Recruiter Call To Action

As most of those running Talent Acquisition are working increasingly through automated systems, it's important that we do not forget that the candidate is still human. A little old-school recruiting wisdom will help you keep your candidates engaged in your processes.

By Rod Lacey, Sunstone HR Consulting

To Those Engaged In The Art of Talent Acquisition:

I recently ran a search for a friend of mine who just launched a new company. As I moved candidates through the process, I kept them personally posted on the status of the search. As the list narrowed, each candidate received prompt updates. When the search was closed, all were notified. No candidate went more than about 4 business days without an update.

As I communicated with the last few finalists who did not receive the position, I received the following unsolicited comments to my "regrets" communications:

  • "Thank you for the update on this role with (company). I appreciate your excellent communication; it's a shame to say it, but it's actually rare to be kept as informed as you have kept me on the status of this position."
  • "Thanks for the email. A lot of companies don't share that information or transparency, so I appreciate you sharing it with me and providing some closure."
As I've spoken to friends and family members who have been involved in job searches recently, I've honestly been stunned with what I've been told:
  • "I had to follow-up with the recruiter if I ever wanted to get any updates on the search status."
  • "When I hadn't heard anything from the company for four weeks I assumed they had moved on, but then they called me out of the blue to notify me of next steps."
  • "I was super excited about the opportunity, but after having several weeks with no updates, I would probably withdraw from the search, if I ever hear from them again."
  • "I have applied for six jobs in the past several months, and received two automated replies to my resume submission, and that's it! I have received no further communication from any of these companies."
  • "The recruiter was very responsive when my resume first arrived, and brought me right in for an on-site interview, and she told me that she would let me know my status before the weekend . . . and that was over three weeks ago. I haven't heard anything at all since then."
As companies increasingly present that they have a great, employee-friendly culture, do we sometimes give the opposite message with our candidate communications? Let's face it, the automated "we have received your resume" just doesn't scream "Award Winning Culture," does it?! Nor does patiently waiting (without feedback) for a company to get back with you after you've advanced in their interview process. Instead of growing a candidate's interest, you may actually be communicating that you are too busy to care. 

This leads me to believe that some old-school recruiting principles are worth a review. I have tried to learn from some of the best in the talent business (Scott Driggs, Mark Brown, Justin Tomborello, Ronnette Gifford and more)

If you commit to let a candidate know their status before the weekend, do just that. If you share with a candidate that the pool of candidates will be narrowed 'early next week' you owe them some communications by Wednesday of their status. This seems simple, but it is easily forgotten, especially for volume hiring. However, most of the quotes I've shared above came from finalists in leadership-level searches. 

Recruiters are the face of the organization. If they can't keep their basic commitments to a candidate, what confidence does that give a candidate in the rest of the organization. You never get a second chance to make a . . . . well, you know the rest. 

Regular communications with your candidates keeps them excited about the opportunity. Ignoring them for any period of time puts them at risk of finding other opportunities, or beginning to question their original interest in the opportunity. 

Every candidate deserves acknowledgement that their resume has been received, and it's generally accepted that a form letter is acceptable at this point. Nobody expects to be hired immediately upon resume submission, but it's comforting to know your resume was received and that it is in the right hands. Those canned communications can also be written to provide information on the process, too, to set expectations around follow-up. 

Years ago, one particular, important search was taking much longer than anticipated, so I had my team send movie tickets to the top several candidates as an expression of ongoing interest. That move ultimately wasn't very expensive, but it gave me a chance to present my positive company culture, and to show a personal interest in the candidate. 

We recognize that processes take some time. Bureaucracies can slow things down, as can an executive's availability. Sometimes positions change or are subject to being put on-hold. That's reality! 

Being transparent with a candidate is the only fair approach. Rather than shrugging your shoulders on Friday and saying "Well, I promised the candidates an update, but the COO ended-up traveling," honor your commitments and tell the candidates that an executive's travel impacted the search timeline and update your commitment timeline. What's wrong with that? 

Perhaps more importantly, be 'real' with a candidate about where they're at in the search process. It's okay to say "we're bringing in the top three candidates and you're just outside of that group." If the candidate is in the middle of the second tier, don't give them any false hopes that they're still in the process. 

As you can see from the unsolicited comments that I received from the recent search I conducted, candidates will thank you for your transparency. 

When you have an opportunity to extend a job offer it's an easy communication. Who doesn't look forward to that communication?!

However, the remainder of your communications are not as easy. As an indication of the respect you have for the remaining candidates not receiving a job offer, it's important to end that relationship in the appropriate way.

A standard that I set for my recruiting teams over the years was that these communications should be conducted at the highest-level communication that the candidate received from the company, up to a personal phone call. For example, if your only communications with a candidate have been through email, it would be appropriate to extend a 'regrets' note via email. If you had a phone interview, or invited the individual for an on-site interview, you owe them at least a personal phone call. It would be a mistake to send a quick email to your runners-up in the search who had been on-site for multiple interviews. You owe them a higher-level closure than an email. Maybe I'm old school, but I wouldn't text a 'regrets' note to any candidate at any level. Texting is regarded as informal communications, and if a candidate has formally applied for a position, they deserve formal communications in return.

Most important of all, be the one to relay the information to the unsuccessful candidates. If they learn they weren't the one hired through social media or other networks, you've moved too slowly (or in the wrong order). 

I recognize that to some this probably seems to be a no-brainer, but I've heard far too many complaints about recruiting processes recently to believe that this is isolated to only a few companies.  There are so many positive ways to build your company's brand in the recruiting processes, but also many ways to damage that same reputation. 

For those engaged in the exciting work of Talent Acquisition, I offer a challenge to you to identify ways that you can effectively use your systems while not take the human element out of your important and rewarding work. 

Take great care of your candidates, or some other company will. 


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