Will Your Candidates Still Respect You in the Morning?

If you have read a newspaper, business journal, or online media outlet lately, you know we are in or on the brink of a serious candidate shortage.

The Beige Book, published by the 11th District of the Federal Reserve, said in December 2006 that, “worker shortages were reported by service, manufacturing, finance, and energy firms. A lack of labor is a capacity constraint for some firms and, in some areas, companies have resorted to using billboards in an attempt to attract workers. While the shortage extends to many types of skilled and semi-skilled workers, of particular note in this survey were reports of difficulty finding engineers, electricians, high-tech technicians, certified mechanics, and accountants.”

Recruiters need to inform hiring managers and make sure that they own this fact. While I certainly don’t want to return to the Y2K “hire anyone with a pulse mentality,” I am convinced that some managers haven’t gotten the memo on the shortage.

Here are some clues that they are stuck in 2002:

  • Waiting two weeks to respond to resumes.
  • Missing interview days/refusing to schedule interviews.
  • Missing telephone screens.
  • Taking three to four weeks to extend an offer.
  • Allowing one person’s opinion to override six other decisions to hire.

Articles have repeatedly instructed us on how to train managers to get with the program and fix these bad behaviors. But have you considered how the candidate feels about this treatment?

Let’s consider the poor candidate’s experience with these behaviors. Imagine how you would feel submitting a resume and your salary history and getting blown off, lied to, ignored, or treated poorly. Recruiters must admit that this behavior is disrespectful and is ultimately planting widespread seeds of fear and loathing of your company.

It is a humbling and humiliating experience to go on vault.com or to get an email with feedback describing the interview process as “horrendous.” Perhaps managers have the best intentions and are completely overbooked.

I have tips on dealing with busy hiring managers. Recruiters, once they have earned the respect of the manager, have ways of dealing with even the most sought-after, globe-trotting general manager if they are remotely on board with the plan.

Our job is to get managers to see candidates as people instead of resumes. When the candidate moves from just a “body to put in a chair” to a real, live person, they are treated respectfully. Once they are treated well, it isn’t a huge step for that same candidate to become a fount of competitive intelligence, sales lead generator, employee referral machine, and the one who most wants to work with you in the future.

I believe that when you do what you say, you build trust; with trust comes respect; with respect comes helpfulness and bonhomie and traction and good will. What follows disrespect? At the least, disgust. Perhaps eventually even a libel suit.

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When a hiring manager treats candidates respectfully, they are very likely to receive respect from them in return. As Kant has said, it is important to treat everyone “never simply as a means, but always at the same time as an end.”

Perhaps the manager believes that when they are polite, cordial, and respectful, they are telegraphing that “it is easy to get a job here,” or “I want to hire you,” or “we are buddies,” or “I am powerful because I can treat you badly.” Those attributes are overrated and a sure indicator of a poor manager.

I have heard all kinds of arguments about putting a candidate off balance or a team interrogating them to test them under pressure or trying to get them to be flustered as a means to an end. Why? When I have gone through ill-begotten interviews myself, I walked away thinking I would never work for those companies and I won’t purchase their products. They are boneheads.

Cold, hard facts: we have fewer people to choose from, the population is more closely linked than ever before and is using social networking tools, online associations, and openly rating the interview/candidate experience at sites like vault.com. So while the traditionalist generation may think it is acceptable to be a jerk to a Gen Y candidate by being haughty, dismissive, or downright rude, the Gen Y person will have the last laugh. And the process will be the laughingstock of the employment market.

Here’s what to do to get the manager to change her ways:

  • Write a Statement of Work. Collaborate with the hiring manager on what the process is going to be. Pull out a calendar and mark the milestones and interviews down on it. Set up times to review resumes once per week. Don’t let them slack. Escalate it if they do, or if you are an agency, fire the client.
  • Manage the candidate’s experience through expectations. Walk the candidate through the company’s process. Prepare them for delays if they are unavoidable.
  • Prepare the hiring manager before the interview on what the expectations are on the candidate’s part. Explain to them how crucial it is that the candidate walks away wanting the job and how to elicit that response during the interview, rather than delivering a canned sermon on why XYZ Company is the Best Place Ever. Give them questions instead of speeches. Teach them how to build rapport and still ask tough questions.
  • Explain to the manager that it is very likely that even if you don’t like this particular person, if you treat them badly they could poison the well from his alma mater, his current employer, or in his city. That means that he may have to actually be polite to them even if he thinks that they are worthless.
  • Follow up with all candidates. Regardless of the outcome, let candidates know their status. You should even do this with the people who were a stretch or were low performers. This is the honorable and respectful thing to do.
  • Consider implementing a grading system on the candidate experience. Ask the candidate for a grade and some feedback. Show the manager the feedback from Vault. Ask the manager if he thinks he can afford to not look at the experience. (He can’t.)

While you may be able to get by with this behavior at a top prestige firm like a McKinsey, even the McKinseys/Bains/Boston Consulting Groups of the world will eventually lose some candidates to a company with a winning formula.

Additionally, companies that embrace this philosophy may even get business (people and projects) in the process. I don’t know of any company worldwide that can afford to look at candidates as disposable, cheaper by the dozen, or worthy of downright rudeness. That is a seed that should not be sown and will reap a bitter “reward.”

Allison Boyce is a senior recruiter/global field services at Cloudera. She is a former  international sourcer/recruiter at Guidewire Software.


5 Comments on “Will Your Candidates Still Respect You in the Morning?

  1. Sadly, I have recently experienced this with a number of recruitment firms.

    The strange thing is, the positions I am applying for are HR roles – maybe its just me, but I would have thought that recruitment firms would be bending over backwards to follow-up with candidates that are moving into higher HR roles, and who are likely to have a significant say in the future as to which recruitment firms their new organisation will potentially use… A poor experience will likely result in those recruitment firms not being looked upon favourably.

  2. Allison, you bring up some outstanding points and I commend you for writing this. As a TPR, I honestly will say that a negative ‘touch point’ with a company’s employment brand can resonate through the active and passive candidate market pretty fast. Oddly, there is a truly viral component to unsavory candidate experiences. Add in the fact that some TPRs’ can accelerate the velocity (or, in some cases, serve as the initial catalyst) of this viral component because they communicate with so many candidates . . . and it’s easy to see where this can become a recipe for problems down the road. Maybe these problems won’t be too obvious at first, but if you’re measuring candidate fall-out ratios, quality of candidates coming in from external means, quality of referred candidates, etc., my theory is that you’ll start to see some minor deviations that, if not controlled, could hurt the company over time if left untouched.

    My question is in regards to what will truly be done without managers that breed accountability through a slightly modified performance evaluation and compensation plan. The easiest way to change worker behavior is to move beyond just talking about change and implementing some framework that serves to help move the positive change itself forward.

    That being said, I am a TPR, so execution for the interal recruitment staff will indeed be more difficult that I can honestly relate to . . . so there is a balance here and I recognize that change isn’t always received as nicely as you’d like. We definitely don’t live in a Utopian atmosphere where you can shift the direction of a large company at a moment’s notice!

    Great work, Allison. This article is an outstanding reality check!

  3. You would think it is common sense to treat candidates with respect, wouldn’t it? I have always found it odd that it actually doesn’t seem that way when dealing with some companies.
    Thanks for putting together a good article with realistic tips to get hiring managers on board.

  4. A lot of what you describe was the catalyst in driving me to move from ‘just’ recruiter to full desk recruiter. I wanted those things to happen and I did not see them happening in past situations.

    To me, being in direct contact with hiring managers and HR Directors gives me the level of control and confidence I need to speak with conviction to my candidates.

    It also takes out that disconnect that can happen when sales feels that their job is to ‘get positions’ and that my job is to ‘stop asking questions and just go find the person’.

    Having a good manager is also important – someone who lets you control your destiny and expects you to ‘fire’ unresponsive and difficult clients. This is important as there are plenty of good clients out there who need your services.

    Excellent article.

  5. I hope you pass this article along to all of your managers. It clearly conveys the all important ‘Everything Matters’ principle when it comes to onboarding.

    Putting this on hiring manager’s radar screens is important since new hires are unlikely to complain about the problems they experience with their new employer, for fear of being seen as ‘high maintenance’ or ‘a whiner’.

    If you want to identify ways your organization might be inadvertently alienating new employees, you might want to check out my ERE articles:

    ‘If You’re Serious About Onboarding Success, Remember This Mantra’

    ‘How to Avoid the Four Deadliest Onboarding Mistakes’

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