Successfully communicating a message depends on a lot of things: the delivery method, the target audience, the end goal, and of course, the message itself. Whether you’re giving a speech or reaching out to candidates, how you say something is just as important as what you say.
In the field of recruiting specifically, how long it takes you to say something can make all the difference. As the CEO of a marketing and advertising firm that helps companies tailor their employer brands and recruiting messages to find top talent, I know how communication can make or break a job search, an encounter with a colleague, or even a client interaction.
Take the following three situations, for example:
Missed Employment Connections
1. A young man applies for several jobs on a local job board. He recently graduated from college and is in a hurry to get his first job, but he doesn’t hear from any of the companies to which he applied. Discouraged, he takes the first offer he gets – for $10,000 less than he had been hoping. Two months into his new position, he begins receiving letters from the other companies he applied to, two of which inform him he was not suitable, and four ask him to give their recruiters a call.
2. A middle-aged woman has been seeking employment for four months. In a last-ditch effort to locate a position, she shows up at the office to personally drop off her application and resume. The receptionist takes the resume right as the recruiter walks by. The recruiter, busy and about to take her lunch, is put off by the woman’s intrusion and never follows up on the resume.
3. A capable HR representative for a small manufacturing plant needs to hire a vice president of sales. Her boss keeps changing the requirements and salary for the position, forcing her to put potential candidates who have interviewed for the position in a holding pattern. One candidate calls her three times a day to get an update on the position. His persistence eventually wears her patience thin; she decides not to pursue the candidate due to “cultural fit.”
What Went Wrong?
These are all real situations that I have encountered in the last quarter. In every case, the question of whether or not the candidate was capable or qualified never even came up because communication between the applicant and employer was so flawed. Messaging, timing, and delivery on both sides failed to match what the other expected, and in every case, it turned out poorly for one party.
In the first case, the job seeker had every right to expect an electronic response regarding the status of his applications. The responses he received, by and large, did not align with his initial expectations of the companies. Because of his assumption that recruiters and HR pros would respond with some sense of urgency, he decided to go with one company over the others.
In the example of the woman who dropped by the office, her mistake was assuming that her eagerness would be read as a positive instead of as an intrusion on an already busy day. In this case, she did not get the job because she didn’t tailor her message properly, nor did she pay attention to her timing or delivery.
In our final example, a lack of preparation on the company’s part brings out the worst in an otherwise capable candidate. He was interviewed, so he must have some of the desired qualities. However, thanks to his persistence beyond the reasonable or comfortable, his resume immediately went from the desk to the wastebasket. Both parties failed in their attempts to communicate.
Better Communication Benefits Everyone
How can you avoid situations like the above? Focus on more than the message.
In each situation, we can see where the recruiter or HR professional was at fault, but we also see places where the job seeker or candidate could have prepped their message better. When crafting your message as a job seeker, think about how you want others to perceive it.
As for recruiters, if your company does business on social channels, you’re obligated to respond there as well. If you accept resumes via email, you are required to respond via email. Think about when you communicate with candidates, too. If you demand 45 minutes to get through your tedious online application, you must give at least that much time to candidates who put in the effort.
Finally, consider the information you request from the candidate. Can you provide at least that much information to your job-seeking public? Of course you can! A simple blog post that describes your application process, a wiki that answers commonly-asked questions, and an autoresponder that makes candidates laugh are just a few simple ways you can avoid the aforementioned missed opportunities.
A version of this article originally appeared on Forbes.