Want to Be Candidate-Friendly? There’s Room for a Trend-Setter

Much has been made of the shoddy treatment of job candidates at the hands of employers, so we won’t beat that dead horse here. But as the old saying goes, whenever there’s a problem, there’s an opportunity. What’s the opportunity for employers who want to brand themselves as candidate-friendly and gain mindshare in the talent community? Here are some ideas worth considering.

Get to Know Your Annual Search Partners

As a corporate HR person, I used to hold an annual “search partners day” once a year to share business and product development goals, leadership initiatives, and other useful information with our search partners. This was also the day when our retained and contingency search friends could get to know hiring managers and key staffers better by chatting at the breakout sessions. Even the most fiercely competitive contingency folks would show up and chat with one another, on that one event every year. Certainly, they wouldn’t want to miss it. What if you went the next step and asked your chief search partners to schedule a “meet the employer night”? You could send an HR leader and a line executive out to a search partner’s facility and meet present and future candidates, or just anyone from the search professional’s database who wanted to learn more about your organization. As the talent pool shrinks, HR people will have to shed their fortress mentality (“keep them away from me!”) and get out there and mingle with the natives. A company could set itself apart in the local job market and build tremendous near- and long-term candidate relationships by actively seeking ways to expand its future talent network.

Establish a Moderated Yahoo! Group

It takes no money and little effort to establish a moderated Yahoo! group (or other email listserv) for job seekers interested in learning more about your company. A listserv goes one step beyond an email newsletter by letting participants ask questions of you or other members. You could, for example create the “XYZ Corp Talent Pool” discussion group to share information on the company’s plans, new hires, and hiring processes. An online discussion group is also a great place to answer candidates’ questions about working for your company or getting in the door, and ó by observing the conversation ó to spot likely candidates and invite them to take the next step. I’m not aware of a single company that has developed this easy candidate-cultivation resource. If you moderate the email group, untoward or company-bashing comments won’t be published, so the risk of misuse is nil, and the benefits could be tremendous. A follow-up step would be to invite members of your discussion group to participate in your employee referral bonus program or a variation of it. It’s a great way to put your company groupies and followers to work for you.

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Take a Hard Look at Your Phone-Screening System

Phone screens are efficient time-savers; they allow you to cut unwieldy resume piles in half quickly. But they suffer from this problem: Capable people can be cut from the list for not being at home when the screener calls. So back up your phone screen process with an email questionnaire that ensures you don’t lose track of talented people the phone screener missed. Use the email questionnaire to invite the candidate to suggest alternate times for a quick phone interview. A 4:00 a.m. phone interview appointment is a small price to pay for making the hire of the year. As the jobs shortage shifts to a talent shortage, candidate-friendly companies will win the gold, and there are precious few of them. Somebody ó maybe you ó has the chance to change the landscape and gain a competitive advantage at the same time. Do you have the guts (not to mention the juice) to promote future talent cultivation as a top-line corporate value for your employer in 2006? The top spot for organizations who value job seekers is there for the taking.

Liz Ryan is a former Fortune 500 Human Resources SVP and is the world's most widely read career advisor. She is CEO & Founder of Human Workplace, a think tank and publishing firm whose mission is to reinvent work for people. Liz Ryan is also author of the recently released book, "Reinvention Roadmap" -- a new millennium guide to successfully navigating the often complex and confusing world of job search today by breaking the rules to get ahead.


8 Comments on “Want to Be Candidate-Friendly? There’s Room for a Trend-Setter

  1. This is a great article as often in this business we know that if we aren’t working with some one today that we might need them tomorrow. If we don’t treat them with respect they won’t treat us with respect either. Great article.

  2. There’s no disputing the main point of the article, that there is a ton of room for companies to improve in the arena of candidate relations. But to capitalize on that notion, there have to be some changes on the corporate side of the desk – I’d love to hear testimonials from Recruiters where these are occuring!

    As a third-party who operates with clients, large and small, all across the country, it is my observation that the real issue here is the lack of Recruiting talent on the corporate side of the desk. This is not a knock on any given Recruiter, I’m just saying that the last several years have taken their toll on the ranks of the Recruiting profession and that, by and large, the corporate side has done very little to replenish and refresh that talent supply.

    All the greatest ideas in the world aren’t worth the electronic paper they’re printed on if there aren’t appropriate resources (both in terms of quantity and quality) to implement and execute them!

    We routinely encounter organizations where the prevailing mindset towards their own in-house Recruiting resources are that they’re just a necessary evil (to be used up, tossed aside, and replaced as needed) rather than as the strategic partner that it should be.

    Those employers who can best ‘talent-up’ in the Recruiting arena are those who will stand the best chance of winning the talent wars.

    Yes, the game is on and the creative ones are already ahead!

  3. We hear repeatedly about potential talent shortages in the short-and long-term, so Liz’s column about becoming candidate friendly makes a lot of sense.

    Yet our research has shown that most companies don’t even know when they are behaving ?unfriendly.? We recently asked job seekers to tell us about their own horror stories in the interviewing/hiring process – and even we were a bit overwhelmed by the response.

    In many cases, we found that companies that focused heavily on process and compliance inadvertently lost sight of the person behind the resume. As a result, they often scared away the talent they were trying to recruit.

    Today, more so than in the past, such bad experiences can undermine a company’s ’employment brand.? Job seekers can easily spread their tales of woe to others around the world in a matter of seconds thanks to blogs, the Internet, e-mail, etc. In fact, these new technologies have helped Word of Mouth (WOM) become one of the most influential media channels.

    A leader in measuring the effect of consumer media, BuzzMetrics (www.nielsenbuzzmetrics.com) indicates that ‘in 1977, 67 percent of U.S. consumers called WOM one of the best sources for ideas about new products, versus 92 percent in 2005.’

    While the numbers may be different for the employment world, we imagine that WOM carries similar weight with job seekers.

    So we think that ‘candidate friendly’ is not just a good thing to do, but an absolute necessity for acquiring great talent.

    Liz, please keep writing more on the subject.

  4. Well written article. And the reality is that being Candidate Friendly means that you are Candidate Attractive.

    Failure to establish AND maintain a positive candidate experience is immensely harmful.

    I try to counsel hiring managers that are inhibiting the recruiting flow that they are best served by acting in a manner that would reflect how they would want to be treated if they were the candidate. And that, my fellow recruiters, is solid counsel for us all. And so, I think I best go take care of some calls and e-mails.

  5. I’d like to hear from some candidates. What do job seekers who apply to company’s expect? What would they like to see happen when apply for a position? What type of things leave a bad taste in their mouths about a company? Does a bad application experience sometimes turn them off as a future customer as well as an applicant?

    I would like to propose this list as a foundation to be candidate friendly:

    ?? Candidate Bill of Rights ??

    Confidentiality* Individuals are entitled to the security and confidentiality of their personal and professional background and data. Any decision to make that data available to others must be at the specific request of the individual.

    Credibility* All advertised positions must be verifiably open and available to job-seekers, with the intent of the hiring organization to make any and all efforts to fill the open position.

    Accuracy* The description of an open position should accurately and specifically identify the unique attributes of that position as they relate to the Hiring Manager, organization, geography, work group, work to be completed, and performance measurement criteria.

    Consideration* All interested candidates, from all available sources, should be considered for an open position based upon their ability and aptitude, and that consideration should be free from racism, sexism, and other forms of prejudice and intolerance.

    Consistency* Hiring decisions will be made based upon on a set of specific and defined criteria that is relevant to the position, consistent across all candidates and applied objectively.

    Follow Up* All applicants are entitled to consistent communications regarding the status of their candidacy, regardless of the outcome of their application.

    Preparation* Each individual should expect that they will be provided with all relevant information about the organization and hiring manager in order to best prepare them for success during the interview process.

    Respect* Scheduling of interviews will occur in a manner that connotes respect for the candidate, their time and their efforts.

    Communication* Every inquiry regarding the status of candidacy or application is worthy of a response.

    Information* All applicants will be provided with the necessary information about the company, hiring manager, compensation, performance expectations, etc. in order to make an informed career decision.

    Great article! I agree 100% and also would say that there is room for a whole slew of trend setters.

    Have a great week everyone,


  6. I spent time on Good Friday evening, writing very sensitive and polite letters to candidates who were NOT selected for interview for my latest filled position.

    Your job, as a recruiter, is not done until all candidates you interact with are dispositioned. We should consider it a priviledge to participate in building relationships and thus maintain them until such time as we provide suitable and sensitive closure, or as does the candidate.

  7. Todd,

    Having applied for jobs at Pfizer, I can tell you that you are, at best, average at being APPLICANT friendly. I have spent nearly 5 years studying the issue of being applicant-focused on the web and Pfizer exhibits few best practices. I think the key thing here is that ‘candidates’ get treated well, applicants kept the short end.

    However, this is true of about 90% of the Fortune 500. Since putting yourself in the shoes of an candidate works for you – try on the shoes of an applicant.

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