The Poor Candidate Experience: Press the Kill Switch!

Editor’s note: Chris Stringfellow recently completed a year-long internship as a Talent Acquisition Analyst at Riviera Advisors. Over the course of the year, he assisted in analyzing candidate experiences for many of our global clients, and understood a lot about how treating candidates can affect an employer’s brand. Over the last few months, approaching graduation from California State University, Long Beach– Chris has interviewed for his first professional job after college. He experienced quite a lot of employers and the gamut of good and bad candidate experiences.  He has since accepted a great new job as a recruiter at a well-established healthcare non-profit. Here is his feedback.–Ed.

Poor candidate experience

Picture this: you’re waiting to hear a call back on a very exciting job opportunity! The recruiter tells you that she will contact you within the next few weeks for an in-person interview. You wait a few weeks. You hear nothing. You email the recruiter back asking about the status of your application. Again, you hear nothing… You’re waiting almost a month to hear an answer back only to receive a note stating that the hiring process will no longer be continued.

The example above is what is known as a poor candidate experience.

You might not realize it, but every person that you treat poorly reflects not only on your company but on YOU as the recruiter.

In the past 3 months I have been pursuing my search for my first full time job after college. As a new grad who was determined to have a position, I applied, interviewed, been rejected and have gotten offers from several different companies. After interviewing with 13 organizations (multiple interviews for each one), I can say that I’ve had my share of both positive and negative candidate experiences. Here are some of the negative ones that I have experienced.

Sorry… looks like we’re gonna have to reschedule

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As a Talent Acquisition Analyst, I am aware that stuff comes up. I’m very understanding when it comes to recruiters cancelling phone screenings and in-person interviews moments before they were scheduled. However, keep in mind that your average candidate might not be this understanding. When you cancel moments before the interview it reflects negatively on your time management skills. Out of all of the companies that I’ve interviewed with (more often than you’d expect) I have had interviews cancelled or rescheduled moments before they were scheduled to start.

One time I was interviewing for a very large entertainment company with promising opportunities. I was scheduled for a video interview and exactly 12 minutes before I was notified that the interview needed to be rescheduled. When it was rescheduled, the video interview turned into a last minute phone interview instead.

In another instance, I was dressed and suited up nicely prepared for my next interview. I cleared my entire schedule for an in-person interview for a well-established fashion company. Right when I was in my car and entered my key into the ignition, I received a call that the meeting needed to be rescheduled for a later date.

It is inevitable that unforeseen events may come up as you interview candidates, however it is important to try your best to give your candidate the best follow-up possible.

My Recruiter is Harry Houdini

Recruiters are capable of doing many things. They work like magic! But what about when a recruiter does a disappearing act?

I have experienced several recruiters who have felt that it was okay to ignore me as a candidate. Not only is this unprofessional but it is also borderline disrespectful. Candidates often look for job opportunities to support themselves, their families, or to further their career goals. When you disregard a candidate without informing him or her, then you are basically saying that the candidate is not worth your time.

Not too long ago, I applied for a position online for a health organization. Within the week, I was contacted by a recruiter via email. The email was personalized and stated that she would like to interview me for the position and to send a copy of my availability for that same week.

After doing so, I waited a few days and heard nothing. I sent another email…Still nothing. After I gave her the benefit of the doubt and considered that maybe all of my messages went to her spam folder. I gave a call, left a voicemail and still nothing. Just like Harry Houdini… or Harry Potter she disappeared into cyber space.

My recruiter is Oprah

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One of the most disappointing things that I have experienced as a candidate is the recruiter who is (what I like to call) a talk show host. They’re the ones that ask you a bunch of “fluff” questions that are irrelevant to the skills and qualifications necessary for the position. Now I’m not against the “let’s get to know you questions”, but I am when they are the ONLY determinant for the right fit for a position.

I was surprised at recruiters who called me up over the phone or in person who asked many questions that had nothing to do with the requirements for the position.

I once applied and interviewed for a position for a well-known tech company. In several of the interview rounds I was asked about my personal life. Questions were related to my favorite music, what books I liked to read, what I do for fun etc. Although these questions might be fun to ask when going out on a date, they are not the best indicators of a quality candidate.

Another recruiter for a fashion company was also guilty of being a talk show host. In both rounds of interviews I was asked many questions about high school. For the first round nearly all of my questions were surrounding my work experience and extracurricular activities…during high school. They also asked me what city I grew up in!

While this might be good for small talk, my answers did not in any way reflect my current skill sets and organizational involvement that I have accomplished during my years at my University. Although I was able to answer many of the questions, it made me wonder about how uncomfortable this might make a much older candidate feel who has been out of high school for years.

An investigative journalist is interviewing me

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Have you ever been in an interview where the recruiter tried to be intimidating and ask questions to try throw you off? You feel like you’re in an interview with Barbara Walters with the spotlight shined bright on you? I have experienced this! There were times where I have sat through interviews and almost shook my head at the questions that were being thrown at me.

In one particular instance, I had a recruiter ask me many odd questions. He went through my resume and did somewhat of a critique of it while I was in the room. My HR memberships and participation in HR conferences were overanalyzed and put to question. He then told me that people in my field don’t participate in these organizations. This didn’t really bother me until the interview progressed.

As the interview continued, he asked about my five year goals. When I answered his question he seemed clearly unsatisfied and then proceeded to ask me about my 10 year career goals. Throughout the entire process he was very disengaged and seemed disinterested. Eye-contact was poor and he was focusing more on his laptop.

After the persistent prodding of my future career goals, the interviewer then asked me “How do you work with women?” He then made it a constant point to remind me that I am a male in a field that is dominated by women. At this point I was beginning to wonder the purpose of the interview.

The interview was borderline interrogative. None of the questions focused on my skills or ability to do the tasks posted in the job description.

Advice and tips… from a candidate’s standpoint

Blog Pic 4Many recruiters sometimes are wrapped up and overwhelmed with their work. This is understandable. We do not live in a perfect world, however the candidate does not know this. Never assume that they know what’s going on in the back end. You would be amazed at how well a timely and personalized, email, phone call or even voicemail can make the difference.

Whether you accept or reject your candidates, it is always important to make sure that you treat them as a human being and not as a checklist in your Applicant Tracking System.

If you have developed a professional relationship with your top candidates who did not get the position, always deliver a personalized (non-automated) message. Never cut off the relationship! Remember that recruiting is about managing and maintaining relationships, not pretending that your candidates never existed. You will be much more respected if you’re honest and transparent with your selection process. This can go a long way and can benefit you and your organization in the future.

Also, always remember to ask questions that are relevant to the role. It is always great to have someone fit your culture but it is even better to hire someone who is ALSO a great performer!


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