We can be sure we are building a successful recruitment strategy and brand when a candidate we reject refers a candidate we hire.
My recruiters and team members have heard me preach variations of this theme for years. I usually get a strange look the first time they hear me say it. My point is simple: if we spend our time focusing on details and dignity in the candidate experience, the payoff for all parties will be substantial. And when a recruiter closes their first successful rejected candidate referral, the lightbulb goes off and the purpose of all the work we put into recruiting becomes clear.
Recruiting is about relationships. Every candidate who applies to your company isn't just a prospective employee. They're a prospective customer. Evangelist. Source of talent.
And never, ever judge a book by its cover.
The basic premise is simple: treat everyone awesome. You don't know who the A+ player is before she walks in the door. And you don't know who the B- player is friends with when they walk out the door. Every candidate that works their way through your recruitment process will undoubtedly share their impressions and experiences with their friends. This will impact your brand.
Be sure to keep in mind these important facts: engineers know other engineers, designers know other designers, product managers know other product managers, and marketers know other marketers. Duh.
- Where do you place the job ad? What does it look like? What does it say? Did you ask why in answering all three questions?
- Sweat the structure and copy of the job description. What do you mean to say? What values must be transmitted? How are you representing your culture? What are you choosing to leave out and why (I often make choices here to test for what questions candidates ask)? Are you flighting multiple JDs for the same position to attract different applicant pools?
- How have you designed your interview welcome experience before candidates arrive? What does the candidate receive beforehand to set their expectations and put them at ease? Do they have a single point of contact who is regularly in touch, particularly the day before the interview?
- How have you designed your interview welcome experience once they arrive at your office? Where are they seated to wait? Do you want them to see the buzz of the office or have privacy to collect their thoughts? Have you provided a WiFi password, an iPad to pass the time, or some reading material on the company?
- Does the day start with a member of the recruiting team taking them to the interview room and reviewing the day's agenda, offering to answer any questions, and generally putting the candidate at ease? Did you offer them a drink and show them where the restrooms are? Is food or lunch on the agenda? Are they in a glass box where everyone can walk by and stare at them or do they have some privacy?
- Do interviewers introduce themselves, explain their role in the company, and set out their goals for the interview and agenda for the hour? Do they look candidates in the eye and shake hands like a grown up? Do they leave their phones back on their desk? Leave enough time for questions? Provide a card or email address for follow up questions (and to make it easy for the candidate to send a thank you note)? Are candidates offered a rest and a drink before the next interviewer enters the room?
- Does the day end with the same member of the recruiting team debriefing the candidate? Providing a sales pitch? Collecting feedback on the process and on the individual interviewers? Does the recruiter make notes of new or unanswered questions?
- Within 24 hours has the recruiter followed up with answers to those questions? Is the candidate thanked for their time by the company? Have you asked the candidate how we did (perhaps with a short feedback survey)? Solicited them for further questions?
- Within 72 hours is the candidate's standing in the process clearly communicated? Are next steps delivered in a timely manner? Are expectations properly set.
- Are you respecting the candidate's time and other commitments?
- Are you answering their questions honestly, transparently, and in a timely manner?
- Is the entire process timely? Does it feature regular and excellent communication?
- Are rejections delivered humanely and verbally by the recruiter or hiring manager who knows the candidate best and shepherded them thru the interview process? Did you acknowledge their strengths? Did you thank them for their time?
- Are candidates offered an opportunity to receive feedback on their interview process so they too can learn and take steps towards being their best self and achieving their career goals?
It is deeply satisfying in building a company to deliver an awesome candidate experience to someone, unfortunately having to reject them but doing so with compassion and dignity, and having them in turn recommend your company to someone they feel would be a better fit than they were. When candidate pools are tight and markets are competitive, every detail counts.