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Steffan Martell of CareerBuilder on the Candidate Experience

by Joseph Murphy

The candidate experience includes rejection for most. Steffan Martell of CareerBuilder recently offered some clear guidelines on how the candidate rejection process should be handled. Click PLAY to hear what he has to say, and then scroll down to read more.

Steffan offers four main points to consider for keeping the rejection process in-line with the candidate experience and expectations.

  1. Use the same level/form of communication established
  2. Provide details on where they stand in the process
  3. Keep them informed along the way
  4. Provide candid feedback regarding fit and potential for future prospects

Use the same level/form of communication established Steffan puts out some great criteria here. If you have spoken with a candidate, give them the bad news over the phone. If you have only had an email exchange, a digital dialogue is appropriate.

The personal relationship established with a phone call or an interview sets expectations high for the candidate. They know out of all the candidates you were highly interested in them. As many as 90% of candidates never get to a phone call, so this level of engagement sends a message that their qualifications are a close match. This creates hope and expectations for additional personal contact. (See more about candidate hope.)

The impersonal nature of the internet may at times make it easy for forget each applicant is another sentient human being. Delivering an exceptional candidate experience, even for the act of rejection, calls for some level of sensitivity and reciprocity.

Provide details on where they stand in the process Gerry Crispin is an advocate for providing candidates with an interesting variety of data such as how many candidates typically apply per week or month and how many are hired during that same period. It’s a bit like the lottery publishing the winning odds. But, it also sends the candidate a message about the scope of challenge the company faces. In high applicant to hire ratio scenarios this can be a powerful form of level setting communication. This type of data does not have to be real-time data. Generalized stats should serve you well.

Having typical timeline and expected next step information can also be shared in a general format. With open or standing requisitions a blanket statement such as: “We contact the most qualified candidates by Friday of each week.” For one-off requisitions you may have more specific details. “The most qualified candidates will be contacted for a phone interviews by DATE. On site interviews will be conduct during the week of DATE. We anticipate a hiring decision to be made by DATE.

Candidates who do not hear from you by each of those dates know what that means. That does not remove the need to communicate with them, but it does in a Steffan Martell of CareerBuilder on the candidate experience manner let them know they have not advanced.

Keep them informed along the way In our work on understanding candidate expectations, job seekers clearly stated one of their highest needs for information is on the status of their application. Steffan mentions the ‘black hole.’ It is too real for many candidates, due to recruiting processes that are void of communication tools being set up properly and recruiters who underutilize automation resources.

Any ATS worth its license agreement will have a candidate disposition process and automatically triggered communications. Make sure your process has well written messages to advise candidates of where they stand in your process.

Provide candid feedback regarding fit and potential for future prospects Steffan offers another excellent point here. Job seekers want to know why they did not get the job. The evasive answer we used to teach our recruiters was to always use the “We were fortunate to get a lot of candidates to consider. After careful review, we advanced those candidates who seemed most qualified.”

While that response told the candidate the company process, it was void of insight for their personal growth. Martell suggests we share more. And to share in a manner that sets proper expectations for the future. Candidates hate to be strung along. Be frank and straight forward on whether you will keep them on your radar or not.

Remember, due to the fact that only one candidate gets hired, recruiting is the business of rejection.  Look for ways to do it well. Make better rejection part of your staffing process improvement initiatives for 2012.

Where Next? Once again, there will be an application process for the Candidate Experience Award. 2012 will provide another opportunity to highlight those organizations that are doing it well, getting it right and being a leader in delivering an exceptional candidate experience. Check in here to begin the application process.