The candidate experience: mostly rubbish and no improvement in sight

Last year I wrote about the ghosting experience my wife had received from SMS Global in Melbourne, subsequent to her three interviews for the GM- HR role that the company had advertised.

Local Talent Acquisition professional, Stan Rolfe, wrote about his job-seeking experiences in July 2019 (his post was the most-viewed of 2019 on the ATC blog) site and he followed this up last month with a post about the job-seeking experiences of another TA professional, Pavi Iyer.

Both posts detail the completely underwhelming candidate experience that appears to be the norm when companies undertake a recruitment process.

Former Sydney communications agency owner, Louise Di Francesco wrote about her job-seeking experience in The Age last November. The article’s headline Looking for work over 50 is a deeply disturbing experience tells you all you need to know about the theme of the article.  Before comments were closed 366 comments had been posted. Many of the commenters shared their own, similar, experience of an impersonal and demoralizing search for an appropriate job.

As Rolfe wrote in his original blog:

Of a dozen applications I have made, two have provided what I consider to be a good experience.” 

My wife, having completed two contract HR roles in 2019, was back on the market for another role at the beginning of this year. She made 38 applications and received no response at all; no acknowledgement of her application or no rejection notification, from 23 of these applications (60 per cent).

Frankly I find it inexplicable that, at the very least, candidates are advised their application is being taken no further. Technology makes rejecting candidates by email a quick and easy process. Yet it appears that a majority of companies can’t be bothered to do this; the most basic step in any recruitment process.

Although Di Francesco and Rolfe are focusing on different aspects of the job-seeking experience, poor customer experience is the core theme. If you want any further evidence then a quick scan of a few Reddit recruitment or recruiter-themed threads should convince you that there are plenty of unhappy job-seekers out there.

In my formative days as a recruiter in Sydney I attended an event that featured Andrew Banks as the guest speaker. One of the key things I took away from that session was that I was “in the rejection business”.

In other words, almost all candidates will be unsuccessful for the role that they apply for or interview for. We only experience the pleasure of advising one candidate per role, of their success. Communication to everybody else is to advise that, unfortunately, they have been unsuccessful. Nobody likes to hear they have been rejected and it’s even more difficult to deliver that news, yet it is a critical part of a recruiter’s job.

Whether we think it is unfair, or not, the general job-seeker experience is poor, whether it’s with a recruitment agency or with a direct-employer. In many cases it’s very poor.

An easy starting point is setting expectations with candidates up-front.

As Stan Rolfe says; “The common experience for the majority is that NO ONE is setting expectations around the application process.” 

Setting expectations is very easy when candidates apply to a job. All that is required is an automatic email acknowledging the application and outlining the recruitment process, or, at the very least, what’s going to happen next.

I hate any job ad that states “Only successful candidates will be contacted”, or similar, however it is inarguable that it’s a sentence specifically addressing candidate expectations.

Recruiters constantly complain about the ‘black hole’ of client or hiring manager communication yet many of these same recruiters are responsible for their own black hole of candidate communication.

It’s hamster-in-a-wheel stuff where industry-wide improvement, despite greatly enhanced technology and a talent shortage, appears as elusive as it’s ever been.

I’ll leave the final word to Stan Rolfe:

“The black hole is real. The black hole sucks and all that money you’ve spent on EVP, branding, technology is going to waste thanks to a rather rubbish candidate experience. 

In today’s competitive Talent landscape, can we afford to continue down the same path?”

 

Note: If you are interested to improve the candidate experience in your organisation you can read about the Talent Board and the Candidate Experience Awards (CandEs) Benchmark Research Program here or visit the Recruiter Insider website for information on their services.

 

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8 Comments

  1. John on 20/02/2020 at 10:53 am

    It beggars belief how short sighted agencies are.

    If you give me a crap experience as a candidate how likely do you reckon it is that I am going to reach out to use your services when I am a hiring manager.

    • Stan on 20/02/2020 at 6:48 pm

      sadly John the internal talent acquisition functions are as much to blame as agencies. I’ve been leading and managing these teams for a long time and yes I was to blame as well, but about seven years ago changed my attitude towards it.

  2. Debbie Capuano on 20/02/2020 at 1:16 pm

    As a recruiter, I think we need to be putting ourselves in the shoes of the person we’re speaking to and I try to do that with every interaction I have. I love my job most days – still…… after 19 years, but sometimes due to how others do their recruitment role, I know people are surprised when I say that is what I do for a living due to the generally negative perception of recruitment agencies. It can be a wonderfully rewarding role – we can be great as an industry – we need to turn that perception around – one candidate experience at a time.

    • Ross Clennett on 24/02/2020 at 11:11 am

      “One candidate experience at a time. Spot on, Debbie.

  3. Stan Rolfe on 20/02/2020 at 6:43 pm

    Hi Ross – Stan here!

    Thanks for the mention. Candidate experience has been so dire that I came very close to leaving the industry all together.. well I’ve actually now secured a role and establishing a niche agency here in Perth in the Aged Care & Early Childhood Ed sector. I’m disenchanted with internal talent functions who mostly embrace mediocrity at best. There are a handful of saviours though fighting the big fight.

    We hear so much about recruitment transformation, but what really needs transforming are the people leading these functions. Quite frankly it starts from the top and has nothing to do with technology.

    Plenty of companies spruiking candidate experience and not many actually living up to it. Even trying to get them to participate in an anonymous survey to give them the data they need to make improvements is challenging. They’d rather spend tens of thousands on technology, than $500 to participate in the survey (yes thats all it costs to participate in Talent Boards research)… and you know what happens after the tech investment? The blame game….. ‘the techs crap’….’too many applications’…’too many requisitions’ and the list goes on.

    Interestingly last year CX was a hot topic but at the same time APAC participation was down! Lets hope 2020 sees 100+ companies participate in the Talent Board Candidate Experience Research Survey. Otherwise people are just sucking on the Holden exhaust pipe.

    Rant Over.

    • Ross Clennett on 24/02/2020 at 11:15 am

      Good on you, Stan. Your point re tech spending versus Talent Board research is revealing of what the core issue is – too many agency owners and hiring managers ‘know’ that candidate experience is important but when you took at their investment of time and money it tells you something very different, and disheartening.

      Given how much upside there is in raising the bar it seems perplexing how little has changed in candidate experience over the decades. In fact, I suspect it’s now worse than it was twenty years ago.

  4. Dexter on 23/02/2020 at 7:46 pm

    Hi Ross.

    Quite interesting timing this article. We made the decision only this week to stop all advertising of positions on job boards.

    Not only did we get inundated with applications from people who were not relevant, we found less than 10% of roles we hired came via a job board, indeed outperforming Seek by a long shot.

    We have instead decided to invest that money on creating content and events for our community. In effect, investing in our network, not Seek, Linkedin or Indeed.

    I closed down our last advertised role last night and notified candidates who applied that they were not successful.

    Those I felt we could potentially help, I invited to sign up to join the community (free and simple to do so).

    Ironically, I had three responses, all rather rude and one person accusing me of being a scam artist.

    I see the problem of candidate experience is a real one. It’s amplified by

    a) Candidates having a complete brain drain and thinking that the way to find a job today, is the same way you found a job in 1995. Applying for roles online and through recruiters is like buying a lottery ticket for your career!

    b) The calibre/commercial acumen of people in the HR and recruitment industry is low. We’ve reached out to all the HR directors in our industry. Very few want to engage in any discussion on talent, even when the CEO has introduced me. This is in a market where there is a huge demand and low supply. They show little interest in the challenges faced by their business. Diversity? Lets change the logo rainbow coloured.

    The blind leading the blind is perhaps the most polite way I can put it.

    It’s not easy out there. We’re finding some roles are taking 6-12 months to fill and we are spending about 10-15 hours in talks just on the person who gets the role. Now imagine if we have five people in a process? Successful candidate management is really time consuming.

    Given the access we all have to data, recruitment is no longer about the rejection game. It’s about highly targeted and relevant marketing layered with industry vertical expertise and the interpersonal skills to connect with people in demand and then nurture them through a 3 – 12 month process.

    How do you make a profit running that model on a contingent, success only basis?

    It’s a slippery slope for the industry.

  5. Ross Clennett on 24/02/2020 at 11:22 am

    “a) Candidates having a complete brain drain and thinking that the way to find a job today, is the same way you found a job in 1995. Applying for roles online and through recruiters is like buying a lottery ticket for your career!”

    So true, Dexter. Too many candidates (post 40 years of age) don’t get how much the job-seeking game has changed and how they need to respond to that change.

    And….how many recruiters have a business model that accommodate a 3 – 12 month relationship-building basis?

    If they want a bright future, I suspect they will need to look closely at how they can this pivot.

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