As often discussed, candidate communication is arguably the most important aspect of the recruitment process.

However, a previous REC survey revealed that 34% of candidates considered application and interview feedback as the primary area employers needed to improve on. Only 3% of employers surveyed guessed that this would be cited as candidates’ #1 frustration [1].

Whereas my last blog highlighted the importance of clear communication to and from candidates, here I’d like to focus on how pivotal communication from employers is. This is not just with regards to the candidate recruitment experience, but also in relation to the company’s all-important reputation as an employer of choice.

In my experience, the best way to ensure customer satisfaction as a recruitment consultant is to focus on the candidate experience. In other words, keep the candidates you’re considering for roles well-informed throughout the recruitment process and beyond.

Though our ultimate aim is to find our candidates their next dream job, we’re usually caught up in a huge amount of communication before we get to tell them great news. Following initial contact to ensure they’re right for the role in question, we keep our candidates updated about application progress, interviews (hopefully) and – more often than not, unfortunately – to let them know that they’ve not been successful. These touch-points are essential for any decent recruitment consultant, as leaving candidates ‘hanging’ indefinitely is a sure-fire way to gain a bad reputation.

Though it’s deflating to be rejected, candidates tend to appreciate being told where they stand. Once someone knows they’ve been turned down for a job, they have a quick swear, dust themselves down and move onto the next opportunity.

But the problem that a lot of recruitment consultants face is that, when it comes to news about their candidates’ applications, they’re dependent on their clients – the potential employers – passing this information on in a timely manner. In the majority of cases, this happens and candidates know where they stand throughout their application process. But unfortunately, in a few cases, feedback from clients is hard fought-for, and lack of updates can have quite a knock-on effect, resulting in:

  • Frustration. Rightly or wrongly, candidates expect timely feedback from their applications and interviews. 88% believe feedback within four days should be manageable [2]. When they aren’t updated quickly, their follow-up calls become increasingly disenchanted, leading to:
  • Disenchantment with the employer themselves, damaging the company’s brand reputation. 88% of candidates will discuss their negative experience with others [3] and 24% won’t use a company’s product or services again following a negative recruitment experience [4].
  • Disengagement. The candidate’s experience affects the recruitment agency’s working relationship with the employer. As frustrating as it must be for hiring managers / internal recruiters to field calls and emails chasing feedback, these follow-ups are almost always prompted by the candidate chasing the consultant in the first place. The longer it takes consultants to get feedback for their candidates, the more likely they are to lose faith in the employer’s intention to hire. This can lead to the employer becoming less of a priority, overshadowed by more communicative clients.
  • Lack of direction. Specific and timely candidate feedback is an essential part of the recruitment consultant’s ‘learning curve’ when working on a role, especially for a new client. Regardless of how thorough the brief is, consultants will not always send through the right people straight away. Through effective feedback, however, they can refine their searches and hone in on exactly what the client does want. Again, without this ongoing feedback, the consultant can start to feel like they’re groping in the dark, leading to the role being prioritised less than other roles where feedback has been forthcoming.
  • Lost talent. Good candidates are always in demand. The longer the hiring manager takes to let the consultant know they’re interested in a candidate, the more chance this star candidate will have found an opportunity elsewhere with a faster-moving brand. This doubly applies once the interview process begins. Candidates want to feel valued and are more likely to persevere with the company that responds quickly than the one that drags its heels for weeks.

It goes without saying that it is up to the recruitment consultant to keep the candidate updated regardless of whether they are receiving ongoing feedback from their client.

Chasing feedback is an important part of a recruitment consultant’s job, but it is made trickier when calls and emails to hiring managers / internal recruiters go unanswered. This lack of communication results in a bad experience for all concerned. 80% of those responding to the REC survey said they did not receive feedback the last time the were turned down for a job [5], and 60% of respondents to a different survey said they have not receive feedback following an interview [6]. Therefore, the majority of candidates out there have a negative recruitment experience to share with their friends, family and colleagues (within the organisation that did offer them a role in a timely manner), and you can bet that they’ll name names.

The flipside is that the vast majority of companies we work with are professional, communicative and committed to improving the candidate experience.

We recently started working with a great internal recruiter; someone who knew his vacancies well and prioritised the importance of finding the right candidate, however they were sourced. He briefed us fully on the role, and ensured we understood culture- as well as skillset-fit. He responded quickly to candidate submissions, set up interviews painlessly and – a nice touch, this – when sending out interview confirmations provided an overview of the company as well as interview tips and examples of questions to expect. We always brief our candidates prior to interviews, but having this additional info to work with from someone within the company was priceless.

Unsurprisingly, one of our candidates landed the role within days of us being briefed. He’s now excited to join the company; partly because it’s a great opportunity but partly, no doubt, because the level of involvement and care taken by the internal recruiter throughout the brief recruitment process made him feel valued.

After all, it stands to reason that the companies that care about their candidates’ recruitment experiences are likely to continue to value them once they become their employees.

‘The Candidate Strikes Back’, The Recruitment & Employment Confederation survey, July 2015
‘Managing Your Brand Throughout The Recruitment Process’, Robert Walters Whitepaper, September 2012
4 ‘The Candidate Strikes Back’
5 ibid
6 ‘Managing Your Brand Throughout The Recruitment Process’