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Tired of Losing Your Best Candidates? Stop Ghosting Them

Tired of Losing Your Best Candidates? Stop Ghosting Them

by Shannon Mullen O'Keefe

Story Highlights

  • Poor applicant experiences in the hiring process can cost you top talent
  • Communicate effectively and consistently with applicants
  • Set realistic job expectations for your potential employees

A job seeker on LinkedIn recently posted a complaint about a terrible experience with a potential employer. He had received a verbal job offer ... then communication with the potential employer went dark. When he reached out for more information, he got no response. After trying a few more times, he gave up. He was offered a job somewhere else, and he took it.

Sometime later -- and much to his surprise -- the recruiter from the first employer contacted him again with an offer. But, of course, it was too late. Even when the recruiter boosted the compensation, the candidate declined. His experience with their hiring process had been so bad that it affected his perception of what it would be like to work at the company.

Leaders, pay attention. Poor communication and poor experiences during the hiring process can cost you top talent.

In a tough job market, your hiring approach and the candidate experience matters to attract and keep your best candidates engaged throughout the process. And whether that experience is great or terrible, you can be sure that LinkedIn won't be the only network hearing about it. Good or bad, it'll make news on social media outlets, on the sidelines of soccer games, and it will be a highlight of the banal chatter with seatmates on airplanes everywhere.

So, what should you do to ensure your company's hiring process stays out of the spotlight for all the wrong reasons?

Though they may seem obvious, start with a simple review of the basics to ensure guidelines are in place.

Keep these four standards in mind:

1. Establish a communication protocol for your candidates.

When you identify a high-potential candidate, make sure your teams are communicating with them at expected intervals. What should those intervals be? While the exact timing may vary somewhat from team to team, the important thing is that leaders have established clear expectations about this with their teams. They should be exceptionally clear with their teams about what communication turnaround is expected for high-touch candidates, and they should establish a system that ensures each high-touch candidate is aware of their status and clear about what to expect next and when.

For your highest-touch prospective candidates-- and take time to determine who these are for your organization, it may be candidates for senior-level positions in the organization, or hot candidates for in-demand roles, or high-touch referrals, or a candidate who has multiple offers pending -- assign a recruiting liaison as the key point of contact for them. Then make sure this liaison is communicating with them on a predetermined schedule and regularly updating candidates on the status of their application.

Even candidates who are not a match for your company should receive feedback from you. It may be surprising that the candidates you reject can be some of the best ambassadors for your employment brand when they communicate their experience with your application process to others in their network. Establish expectations for your hiring team so there is a regular cadence of communication within a predetermined window (i.e., within 48 hours) for "closed" candidates.

Leaders, pay attention. Poor communication and poor experiences during the hiring process can cost you top talent.

If your team is exceptionally speedy in your review, make sure that the timing window you determine for candidate feedback allows candidates to perceive that you've carefully reviewed the application -- applicants have likely put time and care into the process and want to imagine you have done the same.

2. Provide candidates with a streamlined experience.

Don't ask candidates to jump through unnecessary hoops in your hiring process. Review your process to ensure it is as streamlined as possible and be sure to eliminate steps that aren't useful to your hiring decisions. Consider that your team's time, and the candidate's time, are at a premium.

Some of the worst offenses of inefficiency include asking candidates to electronically submit personal information more than once and frequent or recurring rescheduling of interviews. These points of pain will cause top-quality candidates to wonder about the overall efficiency of the organization.

A simple review of the steps in your process may identify redundancies in questions asked, etc. Make sure to eliminate these -- it will save the candidate and your team time.

3. Set candidates up for success when you are ready to meet them.

When you determine it's time to meet your candidate in-person or virtually, make sure to set up a premium experience for them. Honor their time and maximize time for your internal teams by limiting in-person interviews to include those who have proper authority to influence the hiring decision.

For virtual candidates, be sure they have received careful communication about the basics like how to connect, when and with whom. Help them have a clear picture about who they will be meeting with and why. This affords candidates the opportunity to properly prepare.

Treat your in-person candidates with care, too! They should receive an agenda for the visit so they're aware of what to expect. For high-touch candidates, you may offer to do a prep call with them to outline general expectations. When they arrive at your office, be sure they are greeted professionally, and that you have assigned someone to host their experience. A host or hostess should be assigned to escort them throughout the day to ensure they are able to find meeting rooms, etc.

4. Make the most of your time with candidates.

Make the time about you and them. Allow time for the candidate to ask questions about you, the manager they could work for, and the company culture, etc.

Un-sell the role. It is important to set realistic expectations to avoid future frustrations. Gallup calls this "un-selling the role." Set realistic expectations during your time with them. You might un-sell them by clearly stating what a day in the life looks like for the job they are applying for.

Be realistic about the company culture. For example, if yours is a flat organization with limited upward mobility, be real about it. If you are hiring for a consulting role but, in fact, the daily life will involve mostly project logistics and project management, be clear about this. Or if client demands require most of the role be spent in travel time, honestly disclose this to your candidate. The actual day in the life is what the candidate is signing up for. This is a great time to be sure that the fit is right on all sides.

Then, know what your next steps are and clearly communicate them to the candidate. When all is said and done, be sure that you are clear about when you will contact the candidate after their meeting with you and that you follow through on that promise.

Your hiring approach and the candidate experience matters to attract and keep your best candidates engaged throughout the process.

If you need to "close" the candidate, i.e., you determined they weren't a right fit, be clear about it. Assign someone to contact that candidate to close the door, share feedback if you have it, and wish them well in their ongoing search. If you are making an offer, be ready with the details and be clear about next steps and what the candidate can expect and by when. Be ready to answer questions and be responsive to both written and verbal communications that you may receive.

In the end, managing your candidates with care tells the world what it's like to work for your organization. And as your candidates take to social media to share their experiences, their engagement with you as a potential employer will boost your employment brand and help you to attract and keep the best.

Potential employees can either become a brand ambassador or a brand hater based on their hiring experience with your organization:

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