Archive for July, 2014

The Reluctant Candidate

July 25, 2014

By now, my clients are sick of hearing me say that they should walk through their own company’s hiring process.   I believe it’s the only way to truly understand the candidate experience. So, this year I stopped preaching and decided it was time to take my own advice.

I didn’t apply at my own company. Instead, I went on LinkedIn and Indeed and looked for jobs that I felt were a match for my level of experience and skill set. Over the last 12 months, I’ve applied to 30 positions.  Ninety percent of the companies failed to respond. Not an acknowledgement. Not a rejection. Not a word. According to The Talent Board, a non-profit organization responsible for the Candidate Experience Awards (CandE), I’m in good company. Over 70% of online applicants never receive so much as a canned reply. While these statistics should have made me feel better, they didn’t. Statistics are what happen to everyone else. This was my experience. And, it was demoralizing.

I’m not a recent graduate and I’ve been working for myself for 20 years, so my experience and perhaps my marketability are different. But, we’re all human, we all want to be valued and none of us wants to be treated with disrespect or indifference.   Applying for a job is a humbling experience so to all the job seekers in the world, I can now honestly say — I feel your pain. Here’s my reaction to the whole thing:

  • Ouch! No matter how skilled or talented you are, when you go through the job search process, you’re vulnerable. It’s all about being accepted or rejected. Do everything in your power to make the candidate feel appreciated — regardless of whether you hire them or not. Scrutinize every step in the process to see how to make it more streamlined, more individual and more human. Make every word and every action count.
  • Ugh! Applying for a position feels like dating. I may not want to go to work for your company and you may not want to hire me, but it would be great if we could still be friends.   It’s a small world and someday I just might turn out to be your client, your customer or your boss.
  • Oops! Make the process personal, not institutional. Hiring requirements shouldn’t be set in stone. You’re likely to miss an exceptionally talented candidate if you remain inflexible. There has been enough research on the value of hiring introverts and right-brained thinkers to suggest that organizations should expand their scope. Creative types aren’t just for advertising agencies anymore. And, introverts have finally been vindicated. If you don’t believe me, then read Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain or A Whole New Mind by Daniel Pink.
  • Ha! You can reject me as a potential hire, but I can reject you as a viable brand. I have to admit that my opinion of the organizations that failed to communicate impacted the way I see them. Are they disorganized, discourteous or clueless? If I’m a stockholder, I can’t help but wonder if they’re treating customers the same way. If you’re not paying attention to the candidate experience, you’re wasting company money and you’re tarnishing your corporate and employer brand.
  • Seriously? Don’t make assumptions based on age or experience level. I recently interviewed over 50 professionals aged 45+ about the job search process. Here’s what they told me. And, by the way, I agree with them:
    • I don’t want your job. I’ve had it. I just want to contribute and continue to grow in my career.
    • You may be 20 years my junior, but I still want to learn from you.
    • I’m happy to share my experience, but I’m open to doing things differently. I’ve lived out of my comfort zone since I graduated from college so don’t assume I’m set in my ways.
    • I don’t think a task is beneath me just because I did it ten years ago.
    • I’m less afraid of failure – I’ve failed.
    • I don’t have mouths to feed except for my own which means my financial requirements aren’t what they used to be. Make me an offer.
    • I’m more tolerant and compassionate than I was 20 years ago. You have no idea what I’ve seen and done.
    • I’m all done with crazy – I’ll put up with just about anything, but spare me from mean people.

Maybe it’s time to evaluate more than just the candidate experience. It’s time to broaden your view of what makes a candidate viable.  During a focus group several years ago, I asked participants what advice they would offer companies to help them improve the job search process. One candidate said it best, “Put a face with the name and show there’s a heartbeat inside.”