For those of you who were fans of Sex and the City, you’ll likely never forget the episode when Berger broke up with Carrie via Post-it. I remember that particular episode oh too well. I was with my girlfriends, enjoying our regularly scheduled potluck dinner as five of us squeezed on the couch with three sitting on the floor. And then it happened – a shock and awe that caused a synchronized gasp, literally sucking the oxygen out of the room. Berger broke up with Carrie on a Post-it! And just hours after he brought her flowers, told her he loved her and wanted to work things out. Once we caught our breath, we started sharing our own infuriating dating stories. But how does this relate to candidate experience, you ask?
Lately, I’ve been hearing similar stories, but they aren’t about dating. They’re about job searches. “They never got back to you…ever?” Or, “They told you what?!…In an email?” Amidst all of the “OMGs,” I began to have déjà vu of that moment watching SATC and started thinking: is interviewing for a job like dating?
Dating is about the right match; recruiting the right fit. Dating uses the word honesty; recruiting, transparency. Those dating want respect from their other halves; candidates want to be treated professionally by the hiring organization. So I asked myself, as recruiters, what could we learn from our bad dating stories that will help us better manage the candidate experience and recruiting process, avoid backlash from ex-candidates, and maintain our company’s reputation as an employer of choice?
Let’s face it. The recruiting process has become long and complex with hundreds of online applications to check, portfolios to view, multiple rounds of interviews to schedule and feedback to gather, making it more and more difficult to complete. As a candidate, the time it takes to hear back from a recruiter can feel double what it really is. And just like Charlotte who said in another SATC episode, getting over a relationship is typically double the time the relationship lasted. With all these similarities, how can recruiters manage the candidate experience process without becoming the terrible ex? Here are three dating blunders that can impact the reputation of your firm but can – luckily – be avoided.
Candidate Experience Tips: SATC, the Bachelor and Project Runway
1. Drifting apart. Have you ever gone on a great first date where the other person said they wanted to see you again and would call, just to wait two weeks and hear nothing? You begin to wonder if the date ever really happened or if you dreamt it. Then, a month or two later, you hear from them as if no time has passed. By now you’ve lost interest and/or started dating someone else. The same thing happens in recruiting.
Stay in touch with your candidates. Once you make contact, let them know what to expect, including how many interviews you have planned for the position and the estimated time frame for the position to be filled. We all know scheduling interviews and gathering feedback can take longer than we’d hope, but you must stay in touch with your candidates, even if there is nothing to report. Remember: no news is still news. Nothing is more frustrating for a candidate than having to wait for a response while calling/emailing the recruiter several times for a simple update. Not only might this make them feel like a stalker, it also creates a bad impression of your company’s processes and procedures from the get-go.
2. Setting them up to be let down. Have you ever watched the Bachelor or Bachelorette? It’s infuriating when the Bachelor(ette) tells someone they love them, they start planning the rest of their lives together, and then, 30 minutes later, the contestant is crying in a limo telling the camera how they were duped. Think of a job offer as the final rose.
For candidates, every step in the recruitment process is one step closer to the final rose, so you must manage their expectations appropriately. Let them know they are one of several being considered and, near the end of the process, inform them that they are one of two, or three, top candidates. Feedback should focus on the specific knowledge, experience and competencies each candidate possesses that are applicable to the role. Don’t build a candidate up as perfect (everyone loves them) just to send them home in sixth episode of a twelve-episode season. If they aren’t going to return for the next step, provide an explanation as to why. Be constructive and professional. As long as the feedback is valid, honest and delivered in a courteous way, the candidate will understand and appreciate it no matter how big of a disappointment. Telling them you have no specific feedback is like saying, “It’s not you; it’s me.”
3. Breaking it off via e-mail. Now that you’re providing timely feedback and managing expectations, the final decision is in and it’s time to inform the candidates who will not be receiving an offer. Just like Project Runway, candidates know that today they’re in, but tomorrow they could be out. However, they also know that Heidi Klum isn’t going to show up at their door, tell them they’re out, give them air kisses and wish them well.
My personal preference is a live phone call because, realistically, voice mail or form letter emails are just other versions of the dreaded Post-it. Speaking to the candidate is the most professional way of informing them they won’t be continuing on and/or receiving an offer. It’s hard to deliver bad news, but it’s even more difficult to receive it. The live call shows candidates that your organization is professional and considerate. If you want to break up with dignity and respect, stay away from any form of the Post-it!
Think of it this way: candidates shouldn’t be disappointed by how poorly your process was managed. They should only be disappointed they didn’t get the job at your amazing company. Break-ups happen, but it’s the way they’re handled that determines if you end up being friends or the evil ex story at next Friday’s cocktail hour.