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Director NO.

Why hiring an internal ‘recruiter’ to manage rejected applications could boost brand advocacy.

A couple of years ago I was helping to manage a business-critical recruitment project at the Head Office of one of our region’s biggest brands… when the CEO popped his head around the door to ask his internal team about an application from the daughter of an important supplier. Cue eerie silence, as one of his guys desperately searched the Applicant Tracking System (ATS).

“We do respond to everyone who applies, don’t we?” asked the CEO. Cue creeping sense of shame, fear and panic. Until someone bravely stepped up to explain that they receive so many applications, replying to them all would be impossible. You can probably guess the CEO’s response.

To any recruiters reading this, it’ll be a familiar story, and one that highlights perhaps our most pressing ethical dilemma – if only 1% of candidates are worthy of interview, how do you manage feedback respectfully and constructively for the other 99%?

Sure, there are a million articles on the internet about how to give the 1% a great customer journey, but very little about the other 99%. And of course, any decent ATS can produce a polite “thank you for your application, but…” But is this good enough? Is it acceptable to dismiss all those enthusiastic applicants in such a cursory, one size fits all fashion? And will doing so risk damaging your brand?

The answer to this final question appears to be a definitive “yes!” Because employer branding agency Ph. Attraction recently revealed in Marketing Week that “one in four British jobseekers have either entirely stopped purchasing or purchased less from a brand because of a negative candidate experience.”

One in four. Think about that. And think about the commercial implications of that statistic. According to the same article, 18% of candidates applying for roles with Virgin Media were existing Virgin customers. And here’s the kicker, “as a direct result of poor candidate experience, more than 7,500 candidates cancelled their subscriptions and switched to a competitor, resulting in millions of pounds in lost revenue”. Ouch.

So, for anyone who’s ever questioned the value of delivering great customer experience at the careers page and recruitment team touchpoints, your question has been firmly answered. Because these statistics clearly demonstrate the risk of ignoring the 99%.

Yet positive candidate engagement isn’t just about damage limitation. Do it well, and it’s an opportunity to create a new source of customers and powerful brand advocates. Surely the day when we see the UK’s big consumer brands invest in a “rejection function” can’t be too far away. But what job titles will the team choose? Reject consultant? Too harsh. Careers advisor? Too 90’s. Unsuccessful candidate engagement director? Too wordy. Director of No’s? Maybe. And if you shorten it to Director NO it sounds like a cool Bond baddy.

If Director NO spent their day giving something back to unsuccessful applicants, it would both enhance the recruitment experience immeasurably for the 99%, and shield the brand from negative sentiment. And in a world where companies are constantly seeking new ways to stand out, what better way to achieve that than by creating a viral feel-good factor?

But how to transform a failed application into a positive experience? Well, how about starting with a call to thank the candidate for their time? Maybe a special offer or VIP discount? An explanation why they’ve not been shortlisted, plus some handy CV advice? There are so many simple opportunities to add value to the experience, but who’s going to lead the way?

The well-intentioned CEO who was so keen to maintain good relations with his supplier was certainly in favour of responding to everyone. But did he insist on driving the initiative through? To a degree, with a few layers of additional tech, he did. But I suspect he’d have been more committed to adding human resource had he been aware of another statistic from the Ph. research, that out of “1,200 British-based workers, nearly a third (29.3%) of candidates would consider becoming a customer of a brand if they had a good recruitment experience.”

And he’d be even more determined if he’d spoken with Joe Wiggins, Head of Communications, Europe, at reviews-based recruitment platform Glassdoor who says, “These days, recruiters are marketers, they just sit in a different department.” Perhaps it’s time that big brands gave them the resource to act accordingly.

Categories: General