Tales From the Other Side: The Candidate’s Perspective

Despite the availability of email, voicemail, mobile phones, portable laptops, CRM software, the Internet, and every other form of communication, the oldest recruiting problem in the world still exists: recruiter communication with candidates is slow and sporadic. As a recruiting consultant that has worked with Fortune 100 corporations and 10-person start-ups, I am constantly amazed at the low sense of urgency recruiters and hiring managers have with keeping up regular communication with candidates. I often wonder what it will take for these employers to wake up and realize that candidates are customers. Even VP’s of sales, desperate to hire “quota busters” cannot seem to make the time to call their hot candidate prospects. They, more than anyone, should recognize the importance of client contact. While the company is the one who ultimately decides whether the candidate should have the opportunity to work there, it is the candidate that is the buyer. The candidate made the first decision to submit credentials and in the end, if an offer is made, the candidate will be the final decision maker as to whether or not the job is accepted. Thus, every minute in between those two decisions is critical. Communicate, communicate, and communicate a little more. I cannot stress this enough. The impact communication (or lack thereof) has on candidates is far more significant than most recruiters realize. Here are a few true tales from the front lines (names and companies changed to protect the innocent and the guilty): Tale #1: The Waiting Game Susan, a friend of mine, recently interviewed for a VP-level position with an up and coming software company. The company recruiter found her resume on the Internet (yes, it works) and contacted her. She immediately was called in for interviews, met with a few people and basically developed a very positive impression. Within a few days they called her back for a second round of interviews. This time she met with the CFO for a 2-hour discussion. He said that he was impressed and immediately wanted her to meet with the CEO. Unfortunately he was leaving for an out of office meeting and wouldn’t be available for several hours. She would have to return a third time to meet him. At the end of the interview the recruiter gave her positive feedback and said that the company still had several people to interview and was trying to coordinate schedules. As a result, they would get back to her in about two weeks. Susan left knowing the next steps. She was enthused about the opportunity and very optimistic. <*SPONSORMESSAGE*> The two weeks passed and Susan heard nothing from the recruiter. Wanting to be proactive, and express her continued interest in the opportunity, Susan sent an e-mail off to the recruiter to inquire about the status. Two more weeks passed and Susan still had not received a response to her e-mail. Strange. Susan then went through a series of emotions. She started to second-guess herself. Then she began to second-guess her positive feelings about the company and the opportunity. Finally, several days later, the recruiter sent an e-mail stating that it was taking longer than they anticipated to get the other individuals in for interviews but that Susan was still in the running. She gave no apologies for taking so long to return Susan’s e-mail. At this point, Susan had a bad taste in her mouth and was wavering on whether she was still interested in the opportunity. Had the recruiter sent an e-mail at the two-week mark, Susan would have been perfectly satisfied with the response. The recruiter should have marked her calendar to contact Susan at the end of two weeks to give her a status update–any kind of status. First, it is simple common courtesy, and second, the recruiter should be keeping Susan warm and interested in the opportunity. Who knows; another company could be recruiting Susan very hard, creating competition for her skills. It doesn’t matter whether Susan is at a VP level or an entry level, she deserves appropriate and timely feedback. Losing a potentially great hire due to poor communication is unacceptable. Tale #2: The Interview Is Cancelled Peter took a day off of work to interview for a quality assurance position with a well-funded, rapidly growing start-up. He arrived at the appointed time and was greeted by a receptionist who had no idea he was coming. Rule #1. Always let the receptionist know that you are expecting a candidate for an interview. It goes a long way with a candidate when the receptionist acknowledges them by name and greets them warmly. The receptionist placed a call and left a voicemail. About 20 minutes went by and the receptionist looked up and said to Peter, “Oh, are you still waiting?” Peter looked up at her and politely said, “yes” (while thinking “Duh! Did you see anyone come get me?”). The receptionist left for a minute. When she returned she apologized and said that they were very sorry. The department for which Peter was to interview was just reorganized and the position no longer existed. He was free to go. Peter was stunned. He had taken a day out of work and did not even get the chance to meet anyone but the receptionist. Rule #2. If things have changed, immediately contact the candidates and let them know. Someone needs to take responsibility for this. It is okay for a company to reorganize. This is a common occurrence in start-ups. It is NOT okay to disrespect a candidate’s time and effort. The end result: Peter went away pissed off and bad-mouthed the company to his friends and acquaintances. This should not have happened. The left hand did not know what the right hand was doing. No one even considered the fact that Peter needed to be contacted. Because of this, Peter developed a negative impression of a budding start-up that basically has great employees and strong business proposition. In reality, the hiring manager or the recruiter responsible should have met with Peter, explained the situation and then offered him the option of the interview, knowing that it would not be for a position available today. Since Peter took a day out of work to show up at the appointment, it should have been his choice to make. By having a somewhat informal interview, Peter would have had the chance to learn more about the company. The company would have had the chance to learn more about Peter and what he has to offer. This would have created a reasonable outcome for an awkward situation. Who knows? If things changed today, they could always change tomorrow. Peter might just be the right candidate for next change. Tale #3: The Bouquet Things aren’t all bad on the front lines of candidate communication. After working in Cleveland for two years, Ellen, a sales/marketing manager, relocated back to the Chicago without a job. With a solid background of skills and experience she immediately got interviews and soon received two offers. Both offers were comparable in pay, benefits, challenge, and opportunity. Both were also of interest to Ellen. What helped Ellen make her decision? It was the welcoming attitude of one of the companies. First, the manager for whom she was going to work sent a card signed by everyone in the group, expressing their excitement about the prospect of Ellen joining their team. They then followed up with a bouquet of flowers. The other company did nothing but wait for her response to their initial offer. Ellen took the position with the more welcoming firm. The card and flowers were a very simple, low-cost gesture that went a long way in swaying Ellen’s opinion. Since both opportunities were great, Ellen chose the one where she felt most wanted. The Moral Of These Tales In every instance, it was simple communication that swayed the candidates’ opinions. An email takes just a few seconds to write and goes a long way in keeping the candidates interest. Recruiters with too many candidates to manage can streamline the process by creating a standard message that can quickly be inserted into an email. It could read something like this: “Dear xxxxx, Just wanted to send you off a quick note to let you know that we are still interviewing candidates but you are still in consideration. We will get back to you soon. In the meantime, please feel free to contact me with any questions. Best regards, Ms. Recruiter.” A note like this can be inserted into 20 e-mails in a matter of 5 minutes. While this is a bit impersonal, it is certainly better than nothing at all.

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Karen Osofsky (karen.o@tiburongroup.com) is a co-founder of TiburonGroup.com, an e-recruiting consulting firm that provides outsourced recruiting solutions to rapidly growing companies and new ventures. The firm provides a broad range of recruiting consulting, sourcing, screening, and strategy development services to help companies manage the front-end recruiting process. Tiburon Group is a Certified AIRS Solutions Partner.

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