Too Many Candidates?

Retailers have a sale, manufacturers slow production, but what can recruiters do with all those excess candidates? A few talent acquisition leaders are fast becoming inventory-management gurus and they are pursuing innovative ways to deal with all those extra candidates.

“We didn’t add any staff because responding to candidates didn’t add more work — we just changed our process,” says Catie Cowher, candidate experience leader for Recruiting Strategy and Initiatives at Wachovia Corporation.

Wachovia posts some 600 to 800 openings per week on its website, which includes both newly created positions and vacancies, and averages 10,000 applicants. According to Cowher, rejected candidates receive an e-mail informing them about their status and the reasons behind Wachovia’s decision. Most candidates are declined early in the recruiting process, following a resume review by a recruiter. Nearly 90% of applicants responding to job postings at Wachovia are declined. Giving candidates immediate feedback about their status was a process change that served up numerous benefits.

Cowher cites anecdotal evidence that she’s received through feedback from applicant surveys that making quick decisions and informing candidates about their status has not only improved the applicants’ experiences with Wachovia’s hiring process, but more specifically their perceptions about Wachovia recruiters. The bottom line is that candidates don’t view unresponsive recruiters as overworked — they view them as incompetent. A surprise benefit is that declined candidates often refer a qualified colleague, after gaining a better understanding of the job requirements through post-declination feedback. Wachovia recruiters spend less time fielding calls from candidates requesting a status update, and have a better handle on the inventory of viable candidates.

In addition to informing declined candidates about their status, Wachovia refers them to other employers by including a link in the e-mail to the AllianceQ website.

AllianceQ pools candidates and shares them among member employers. The company has been building inventory since the end of May. For every 1,000 rejection e-mails sent by member companies providing a link to AllianceQ, 25% of applicants have clicked on the link and 89% have then completed a profile, according to the firm’s managing director Phil Haynes.

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“We don’t make any judgments about candidates, and our feeling is that we don’t own them,” says Cowher. “Timing has a lot to do with whether someone is hired — or maybe they just don’t have the skill set we’re looking for.”

Although there’s no formal referral system in place, major Seattle employers Starbucks, Washington Mutual, Weyerhaeuser, and Microsoft sometimes refer candidates to each other, according to Rhonda Stickley, director for recruiting and staffing at Weyerhaeuser, especially when candidates align with positions offered at the other firms. Stickley adds that there has been some internal discussion at Weyerhaeuser about sharing retiree pools among several area employers, which has started a discussion within her team about managing excess human capital inventory more effectively.

In some companies, qualified candidates are referred to other managers when they aren’t a fit for one position, and some recruiters stay in touch with surplus hirable candidates through newsletters, phone calls, and touch campaigns. The key is that all resumes are reviewed when submitted and candidates are sorted into categories. Then the candidates are quickly informed about their status so databases remain pure, searches result in a slate of viable contenders, and relationships are built and maintained through the recruiting process.

“Dealing with surplus candidates or even inventory management is a challenge in our industry, and the bottom line is that we’re not doing it very well,” says Denny Clark, director of the Thought Leadership Institute. “The good news is that we’re going to see much better technology coming down the pike which will help with the problem. Another solution that I believe we’ll see more of, is a restructuring of the recruiting function so that more people initially screen candidates and stay in touch with passive candidates, so their status remains current in the database.”

Leslie Stevens writes for human capital and business publications. She was a senior manager in the staffing industry for more than 20 years and understands how talent acquisition contributes to the bottom line. She likes it when readers share their opinions, innovative ideas, and experiences about overcoming obstacles while fighting the global talent war.


8 Comments on “Too Many Candidates?

  1. I couldn’t agree more with this article. Recruiters believe that if they do not respond to candidates calls, emails, etc. that they candidate will just go away. They may go away and they are going to go away angry about you and your company. Having a transparent process is essential to effective recruiting. Letting the candidate know exactly what is going on in the process actually creates less work for the recruiter long term. The candidates do refer other more qualified candidates to the table. Everyone has a chance to win at this point.


  2. I also agree with this article. We use a couple of candidate and vacancy sharing companies to make the most of our extra people and jobs.
    Last month I managed to get commission from 2 candidates I interviewed that i couldn’t place and another commission by getting another agency to fill an out of town job for me.
    Fee sharing is the way of the future folks.
    Just my opinion but works best for me coz it’s all online and simple to use.

  3. Jamie, you have mentioned that you use couple of candidate and vacancy sharing companies. It would be great if you could mention the other one apart from Also, if possible can you give me your background in this industry.


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