Businesses don’t respond to candidates and bully customers

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He was recently reading a good blog post written by french students from a famous master degree in HR saying that most businesses find it impossible to respond to all candidates. Obviously and despite of noticeable progress, businesses still struggle to respond to job applicants.

That may surprise many businesses that will say “hey, but we’re responding to everyone”. And it’s true they actually do. Those who knew the pre-digital era can understand why employers were not responding to all applications. For the largest it meant a significant paper/stamps budget, just to acknowledge receipt of an application. For the smallest ones it meant administrative task overload. Yet, candidates dit not like that much what was seen as a lack of consideration. In the digital era, business have no excuses anymore. Responses are so easy to make, automated that it’s a no-brainer. Except SMBs that did not invest in an HCM solution worth the name and are still processing applications manually, automated acknowledgement of receipt is the normal. And that’s where the problem is.

Candidates don’t want responses but attention

Job applications are like birthdays in the Facebook era. When responding required effort (type a letter, send it) getting a response was a proof of attention. When letters were printed and send automatically, the feeling that someone paid attention started to decrease. Now that it’s possible to send an email without having any human involved in the process, the receipt has an administrative value but not relational one anymore.

It’s like birthdays in the Facebook era. Before Facebook we were always pleased and moved to see people reminding of our birth date. Now that Facebook reminds us every morning who we should wish an happy birthday and makes it possible to do it in one click, we get much more birthday greetings but have a legitimate doubt about how spontaneous most of them are.

What businesses see as an action of information with an administrative nature is seen by candidates as the beginning of a relationship, of a journey, of a shared experience. And if the candidate is really motivated and is really interesting in working for a given business, the administrative tone may kill his motivation. Sending a proof of love and getting a cold shower in response is never a good experience. No one would respond this way to a client asking for commercial information.

Application follow-up as a relational job, not an administrative one

That’s the big misunderstanding. Candidates are in a relational approach (that even started long before applying) while the enterprise is in an administrative approach that will sometimes become relational at the interview stage (if it happens).

What do candidates expect as a response ?

1°) A receipt, but a personalized one and a receipt that shows the enterprise commitment. Who’s in charge of evaluating the application ? When will he get an answer ? A promise that he will get an answer whatever the answer is. And a tone less cold than the one usually used. Being professional and in a strong position (even if less an less business are in such a position in the war for talents) should not imply being contemptuous

1° bis) Another email from a significant person in the company. The boss of the business unit, the founder for a SMB…a message saying he’s pleased by the interest shown, that the right people are currently in charge of reviewing the application. Even automated it has an impact. And, as usual, perception is reality.

2°) Respond. Whatever the answer is. Positive or negative.

3°) Any email must be signed to make the candidate know his application is in the hand a someone, not of a machine.

4°) Keep the relation living. Between the application and the response, all along the recruitment process if it goes further, even after the candidate refuses the offre, be in candidate relationship management approach. For instance send news about the company, its latest achievements and success, its major announcement. If the candidate refuses the offer, stay in touch, inform about available positions that can interest him. And if the enterprise decide to terminate the recruitment process itself, say it gently and stay in a relational approach. Anyone who got contacted one day by an employer that  rudely kicked him out of the recruitment process or were shown very little consideration in the past knows what his reaction will be. So better make a good impression at the first time.

The customer-candidate experience disconnect

The situation is even more worrisome if we consider how many emails the candidate can receive, as a customer, from the enterprises he applied with. Double penalty : same enterprise, unsolicited spam on the on side and no response to an application on the other side. Please note that emailing always say “do no reply”, what is not an evidence of a culture of dialogue.

On the other and if he’s a client of a business that is very good at customer experience, he may wonder if marketing and HR on day met to share their relational best practices.

As a passionate person about the idea of symmetry of attentions, I suggest any business should keep it mind the the result must be a symmetry of experiences. Don’t forget that candidates will treat their clients the way they were treated during the recruitment process. If the first signal you’re sending is about being distant, cold, condescending and arrogant they will understand that it’s the way the organization is dealing with external people. So don’t be surprised if they treat prospects the same way they were treated as candidates.

The basics of a personalized candidate experience

There’s a mix to find between human and automation and it’s understandable that automation can prevail until the enterprise decides to interview the candidate, but there are some basics no one should forget ;

1°) Personalize

2°) Show attention, care

3°) Have a relational approach

4°) Adopt long-term thinking.

A recent Accenture Strategy study found that only 14% of recent graduates want to join large businesses. Poor candidate relationship practices won’t improve this score.