This candidate’s experience

For the first time in a long time, I’ve been job hunting.  I got my last role on a recommendation, so it was more than ten years since I’d been out in the market by myself.  As a recruiter, candidate experience is something that I’ve talked plenty about, but it has been interesting to be on the other side of the fence for a while.  Much of what I have learned as a candidate, if not all, should be self-evident to recruiters, but I can’t help but think it still needs to be said based on my own recent experiences.

  • My first observation.  It’s pretty soul destroying to put your CV into an impersonal ATS, and get nothing back other than an auto generated email saying thank you for your application, and then get nothing else at all.  An email saying your CV was rubbish would have been something, and at least helpful to me.  Do we really get so many applications for our roles that we can’t send one more email to confirm you didn’t get through the first stage?
  • It’s nearly as miserable to be contacted about a role by an agency, agree that they can put your CV forward to their client, and then never hear anything from them again.  No one minds a ‘sorry it’s a no’ message.  If I’m important to you when I might represent a placement fee, then you can take the time to drop me a text to say that the company didn’t want to see me.  There should be no excuse for not doing this.
  • Much of recruitment is very impersonal.  For an activity that’s all about people and their personalities and the elusive ‘fit’, much of my recent experience was electronic and lacked any sort of personal touch.  Recruiters, both in-house and agency, are missing valuable opportunities to really find out about their candidates.
  • Waiting for feedback is horrible.  Waiting for the phone to ring, to find out if you are in or out.  Especially when it doesn’t come when you are expecting it.  If you are going to give people an expected time to give feedback, then meet it.   If something stops you meeting it, then update the candidate.
  • The worst thing?  Going for an interview for a role that I really, really wanted.  And then the company pulled it.  I know stuff happens; things change in a business, and sometimes this can’t be avoided.  In my case the reason was a genuine one. But you shouldn’t really go to market, and involve candidates in time, effort and engagement if you are just not 100% sure you actually going to hire, or what you want.  Being told you aren’t right for a role is fine, being told we’ve changed our mind about recruiting someone is damaging for your employer brand.  Avoid at all costs.

I actually got my new role through a recruitment agency that were pretty damn good.  Here’s the truth though.  They met and exceeded my expectations, partly because those expectations weren’t actually that high in the first place.  I’ve talked to other job seekers lately, and the general view was that they didn’t like going through agencies, or even like the recruiter they were dealing with particularly, but felt they didn’t have a choice if they wanted to have visibility of as many roles as possible.  This is a sad thing for the recruitment industry but is unlikely to change when the activity remains largely contingency based and sales target led. I don’t want this to turn into an agency bashing post, but fellow blogger Robert Wright has some interesting things to say on the subject of agencies and implications of the bonus structure: http://goo.gl/S9QOl

The agency that placed me did nothing out of the ordinary, nothing new or ground breaking.  They simply did everything I should have been able to expect as a candidate.  The recruiter (note I refer to an individual, not a company here, as that personal relationship is what it’s really all about):

  •  Updated me regularly.  Even if that meant a quick text to say that he didn’t have any news.
  • Sent me lots of useful info on the company.  Yes, I’m a big girl and could find it for myself, but it was a nice touch and made my life that bit easier.
  • Talked to me.  As an actual person.  He didn’t just send me emails. Checked in with me regularly, and has continued to do so.
  • Briefed me.  Properly and in detail.  And debriefed me post interview.
  • Managed my expectations about when there would be feedback.
  • He also managed me well on behalf of the client.  There was no real chance I was going to drop him in it by declining the role at offer stage, as he’d constantly checked my levels of engagement throughout the process.

As I said, nothing new, nothing ground breaking.  But I was left feeling valued and that I mattered as a candidate.  Whether I’d got the job or not, I would have worked with this recruiter again and have since recommended him to others.

When you give a role to an agency, you are handing over a big chunk of your candidate experience to an external party.  Do you ever ask your candidates how it was for them?  In-house teams need to put themselves in the shoes of the candidate and take a good hard look at what it feels like to apply for a job within their organisation, and regularly check how the agencies they use are representing their employer brand.  It’s the start of the psychological contract after all.

And as for me….

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Image by @AATImage (Graham Smith)