Out of the soporific hum and chit chat of last night’s Auckland Recruitment Meet Up there sprung a surprisingly vigorous debate. The team at Beca, lead by the ever-suave Richard Long, got everyone up on their feet. The purpose: To position our bodies in different zones of the room denoting whether we thought our business provided terrible candidate experience, kinda ok candidate experience, or amazingly fab candidate experience.
Yes this is a blog post on candidate experience. Well sort of. Please bear with me though.
So anyway, predictably enough the middle ground bulged with the majority of the event’s attendees placing themselves firmly on the fence. As did I, to be fair, although it was slightly chastening to find myself next to an actual candidate of mine that I placed last year who suggested I should move myself across to the “bad” side. He was joking. I think.
So the usual hand-wringing ensued. Us recruiters get such a bad rap for being terrible at communicating with candidates and so disdainful towards the feelings of candidates out there that many of us have adopted Mother Theresa stances where we feel we must be seen to be helping everyone out. But fortunately, things got interesting when people started suggesting, quite reasonably, that the amount of serial appliers we get for our jobs nowadays means we can’t be reasonably expected to provide awesome experiences to everyone who is happy to constantly spam their CV out for jobs they aren’t remotely suitable for.
Not everyone agreed, of course. The debate heated up nicely, fueled by the free-flowing bottles of
Steinlager Shitelager, and someone who lives in West Hollywood and has 50,000 Twitter followers suggested they are all humans and should be treated like the individuals they are. It’s possible that in her 7 months of running an actual recruitment desk she was able to achieve this, but the reality is that we now operate in a system whereby that is no longer commercially viable.
We pay money to job boards whose mission is to get as many people applying to our job vacancies as possible. Some of us then pay money to have all of those applicants filtered and trimmed down and sorted. We then pay money to Applicant Tracking Systems or recruitment CRM’s to give us the ability to send generic reject emails at the click of a button. And we hope that the email is branded nicely, cosily worded in such a way that we don’t cause offence, wish the job seeker well. And then we set up systems where people serially applying over and over again are cut out and remain unseen.
We do all of this and hope we are providing “great” candidate experience? No chance. We are paying lip service.
But you know what? It’s really OK. You see, the real problem with all of this is the term “candidate experience”. I think candidate experience is crucial and I will go out of my way to do it as best I can, to treat people like the humans they are and handle them with dignity and respect and all that good stuff. But then, my idea of who is a “candidate” is apparently different to all the other hand-wringing purists out there.
A candidate is someone who is actually suitable for the job, even just partly or in a small way, and should therefore be assessed against the criteria for the position. But most of the people who apply to our vacancies are in no way shape or form even remotely relevant for the position. And they don’t even know what they are applying for. They are in the same system mentioned above, caught up in a world of technology, automation and cool user experience where it is so damn easy to apply for a role at the click of a button that they do so like some demented morse code operative.
Many of them get my generic rejection email. Many more just get deleted. Because in this instance we are talking about the applicant experience, rather than the candidate experience. The difference is critical. You want it to be nice and easy and straight-forward for applicants to apply for your jobs, sure, but your duty of care ends there. If they send you a real, personal, non-generic email themselves, even if they’re unsuitable for the job, then sure, that’s a “candidate” and should be communicated with in kind.
But anything else, they’re just an applicant, and you’re being foolish if you’re spending too much time giving every single person a nice and fluffy experience.
OK, rant over. If you’re reading this in New Zealand then enjoy the long weekend 🙂