, to survey at least a sample of our applicants to get feedback on how well they are treated according to this Bill of Rights .

Conclusion As you put together your firm’s applicant’s Bill of Rights, remember that it’s better to under-promise and over-deliver rather than vice versa. Start slowly, with a short list of rights, and make sure you can keep all the promises you make. Incidentally, don’t assume you are keeping your promises; instead, track them with the use of surveys and metrics. Throughout the process of developing your Bill of Rights, it’s important to remember why treating applicants like customers is so important. Remember that job applicants are much like restaurant visitors: they quietly remember their good experiences but they go out of their way to tell others about their bad experiences. It also helps to think of the employment department as a retail store. As “customers” come in, we need to give them information, answer their questions, and in general make them feel like they have made a wise investment of their time. If you treat applicants with class they might even re-apply at a later date (when you have an opening or after their skills increase). Satisfied applicants may later become customers, or they might someday be in a position to recommend your firm or product to others. With the economy taking off and turnover rates about to soar, it’s time for recruiting to forever abandon its “my way or the highway” approach to the recruiting process ó and start to treat all recruitment as a form of CRM, sales, and brand development!

Dr. John Sullivan, professor, author, corporate speaker, and advisor, is an internationally known HR thought-leader from the Silicon Valley who specializes in providing bold and high-business-impact talent management solutions.

He’s a prolific author with over 900 articles and 10 books covering all areas of talent management. He has written over a dozen white papers, conducted over 50 webinars, dozens of workshops, and he has been featured in over 35 videos. He is an engaging corporate speaker who has excited audiences at over 300 corporations/ organizations in 30 countries on all six continents. His ideas have appeared in every major business source including the Wall Street Journal, Fortune, BusinessWeek, Fast Company, CFO, Inc., NY Times, SmartMoney, USA Today, HBR, and the Financial Times. In addition, he writes for the WSJ Experts column. He has been interviewed on CNN and the CBS and ABC nightly news, NPR, as well many local TV and radio outlets. Fast Company called him the "Michael Jordan of Hiring," called him “the father of HR metrics,” and SHRM called him “One of the industry's most respected strategists." He was selected among HR’s “Top 10 Leading Thinkers” and he was ranked No. 8 among the top 25 online influencers in talent management. He served as the Chief Talent Officer of Agilent Technologies, the HP spinoff with 43,000 employees, and he was the CEO of the Business Development Center, a minority business consulting firm in Bakersfield, California. He is currently a Professor of Management at San Francisco State (1982 – present). His articles can be found all over the Internet and on his popular website and on He lives in Pacifica, California.



6 Comments on “An Applicant’s Bill of Rights, Part 2

  1. In theory, I appreciate this article series immensely!

    But the portion below:
    ‘To be honest about any factor that might limit your ability to do this job including disability, pregnancy and health issues’

    Are you serious, is this a typo?

  2. Barb,
    Re: being honest about anything that might affect your ability to do the job i.e. pregnancy, disability, and health issues….

    Most employees don’t want to reveal these things because they fear it may compromise them in some way. (loss of job, compensation, etc.). Yet, they often fail to realize that the employer may be compromised if they are not honest about these things. It should be a two- way street in order to form a relationship between employer and employee that is worthy of a Bill of Rights.

  3. I loved this article. I am a recruiter from the Netherlands, and actually was amazed by this article. Even though the Netherlands is a country the size of most people’s back yard in the states, we are very progressive in the recruitment field.

    We have all ready had a candidates bill of rights for the past 20 years called the NVP Rules. These Golden rules vary from discrimination, to paying travel expenses for the candidates. Response times etc. Companies even state on their website if they have also signed the NVP rules. I must agree that it is very good to state your recruitment standards to candidates, but the hardest is to also live up to them.

  4. Evidently a Candidate’s Bill of Rights is not an issue BECAUSE NO ONE HAS ONE!! I was at EREXPO in San Diego and when I asked a conference room full of recruiters, ‘How many of you have a Candidate’s Bill of Rights?’, not one person raised their hand.

    Candidates are sick and tired of being ignored when they respond to a job posting or a resume submission.

    In Raghav Singh’s article: Job Boards: The More Things Change…{13DF2D49-0C1F-4840-A16E-A77749F725C2}he explains that this is why most job boards are failing candidates.

    I commend Dr. Sullivan’s articles on an Applicant’s Bill of Rights.{B944C64C-0396-4335-B0A2-0402E8798E48}

    I believe that instead of just filling a job order, the best recruiters will provide the candidate with a superior customer service experience as well. BTW- you can see our Candidates Bill of Rights on our site at

    Searches never fill jobs, candidates do.

  5. Steve,

    I checked out your website and your Bill of rights are pretty much what I believe to be the way all candidates should be treated.

    The only question I have… when you posted you stated ‘Candidates are sick and tired of being ignored when they respond to a job posting or a resume submission.’

    It does not state anywhere on your website what people should expect when the submit a resume (either directly or through a website), it only commences from the point of when a person is contacted.

    How does CyberDivan respond to every enquiry sent to the company about positions? What format does the response take to every resume or enquiry sent in to CyberDivan?

    Do you email back to the enquirer or send them a postcard / letter about their candidacy and suitability?

    What kind of volume of resumes does Cyberdivan have on a daily basis, and how much of a work effort is there involved in responding to all candidates who apply?



Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *