How to Improve Applicant Experience: The DO’s and DON’Ts

March 16th, 2010 by jpassen Leave a reply »


Dr. John Sullivan’s recent post on ERE.net, “How Candidate Abuse Is Costing Your Firm Millions of Dollars in Revenue”, really got me thinking about applicant experience. Dr. Sullivan raises a great point early in his blog post; job applicants are often times customers and ultimately brand influencers. Today, too many employers are still oblivious to the concept of building a community around their applicant pools. Even some of the most respected companies ignore the majority of applicants that submit resumes. Other organizations treat applicants like circus animals requiring them to jump through burning hoops just to complete an interview process.  Dr. Sullivan characterizes this behavior as applicant abuse and ultimately ties it to, among other things, lost revenue. Would you want patronize a company that ignored you or treated you poorly?

The fact is, lousy applicant experience remains one of the most widespread diseases in corporate recruiting.  Poor candidate treatment is the result of companies not managing recruiting the same way they do other critical business processes. Would you ignore the majority of your technical support requests? Would you ever drive customers to a shoddily designed or poorly maintained page on your website for product information? Would you ask your accountants to use email and spreadsheets to manage corporate finance?

Listen, most companies don’t intentionally create a lousy applicant experience. In fact, I believe that most companies actually mean well.  But, many don’t have the resources or the bandwidth to create a more positive experience for job seekers. So, how can you improve how your company treats applicants and help convey a positive brand image with limited resources?

Here are some DO’s and DON’T’s that will help you improve your applicant experience and won’t break your budget in the process.

DO periodically survey applicants to learn what it’s like to be a candidate at your company.  The survey should be short and should ask insightful questions. Use a free or nearly free online survey service like SurveyMonkey or Wufoo.

DON’T go run out and lobby for a new CRM system. While Dr. Sullivan mentions this as a potential remedy, I don’t agree with him here.  Most CRM systems are hard to use and they won’t integrate with the rest of your recruiting program. You’ll end up creating more work for yourself.

DO make it easy for applicants to apply to your jobs via an online careers page. Choose applicant tracking software that will immediately thank applicants when they submit a resume.  Modern recruiting software should only cost a couple of hundred dollars a month.

DON’T require applicants to create a user name and password to submit a resume.  Applicant portals are more frustrating than useful. They create significant drop-off rates during the application process. Applicants, especially the A-players, are never going to log in and check the status of their application.

DO have a mechanism in place to automate the rejection of applicants politely.  Use this as an opportunity to reinforce your company’s brand.  Communicate with everyone that submits a resume and / or interviews at your company.  Applicants appreciate status updates. Here’s the best “thank you letter” tool on the market.

DON’T try to emulate that great company you read about in FastCompany by copying some 20 step recruiting process. Invest your energy in simplifying your recruiting process and train your interview teams to be more efficient. Applicants appreciate companies that are not afraid to make decisions.

DO involve the corporate recruiting team in the business units as much as possible.  The more integrated your recruiters are with the teams they service, the more accurate information they’ll be able to convey to applicants.

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