Top 6 Turnoffs for Candidates

Poor talent recruitment practices and hiring processes will often deter the best candidates from applying for an open position or otherwise engaging with a recruiter in your company’s search for its next star performer.  You know it (or at least you should) and we know it.

Human capital may well be viewed as the most essential resource to an organization’s success, but many have yet to develop a talent acquisition and retention culture that reflects and respects the importance of people. Instead, candidates oftentimes feel abandoned and abused.

So why has the hiring experience frequently been deemed too intolerable to endure in exchange for the possible reward at the end of the talent recruitment rainbow? Here are the Top 6 Turnoffs for active job seekers and passive candidates, alike.

1.     Lack of Role Clarity

Regardless of whether we are talking about a posted job description or position described over the phone by a recruiter (be they internal or external), it is critical that the role has been properly defined. Doing so tells candidates that the organization has thought this hire through in context of its needs and greatly aids in focusing search efforts on the right fit, thereby facilitating a much more efficient and effective talent acquisition process for all involved.

2.     Me vs. The Machine – Oh, The Humanity!

Unfortunately, many organizations have taken the practice of automating the talent recruitment process so far that it is now totally devoid of all humanity.  Automated application processes facilitated via applicant tracking systems (ATS) are a reality of today’s workplace.  The ugly truth is that many applicants, oftentimes the majority, are unqualified for a given position. As such, this layer of the screening process is critical.

That being said, success with an ATS, like any other form of automation, depends on human inputs and configuration. As a prospective employer, avoid the plug-n-play approach and take some time to customize and humanize the application / status communication process. In doing so, you’ll find that the quality of your candidates and resultant close rates both increase substantially.

3.     An Ambiguous and Ineffective Interview Process – Hoops, Anyone?

Candidates being made to jump through hoops without rhyme or reason – we’ve heard about and seen it over and over. Want to quickly lose the interest of that superstar VP candidate? Go ahead and take them for a spin around your circus big top.

The hiring manager (SVP) isn’t “available”, so you want me to interview with the junior coordinator who will ultimately report to this new hire? Yeah, that makes sense – put your current employee in an awkward position and cause the would-be director to pass on the opportunity. We’ve seen this happen twice in just the past 2 months – a Sr. Director role in San Francisco and a VP role in Denver. Needless to say, both high quality candidates expressed their displeasure and summarily withdrew their candidacies.

Just as it is critical that an organization define a given role, it is equally important that it define the interview process. From the very first contact, the hiring company and its representatives should be able to set and meet appropriate expectations for qualified candidates. Failing to do so will not only damage your employer brand by appearing disorganized and disingenuous, but also cause all but the most desperate of candidates to drop out of the race. What are you left with? A costly mishire!

4.     Poor Communications / Follow Through – Is Anyone Out There?

Riffing off Item #3 above, and perhaps taking the pole position as the top turnoff for most applicants and candidates is lack of communication and follow through. While it is wildly unrealistic for applicants to expect personalized notes from each prospective employer, there is no reason that a hiring company cannot automate communications at each of the early steps in the qualification process – application received (here’s what to expect next), thanks but no thanks (we appreciate your considering employment with our company), etc.

Even more offensive to candidates is when a hiring manager and/or their representative in HR engages in the actual personal interview process and then inexplicably goes dark – no proactive or reactive communications. If the candidate has been disqualified, have the courtesy to tell them. If the hiring process has been put on hold, tell them. If the hiring decision is now in the hands of a selection committee, tell them so and advise when that decision is expected to be made. Stop treating human beings like inanimate productivity tools.

5.     Information Imbalance – Talent Acquisition is a Two-Way Street

It’s frustrating for job seekers to have to put all their cards on the table when employers are so cagey about their own. Asking for precise past salary numbers while keeping your budget for a position under wraps isn’t fair. Expressing a sense of urgency when the intent is to fill the role 6 months from now isn’t fair. Hiring for a position that isn’t really open yet and not telling candidates isn’t fair and makes for many upset job seekers. It’s fine to network and stay engaged with the talent pool in advance of specific needs. In fact, it is encouraged – but do so transparently.

Talent acquisition is a two-way street, particularly when you are recruiting senior-level talent with proven track records. The candidate is interviewing your organization just as much, if not more, as your organization is interviewing him or her. An unfair trade of information will not only make the candidate doubt the validity of the job description, but of the soundness of the company as well.

6.     Lack of R-E-S-P-E-C-T (and Its Resultant Impact on Your Organization)

This is admittedly a bit of a summary point, but as we’ve arrived at the end of our list it makes sense. Applicants and candidates want to be treated with respect – simple as that. They know that only one person will win the job.  They know that they won’t be receiving a tear-stained, handwritten note advising them that they didn’t get the gig. As hiring managers and talent acquisition facilitators, remember that you too are human and treat applicants accordingly.

Bet your bottom dollar that treating applicants and candidates disrespectfully today will come back to haunt your organization tomorrow. The economy will continue to improve. The available talent pool will shrink. Your employer brand will be tarnished and you will be left recruiting amongst the UNs – the unqualified, the unhappy and the unemployable. Where will that leave your company in comparison to the competition?

Conversely, building karma points by treating applicants and candidates right will result in your organization being widely viewed as a desirable employment destination for talent. You may even create some new customers along the way.

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