I called a candidate at 7 p.m. last night to prepare her for an interview she’s having later this week. Immediately after hanging up, I called another candidate who is interviewing for a different role to find out how his all-day interview went and give him the feedback I had already received from the hiring company.
There’s nothing that says I have to do this. But if I were either of these candidates, I’d want to know exactly where I stand. It’s part of good “candidate care,” something we live by at The Hennessy Group, and it’s something every company should be doing, whether they’re hiring for an entry-level position, an executive role or a seat on the Board of Directors.
What is candidate care?
Candidate care is simply how you treat job candidates and the respect you give to them and their time. In a competitive job market, it’s even more important, since a bad first impression is almost impossible for a company to recover from.
Candidate care starts the moment you post a position or write up the job description to hand to a search firm, and it extends through the hiring process, eventually morphing into your employer value proposition (or when you and the candidate decide to part ways). Candidate care is always important, whether the candidate is offered the job or not.
By the way, candidate care isn’t the “thank you” gift your company gives a candidate. While those are nice reminders of how cool your company is, if you leave a candidate waiting in the lobby, re-ask the same questions the candidate has answered three times before, go into meetings with the candidate unprepared, reschedule at the last minute … twice, or fail to get back to candidates in a timely manner, that notepad, t-shirt and water bottle you hand them on the way out isn’t going to change their impression of your organization.
Why candidate care matters
Your company connects with countless people whenever you post a job today -- from dozens to hundreds or more. Now multiply that by the number of jobs you fill in one year. Or 10 years. Take your pick.
Interviewing and hiring builds an intimate relationship between the company and the candidate. Do everything right and your candidates become great spokespeople for your organization, and each is more than willing to share their experience with every one of their professional connections. How great is their reach? Check the number of connections they have on LinkedIn for a starting point.
Why candidate care is more important at the executive level
While it’s essential to treat all prospective employees with respect, when you’re hiring at the executive level, consider the expense, time and effort that goes into finding each leader. Additionally, executive candidates are often well-known in their industry communities, and their opinions are respected so you would be wise to consider their network and their reach.
Whether a candidate is offered the role or not, a favorable assessment from a former candidate can impact future hiring. I personally check in with all candidates whom we forward to our clients for an interview. They’re incredibly candid with me, and I would never want to hear an entire slate of great candidates bad-mouthing a client because of the way they were treated during the process. I remember sending a senior level business development executive to Germany to interview with a client. Candidates for this role were at a level where they had access to the C-suite. When our candidate arrived, the client made the candidate wait for over an hour. Then, during the interview the client spent too much time talking about himself, all while eating a sandwich. It gets worse. He never even offered our candidate a chip! I assure you this is not the type of experience any company wants to be known for.
Who’s responsible for candidate care?
Consider this a trick question -- because everyone is responsible for candidate care, although individuals on the hiring team are on the frontline. If you’re interviewing world-class talent, you should ensure each person in the room with the candidate is a strong employee, someone who represents the company as a leader in their own right, even if their title doesn’t reflect it.
But it’s not just enough to say you practice good candidate care. Someone will need to be accountable for it, too, by defining the parameters of good candidate care within an organization, continually reviewing outcomes and modifying the process as required to achieve the goals of the organization. In most organizations, this falls to HR with assistance from other teams, but HR is NOT the only team concerned with candidate care.
Gaining company buy-in for good candidate care starts with the Board and the executive team, who set the policy and culture across the organization that results in quality candidate care.
When you’re working with an external search firm/recruiter
Ensure your external recruiting team is practicing good candidate care, too. Before working with one, ask them to define their process, including what happens when a candidate is no longer under consideration. How long do they wait to give feedback? How often have they left people hanging? Also look for testimonials from former candidates, who will have first-hand insight into the treatment of candidates under consideration. If your external recruiting team isn’t sending out a survey to all candidates (and why aren’t they?), be sure your internal team does. Most candidates are willing to give their assessment of the process.
What does poor candidate care look like?
Almost every company has room for improvement in their candidate care program and should work to make the process better in order to attract top talent on all levels.
To determine if your own organization needs to improve candidate care, start by looking at your own process. One top-five global pharma company realized its process needed work only after it conducted a three-year survey of its interview process. A representative put it this way: “It generally took two weeks to build an itinerary and schedule the first interview. It took up to a month between interview rounds. It generally took up to one month from the last interview to make an offer. Almost half of all interview schedules were revised twice, and the majority of schedule changes were requested by the company.”
It was time for a change.
Advice: Keep in mind that candidate care is not a one-and-done exercise. First, it doesn’t stop once a candidate is hired. Organizations should also work to retain top talent by focusing on their employer value proposition. Building a great workplace culture that respects and values all employees is also guaranteed to enhance candidate care. Second, candidate care is an ongoing process that evolves as the talent pool changes and as your competition does, too. Companies that fail to understand this not only miss an opportunity to hire the best leaders, they ultimately will need to compete against them when those same leaders are hired by the competition.
It’s just one more case where doing right by people is simply good business.