Why Does Black Holes Still Exist in Candidate Experience?

Posted by Eric Putkonen on 07/21/2015 in Recruiting articles |

As people I meet learn I am a recruiter, I often get a reaction to that fact and then a mentioning of a mysterious black hole they suspect their applications fall into.  I hear people complain about their candidate experience all the time (and sometimes, regarding the company I work for at the time).

The Screen

Thank you to Ian Burt (CC BY 2.0)

I really do not understand this.  We live in the 21st century with modern Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) and applicants are not supposed to be lost like they were when we had stacks of resumes on our desks that we received by mail.

Every major ATS that I have seen has the ability to mass email selected applicants with various emails.  We can just click who is not being considered any longer and send them a “rejection email”.  Is this really so difficult?

Furthermore, is it really so difficult to do this in a timely manner?  The ATS will rank the applicants based on how they answered the prescreening questions, so we know if the applicant met the minimum requirements and how well he or she met the requirements and preferences compared to other applicants.  If the applicant did not score in the top 20% of applicants, why not send the rejection email that week to those applicants (so 80% of applicants get a rejection within a week)?

Even if you have to revisit the candidate later (a rarity, I find)…you can always call the candidate and say the hiring manager was revisiting applicants and we would now like to consider him or her again if he or she is still available and interested.  The applicants I have spoken with in the past have been elated.  So don’t be afraid of sending the “rejection letters” too soon.  I understand keeping some on hold (just in case), but as recruiters we also have to be decisive so we can be timely.

For the ones on a holding pattern, if they have not heard anything after two or three weeks…we should just reject them.  Again, we can go back and say the situation has changed and we want to move them to the next step of the process.

I know that I have had backups awaiting my second opinion (after hearing feedback on the initial group that was sent to the hiring manager).  The majority of the time, I was right and the applicants I selected were well liked by the hiring manager as well (i.e. on target).  The odds are small that I will revisit my on hold candidates…and so I now email them a rejection after a couple weeks or so.  I find that usually they would be considered sooner rather than later.

I know that I have had hiring managers select candidates to put on hold – usually awaiting additional applicants (someone better).  Again, after two or three weeks…please just reject them.  If your experience is anything like mine, applicants in this pool could sit there for months (I know mine have in the past).  An indecisive hiring manager is really no excuse for not giving timely feedback to a candidate.  Just cut the candidate loose and tell them the hiring manager is moving forward with others at this time.

Thank you to William Warby (CC BY 2.0)

Thank you to William Warby (CC BY 2.0)

Too many times in my career, I have had applicants sit for months on the back burners.  It just is not fair to them.  And most of the time, they are never considered again anyway.

Do not be afraid to reject someone who might be considered again later.  I would like to say again, from my experience, applicants are thrilled to get a phone call asking if they would still be interested in the position as circumstances have changed they are now being considered again.  Some will say that they have taken other positions, but universally they are happy that I kept them in mind.

Now imagine the other option…days turn into weeks…weeks turn into months.  No word.  You are left thinking…am I still being considered?  If so, why have I not heard back.  If not, why don’t they have the courtesy to tell me.

This does nothing to improve our employment brand.  If the candidate experience is lousy, will they keep coming back to apply to our other positions?  Will they refer friends and family to apply to our positions?  Could a lousy candidate experience make our products or services more appealing to the candidate?  Of course not.

Let’s put it another way…which would you rather have if you applied for a position:

  • To be rejected a couple weeks after applying, and then being called to ask if I am still interested and available several weeks later.
  • To not hear anything at all for weeks or months.

I would take the former any day of the week.

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