Job Search Series – Memo To Employers – ACE Your Talent Search (And Avoid Damaging Your Reputation)

Your Brand Name Is Only As Good As Your Reputation
~ Richard Branson, Founder, Virgin Group Ltd

Companies devote precious time and resources to marketing their brands to clients, prospects, consumers, shareholders, investors, underwriters and other important audiences. They target colleges and universities and other audiences for talent acquisition. Yet employers consistently overlook another very formidable audience: job applicants and candidates. How employers treat this audience during the recruitment process is crucial to their success not only in attracting talent but in enhancing their reputations across all audiences in the present as well as in the future.

Articles have been written and much has been discussed about the “candidate experience,” or as I refer to it, the “applicant/candidate experience” or ACE (applicant being defined as someone who merely submits an application and candidate as one who is called to interview). Employers should seriously consider the following situations with regard to the ACE they currently provide:

  • Millions of job applicants share their ACE locally, nationally and globally through word of mouth, correspondence and social media with classmates, roommates, friends, family, spouses and significant others. They spread the word through college campuses, communities, professional organizations, charities where they volunteer and companies where they are finally hired.
  • The job applicant or candidate that an employer offends today could turn out to be the one pursued tomorrow.
  • The disrespected candidate could wind up working for a competitor with great incentive to outperform (revenge can be sweet).
  • A financial analyst or government regulator could be assigned to the company that carelessly or rudely rejected them.
  • Today’s rejected candidate could be tomorrow’s hiring manager who interviews the person who interviewed them a few years before!
  • Rejected candidates could also turn out to be those journalists, venture capitalists, clients, shareholders and others who wield great influence over companies and individuals.

With the massive influence that job applicants and candidates possess, it follows that employers should apply the same attention, respect, courtesy and professionalism to this group that they do to their other critical target markets.

Two such employers who get this are the Shell Oil Company and MB Financial Bank, which were cited among others in a CareerBuilder candidate experience survey for their “excellence in providing a consistently exceptional candidate experience across their organizations.”

CareerBuilder also reports that as high as 82 percent of applicants expect to hear back from an employer regardless of the decision, yet says that “the vast majority (75 percent) of workers who applied to jobs using various resources in the last year said they never heard back from the employer.” Failure of the employer to respond is a major cause of distress in the ACE, but it’s not the only one.

Following are some tips on how employers can improve their ACE in this and two other key areas:

Respond to All Job Applicants

  • Reply to all applicants that at minimum (1) acknowledges receipt of their submissions and attachments (application form, resume, cover letter and any other required documents) and (2) notifies senders if there is a problem with their submissions, allowing them to correct and resend (incompatible formatting, missing documents, etc.).
  • Welcome applicants and provide an efficient, friendly and respectful process both online and in person; all company representatives should be helpful, courteous and respectful to all candidates at every stage of the process.
  • Notify all applicants promptly when the job has been filled. Applicants who have not been selected to interview should receive a generic (or personalized if possible) advisory email.
  • Keep candidates apprised of the decision timetable and communicate with them in a timely manner along the way. No candidate should ever be kept in the dark or twisting in the wind.

Design an Efficient and Thorough Interview Process

  • Determine the required number of interview sessions, including any screening and testing sessions, and stick to that number; advise candidates up front what to expect. Arrange panel interviews to reduce the number of sessions needed.
  • Select relevant HR reps and managers and ensure that they all commit to being available and prepared to conduct meaningful and thorough interviews. Whenever possible use the same interviewers so that all candidates may be evaluated via apple-to-apple comparisons. Reschedule an interview if one or more of the selected interviewers cannot attend a session.
  • Ensure that all interviewers are knowledgeable about the position, candidate and the law. Interviewers should have a track record of connecting favorably with candidates, be aware of illegal or inappropriate questions to avoid and never use coy questions or comments to circumvent the law or put the candidate in an awkward position. If multiple individual sessions are scheduled, interviewers should compare notes to ensure smooth and efficient sessions. Interviewers should not make promises that cannot be kept or issue clichéd statements.
  • Observe basic business etiquette by being punctual, welcoming, courteous and considerate of all candidates, both inside and outside the interview room. Avoid canceling or rescheduling sessions excessively. Always confirm appointments with candidates.

Negotiate Fairly With Women

On the flip side of my previous entry, The Feminine Negotiation Mystique, it behooves employers to view women and men equally in the workplace, and treat women fairly when negotiating starting salaries and other benefits. There’s been much discussion about the reasons that women “don’t ask,” and it’s becoming evident (again) that the harsh attitudes that employers adopt toward women who dare to negotiate are a big factor–and a travesty. And it doesn’t stop with the job offer but continues throughout a woman’s career. Because such discriminatory practices are so entrenched, many managers often fail to recognize such unfair behavior in themselves or others.

Companies that take immediate and forceful steps to correct pay and negotiation discrimination will reap great rewards in reputation and loyalty, not only among its employees but also its external audiences:

  • Conduct a self-audit on salaries and compensation practices to ensure gender pay equality.
  • Ensure that established policies and practices include fair and equal treatment of both genders in salary and other negotiations.
  • Ensure that training for staff who are directly involved with candidate negotiations, salaries, bonuses and other compensation items is included in the company’s standard professional development program, and that strong internal communications to all staff make everyone aware of gender fairness practices with regard to salary negotiations for both job candidates and employees.

It’s worth every penny and amount of effort that a company puts into its ACE. Even in the face of disappointment, applicants appreciate employer responsiveness and respect, and the winning candidates appreciate fair treatment in negotiations.

Until next time,


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