The Make-or-Break Stakes of Candidate Experience

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Most of us in the world of recruitment have long understood that we are sales and marketing people sitting under the umbrella of “human resources” (I disagree with the function reporting to “HR” – but that is a whole other post). Armed with this understanding, we have embraced sales and marketing training and tools in order to learn from these fields and attract and close candidates better.

However, as one James T. Kirk said in the classic Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan: “You’ve managed to kill just about everyone else, but like a poor marksman, you keep missing the target!” We focus so much on attracting and selling to candidates that we forget a highly crucial (and fundamental) aspect of marketing and sales: the customer experience.

In our instance, the customers are the candidates, and to be honest, the state of affairs is bleak in that regard. Because we have treated our customers so poorly over the years, the reputation of recruiters is currently akin to that of used car salesmen. No offense to used car salesmen, but that isn’t a good thing. Just go to any search engine and type in “recruiters are” and prepare to cringe at the results. The customers are pissed off, and like Twisted Sister, they are now shouting “We’re not gonna take it anymore!”

Two dated references there showing my age – but my post, my references.

How did we get here? Imagine you are a potential customer of a product. For example, pretend you are car shopping. You get a beautiful brochure in the mail and your interest is piqued. You then see a great commercial on T.V. about the same car with a beautiful driver driving through gorgeous landscapes.

“Okay,” you say. “I want to go the dealership and check this car out!”

Yet, when you arrive, the car is nothing like the brochure or the commercial – and even worse, the salesperson at the dealership is rude and might even ignore you as a customer. I would venture to guess you are not going to buy that car.

ValleyThis is exactly the scenario that plays out every day for most companies trying to get people to “buy” their jobs in the labor market. We are painstakingly process-driven and not user-friendly. We are rude, unresponsive, and in some cases, flat out selling something that is not true. There is no way that any decent company worth its salt would allow its sales and marketing people to treat their prospects this way – yet it is an ignored and sometimes accepted practice for these same companies’ recruiting departments.

I have long maintained that the hardest sell in business is hiring. We are selling someone more than just a job – we are selling them how they pay their bills, whom they spend 40+ hours a week with, how they identify themselves in society, and how they support their families. Pretty important stuff, and as you can probably imagine, it’s a highly emotional journey for the candidates.

Like any good sales or marketing person, we need to understand our audience, be honest, and treat customers with respect. The companies that do this gain a competitive advantage over those that do not.

Improving the candidate experience can move our profession to a much better perception in the eyes of the people we court every day. Right now, candidates work with us because they have to, not because they want to. Trust me – whenever they can work around us, they will. In certain cases, they should. Let’s start to change this.

Join me for my webinar with Lever, and I will show you some great examples of companies getting this right and give you some tips on how not to suck at this. See you then.

Sign up for Ed’s webinar,The Make-or-Break Stakes of Candidate Experience – And Tips for Success, today.

By Ed Nathanson