“Do the Decent Thing”: Candidates Are People, Too

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BreakThere’s a lot to complain about when it comes to the world of recruiting: shoddy tools, obscenely high volumes, a shrinking talent pool, etc., etc., ad nauseam.

But for Chris Hague, EMEA (Europe, Middle East, and Africa) director at TempWorks Staffing Softwarethe single biggest problem in recruiting today is the lack of follow-up.

“My bugbear is really what happens to [candidates] afterwards, when they fall into the ether,” Hague says.

And what happens to candidates after they don’t get a position — after they disappear into the “ether,” as Hague says?

Nothing, really. And that’s exactly Hague’s point: candidates go through so much to get a position, and when they not only fail to land that position, but also find themselves dealing with total radio silence from the recruiter with whom they invested so much time and effort into the process — well, most people just feel defeated, used, cheated, burnt out on recruiters, and not eager to work with them ever again.

“We can be set up for an interview, have to prepare what can be an in-depth interview presentation, which can take an awful lot of our time to do while we’re doing our other jobs, and to get nothing from the end of it. It leaves a very sore taste in the mouth,” Hague explains.

Failing to Follow Up Damages Recruiters and Employers, Too

Lack of follow-up doesn’t just harm the candidates themselves, Hague explains.

“Every touch point [between recruiters and candidates] builds a relationship with an organization, no matter what you’re doing,” Hague says. “We’re dealing with humans, who have their expectations of how people should be treated.”

When recruiters fail to treat candidates with the respect they expect as human beings, that creates negative feelings in the candidates — negative feelings toward the recruiters themselves, but also the agencies and/or employers recruiters for which those recruiters work.

“The long-term effects of [those negative feelings], from a revenue perspective, are huge; from a business development perspective, they’re huge,” Hague says. “I just think there’s a negative in the fact that people don’t necessarily treat candidates with the respect that they deserve, because they are, at the end of the day, the capital for their business.”

“Brand is everything,” Hague says — especially as the world economy recovers from the Great Recession and the talent pool shrinks. Recruiters who fail to “do the decent thing” and treat candidates with respect will drive talent away from the employers they serve.

“My situation being a classic example,” Hague says. “I had three fairly bad experiences fairly recently, before I joined this company, and those companies came with very high reputations in our industry. But I will not work with them again, because I don’t believe I was treated with the respect that you should be.”

Not only does treating candidates with respect preserve the integrity of a company’s employer brand, but it also helps to build a reserve talent pool in the employment market for future positions that need to be filled.

“From the point of view of liaising with candidates, [recruiters] can find the time to talk to them when it’s in their interest to find them a place, but they may not be relevant for this job now,” Hague says. “If [recruiters] are talking to them [in the first place], they obviously have value. These people have something to offer further down the line.”

How Would You, Yourself, Want to Be Treated? Treat Candidates That Way

For Hague, all client-facing policies — whether or not we’re talking about the recruiting industry  — should start with the same question: How would you want to be treated yourself? It’s a variation of the Golden Rule, of course, and that gives it extra weight: this is not just some idea Hague has cooked up. It’s rooted in a rich history of ethical behavior.

“Start with that as a point, and then work your way back as to how you’re going to put a process together for that,” Hague says.

If you’re a recruiter, and you ask yourself this question, you’d likely answer: “I would want people to keep me informed, to follow up with me, to not simply abandon me when the position is filled.”

And yet — as a recruiter, you may also bemoan the time and effort it takes to follow up with candidates. How can you possibly speak to every single candidate that doesn’t get the job? And what about the other jobs that still need filling? Surely, those should be priorities.

“It’s time management. It’s a process,” Hague says of following-up. “There can be time found during the day to do the decent thing, to follow up with people. Whether that be by just an initial email, or whether that be by a phone call.”

Recruiters, Hague says, know the hours they’ll work in a given day. They know when the best times to reach out to candidates are — i.e., during the morning, when candidates are commuting to the office; during the afternoon, when candidates are taking lunch breaks; and during the evening, when candidates are heading home. There’s no excuse, really, for recruiters to not use these times to get in touch with candidates and just let them know, “Hey, you didn’t get this job, but you’re on our radar. We want to place you somewhere. We know you’re valuable.”

Technology Isn’t the Whole Solution — Real Change Starts at the Top

Hague understands that, when it comes to particularly high-volume positions, it may be difficult — if not outright impossible — for recruiters to follow up with each and every candidate. For those situations, he says, recruiters can at least use automated email responses to keep in touch with candidates.

“It at least is a starting point,” Hague says. “But that’s not exactly giving an awful lot of detail and feedback. “

But though technology can, in some instances, be a part of the solution, Hague says it is also part of the problem.

“A lot of the process today is via ATSs. It’s very inhuman. The selection process is done by tick box. There is no real understanding of what the person is about,” Hague says. “For me personally, I recruit on three things: attitude, ability to think freely, and personal responsibility. None of those things can be found through technology. There’s no tick boxes for that. There are various psychometric tests that can build profiles of people, but there needs to be an extra cog in the chain to try to understand who these people are and how they can be utilized elsewhere in the industry.”

Ideally, Hague would like to see recruiters, agencies, and employers following up with candidates in personal ways that are high in the human-touch factor, especially when it comes to candidates for white-collar roles with much more manageable volumes. Hague says that a follow-up process like this must come from the top and trickle down.

“This isn’t something that’s going to happen over night,” Hague explains. “The leaders in business need to look at the way the economy is going, the way the talent pool is going, and there needs to be a policy in place that really comes from the CEO and filters downwards.”

And if CEOs feel their recruiters simply don’t have the time for such a high-touch process? Well then, it may be time to hire more people.

“If the cost of hiring two more resourcers equates to $50,000 a year, you also have to look at how that’s going to affect the relationships with the people that they’re dealing with,” Hague says.

In other words: investing an additional $50,000 or so in staff will allow for building better, long-term relationships with candidates. This will improve your employer brand in the eyes of candidates, helping your company build a reserve talent pool.

And that, Hague says, is “absolutely critical in a shrinking market.”

By Matthew Kosinski