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Recently online career network site surveyed 1,768 candidates about their experiences with recruiters.

If you think the major gripes of candidates are about poor websites, incomplete job descriptions, dowdy offices, filling in registration forms at reception, poor interviews or pushy consultants, you’d be way wrong.

Unfortunately it’s the very basics of customer service, respect and manners that has candidates whinging, rather than anything much to do specifically with recruitment, per se.

Here is a summary of the LinkMe survey’s top 7 things that annoy candidates most about recruiters along with my opinion as to why it happens and a possible solution.

“They don’t call me back” (nominated by 47.4% of respondents)

Why it happens:   Recruiters don’t write down every message they receive and/or the recruiter does not have any progress on the job to report.

How to fix it:   Write down all messages received in a spiral bound notebook and cross it off when it is returned (or a computer version of this) and/or call back to simply let the candidate know there is no progress on the job to report.

“No notification of unsuccessful application” (43.9%)

Why it happens:   Recruiters don’t know how to provide effective ‘you were not suitable’ feedback so they avoid giving any feedback at all.

How to fix it:   Focus on one specific skill, competency or motivation that was lacking, compared to the requirements of the job or compared to other candidates that applied for the role. General or vague feedback like ‘you aren’t quite what the client is looking for’ is lazy recruiting and frustrating for the candidate to hear.

“Don’t name the employer in the job advertisement” (37.8%)

Why it happens:   Confidentiality or commercial sensitivity

How to fix it:   Explain to the candidates why there is no client named in the advertisement

“I never get called from the database” (37.1%)

Why it happens: Most recruiters view their candidate database as an administration tool rather than their core competitive advantage and as a result they enter candidate details with little regard for accuracy, consistency and completeness that would make any subsequent search easy, comprehensive and valuable

How to fix it: Either have a designated person/people fully responsible for candidate database entry to ensure consistency. If this is not possible, have clear rules and policies about candidate entry into the database and follow it up with regular checks or audits to ensure completeness and accuracy.

Have regular team ‘candidate calling’ evenings to contact candidates after work hours.

Undertake complete database searches prior to posting any job advertisements.

“Multiple Rejections Without Feedback” (36.4%)

Why it happens: No prompt in the system to flag multiple applications and/or recruiters hope the candidate will get the message if they keep rejecting them.

How to fix it: See point 2 above

“Don’t acknowledge receiving my application” (35.3%)

Why it happens: No auto-response on applications emailed in or and/or no ‘thanks, but no thanks’ response after application declined.

How to fix it: Obvious, I would hope

“Not really interested in what I want to do” (35.3%)

Why it happens: The recruiter’s interview questions are all focused on assessing the candidate’s suitability for the current vacancy.

How to fix it: As a prelude to the recruiter delving into the candidate’s resume, there should be broader questions asked as to the candidate’s ideal role and job search activities. My Interviewing workshop covers this process in detail.

Rounding out the Top 12 were the following:

“They don’t understand my individual needs (age group, industry etc)” (33.8%)

“It’s like dealing with a black hole” (31.9%)

“Poorly handled rejections process” (30.3%)

“Applying for a job that doesn’t exist” (29%)

“Dealing with a different consultant every time” (24.9%).

The 7 major candidate gripes contrast strongly with what most recruitment companies boast about on their website with respect to their treatment of candidates.

Phrases such as ‘we genuinely care for our candidates’, ‘candidates are number 1 for us’, ‘our candidate care program is our point of difference’ and ‘we started the company because we saw a gap in the market in the way candidates were treated’, abound in their thousands.

If this is the case, then who are these mystery recruiters causing such poor feedback in the candidate world? Words are meaningless unless the matching action follows, every time (for more reading on this topic I highly recommend the book Moments of Truth  by Jan Carlzon, Collins Business 1989).

As this feedback is exactly what I recall from the early 1990’s (and we are currently supposed to be having a ‘skills crisis’), then why haven’t things changed with respect to the candidate-recruiter experience over the years?

The same LinkMe survey also demonstrates how easy it is to make a positive impact with candidates. The 8 things that candidates most appreciate were reported as being the following:

Treated me with respect – 47.9% (also known as listening)

Called me back – 47.6% (how hard is it?)

Taken the time to understand my needs – 38.1% (two or three quality questions)

Did what they said they would do – 36.3% (need I say more?)

Got me a job – 35.6% (4 others ahead of this one!)

Followed through and helped me even though I didn’t get the job – 34.3% (how to win candidate referrals in one easy lesson)

Followed up with me even though I declined their role – 26.1% (it’s called building a candidate pipeline)

Great career advice – 22% (should be #1 if you want to be known as an expert in your field).

The scary thing about the above eight things is that no money needs to be invested to implement them immediately into your modus operandi (apart from training) – they just take time, thought and a commitment to true customer service.

In a time where the refrain ‘there’s no decent candidates around’ rings from the rafters of every recruiter’s office, the solutions are deceptively simple, yet rarely practiced. What do your candidates say about you?


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