Solving the `Candidate Experience` Conundrum

The Candidate Experience remains a hot topic around recruitment. It’s a worthy discussion area, and although I am often a justifiable defender of the `Recruiter Experience` in this discussion, I absolutely recognise the value in effective candidate communications and care. If nothing else, be aware that your next neglected candidate may turn out to be a famous comedian

I took part in a public Google+ Hangout last week, hosted by Colleague Software and Bill Boorman, which discussed and debated the merits and methods of the candidate experience; from the recruitment agency angle. The recruitment agency side is often less credited in these discussions, but actually – it’s where the experience is at its worst.

I don’t need to go into detail about why it’s bad. Every person reading this blog will have had their CV ignored, applications neglected, communications non-existent – even going as far back as the 1990s, walking into a Kelly Services* on your high street and getting eyed up & down by 5 heavily mascara’d women with attitude and being shoved a clipboard and a form with the instructions “Fill that in”.  (* other high street based agencies were available in 1995…)

But let’s ignore that. I’m here to outline the solution, in the way I explained it last week. But to recognise the solution, we have to understand the stem of the problem.

It's 2010 Recruiters - Say bye-bye to `Dodging Gate-keepers` and Get Social!

The problem is that typically recruitment agencies TRY to attract too many candidates. The old high street habits die hard. The open arms advertising approach of “Come and Register, We’ve got Jobs” is a bad philosophy; and it still happens now. Because what you are saying `Anyone with a pulse, and the ability to read this sign, come in`. Then the random candidate walks in, and you have no jobs for THEM because you don’t DO THEIR kind of work. Candidate dissatisfaction clearly; and so the negative candidate experience starts there.

Now, we do it on job boards. 150 people apply for a job through or Monster, and only 5-10 of them match. Many of the rest were `random walk-ins`. Sometimes they get told they’re unsuccessful; mostly they don’t.

So here’s the stem of the answer.


Sadly, the filters on job boards are just not strict enough to stem the flow of random applications, and so the system is set up to fail. It’s too easy to apply for a job through these channels, and the easier it is to apply, means more will apply because of erroneous keyword prompts landing in their inbox. LinkedIn have gone even further with this, with the `Apply with LinkedIn` function – which again allows the fast-food application process that creates increased levels of candidate disappointment.


I summarised at the end of the Hangout last week by recommending that people “Focus on the 100s, not the 1000s”. Establish your Identity, and know your market, your niche, where you kick ass – and focus on the talent pool within that pot. Now that doesn’t mean pick a niche job board and lob your jobs all over it – although it’s an improvement. It means focusing on small clusters and being a centrepiece in those industry-focused communities. Now this takes a heck of a lot of giving. Communication, Advice, Content Curation, Involvement & Integration, Relationship development, Recognition of sources of Market Influence, Positioning within Thought-Leadership, Social Media & Offline Networking; and creating the level of visibility and positive notoriety that engenders the recruiter as a centre-piece in the industry.

Now that takes time. OK yes, but you can spend time either A) doing that stuff, which involves communications and focus on people you WILL place, and enhancing your reputation and perception; or B) you can do it writing lots of job specs, for lots of job boards, filtering irrelevant CVs, sending emails to irrelevant applications, leaving lots of answer machine messages with disinterested HR Managers.

FB likeMy point is – If you make every outbound action focused on your market niche; then you increasingly make every inbound communication focused on your market niche. When you increase the percentage of accurate inbound enquiries and applications, then you decrease the rejection cycle, and you lessen the chance of a bad candidate experience.

The Golden Ticket is never having to advertise, because your effective market penetration means the referral, recommendation and approaches through visibility factor is such that it satisfies your demand for talent, and recommendations are rarely bad ones. Furthermore the level of understanding for delayed replies is greater.

Bad candidate experience comes from incessant and habitual desires to try and reach out to too many people. You are inevitably going to let people down.

Cancel the burden of candidate rejections, by stopping asking for them to apply. If your candidate experience is bad, I’m sorry to say; it is predominantly your fault.

3 thoughts on “Solving the `Candidate Experience` Conundrum

  1. While I do agree with your message on the surface, alot of this doesn’t automatically make sense in practice.

    Saying that recruiters should avoid the big generic boards may be right, but it also may be wrong. MEASURE AND TEST YOUR SOURCES! You can’t just assume that big = bad and niche = good. In fact, as a general rule, this isn’t true. But once again, most Applicant tracking systems offer automated source tracking… make sure it is enabled then run source reports regularly. See how many applications you get, how many offers you make and how many hires ultimately come on board. Then you can come up with a long term solution of what works for your company and the types of positions that you are hiring for.

    In regards to the ratio of good to bad applicants, there can be a few reasons why this is happening. Usually its either because the site allows browsing for jobs, or you aren’t tailoring your message appropriately.

    But more importantly, I don’t care if I get 10 apps or 150 apps or 1,500 apps as long as I get the right person applying to the right job. If you make the job seeker jump through hoops to apply to your job (too many screeners) or to find your job (low reach job boards) then you are going to find yourself settling for less than ideal candidates.

    Easy apply buttons like the ones LinkedIn and Indeed have published makes it so that a passive job seeker is more likely to apply to your job. USE IT! Everyone complains that they want the passive job seekers because they are the best – well don’t complain that you got too many apps… The further your reach the more likely you will get the best candidate for that job. There is sacrifice (wasting time on poor resumes) to attract top talent.

  2. John, thanks for taking time to comment.
    I understand your observations – but they are based upon the process of advertising > applicant > ATS > recruiter. This will always have a broad application factor, because of the generic advertising platform. You can write the best adverts you like; but inappropriate applications still happen, because too many people apply without reading the advert.

    The point I’m making is, how we deal with bad candidate experience and bad press – and engender the change of perception.

    I’m talking about Recruiter > Market > Visibility/Profile > Applicant > Recruiter. Reputation based candidate attraction. Reputation comes with an understanding of your niche from the client and candidate/industry market place, and this means approaches are predominantly inbound still, but more focused; based on the targeted relationships we build from our outbound actions (not always sales).

    This is not having a go at `big` – but as I see it, all big companies need to separate themselves into clusters – whether they are skills based or geographical. The key is jostling for visible and integral positioning in each cluster network.

    I realise this is alien to many recruitment companies, but I believe its the future. Great niche recruiters have exercised this for years. Be GREAT at something in connected networks, rather than just being a bit-part player in a crowded market.

  3. Leaving the advertising venues out of it and keeping this specific to the ” Recruiter > Market > Visibility/Profile > Applicant > Recruiter” flow, I very much agree with your point of view.

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