Tag Archives: selection

The one with some candidate feedback

One thing has occurred to me of late. In all the discussions on the candidate experience very few people are actually speaking to candidates. Recruiters the world over are marvelling in their new found technology and boldly driving operational performance but without really listening to a key stakeholder in their endeavours.

Is this wrong? Well, it’s certainly not right and with all the talk, effort and money that goes into recruiting it does strike me as slightly odd. You can’t buy anything from most companies without some form of survey, e-mail follow up or request for feedback but try and ‘buy’ a job from the same people and they seemingly don’t really mind what you think.

So having been through the ‘pride swallowing siege’ I thought actually I would provide some feedback and given my background has included some significant work in recruiting that could actually form insight (maybe). I realise that in presenting my data that it is entirely subjective but if this stuff happened to me I imagine it’s happening to others.

If having read this you think I’m talking nonsense then that’s great – you are amongst the enlightened who have driven a focus on the candidate experience but if even one of these points resonates with you then I hope that helps you think about what you and your organisation do in the future.


a) With one exception these are not directed specifically at internal or external recruiters but both

b) This is a long post – get comfy, hope your train is delayed or read it in stages!

1. Bad news is better than no news

The deafening silence is dreadful and at worst an automated e-mail saying ‘you haven’t been successful’ is better than realising you haven’t progressed because a new millennium has dawned. Giving people bad news sucks (I know) but giving them no news is worse!

2. One Year to a recruiter is like Seven Years to a candidate

No I don’t think candidates are dogs! But you want candidates who are vested in your organisation and mustard keen to join. Don’t dampen that by making them wait weeks between communication/stages and making that enthusiasm wane to the point that they simply stop caring.

3. Feedback: if you give it, make it real

‘We have other candidates who more closely meet the brief’ and then the job is reposted everywhere within 48 hours. There are others and they DO happen. If you take the trouble to give a reason then make it a real one

4. Hurry Up & Wait Around

A phrase stolen from film making but remember how keen you are to get hold of the CV and the levers you pull to get the applicant….then nothing….nada. If set a tone of urgency – maintain it, or at least manage a slow down

5. Your Call is important to us

Whilst I loathe hold music at least it tells me my call is still connected and whilst it doesn’t endear me any further to the brand it certainly doesn’t put me off. Think about how you can keep assuring your candidate that their application is important to you and they are still involved in your process

6. Do what you say you’re going to do

“I’ll call you on Wednesday” not a difficult thing to do, or if Wednesday no longer fits not a difficult thing to reschedule. If you say you are going to do something JUST DO IT (The Nike Rule)

7. Money doesn’t grow on trees

To any candidate pursuing a role is likely coming out of their own pocket. Whether they are currently employed or not that money will not grow on trees and whilst you are trying to manage loads of diaries and managers please bear in mind that £40 train ticket costs, yes, £40 and if there are 4 stages which result in no job offer and at times no feedback then that does not reflect well on your organisation

8. Unicorns are fictional

Don’t try and recruit Unicorns – they don’t exist. If you’re an internal recruitment manager you need to push back more, if you’re an external consultant you need to challenge your client more.

9. Don’t confuse experience with ability

Yes we all love a good example of when someone has done something before and yes it’s a valid approach to part of your process but just because someone hasn’t done something before doesn’t mean they won’t be able to. If you rely solely on experience you may have a Unicorn problem!

10. Candidates will become customers

From my experience the candidate is NOT the customer (it’s a recruitment manager or a hiring manager) but whether you be a consultant and want to continue to recruit in this space or a company who sells its product or services just remember that at some point (and maybe already) your candidate is ALSO your customer

11. Ask them what they think and give them a route to whinge

Service improves for a variety of reasons but poor scores and negative feedback are amongst them. Try asking for some or at least giving your candidates a route to share some – with you rather than the rest of their network. I didn’t come across it but does anyone use a net promoter score for candidates? In this age of social referral surely ‘would you recommend us?’ is a powerful question to candidates.

12. Reputation is EVERYTHING

You know this – you’ve read so much stuff about EVP and employer brands but referral schemes always start with employees. What are your candidates saying to each other? How are you perceived in the market place? Your employees are already drinking the kool-aid, what about the potentials?

And finally the one that is specifically focussed at internal recruiters:

12a. Don’t vilify recruitment consultants

Like all service providers there are the good, the bad and the ugly. If you are working with the latter two categories –change. If you are lucky enough to work with people in the first category help them add value to your business, make them your partners and don’t slag them off at every given opportunity. There are some very good recruitment consultants operating out there and I have seen some that I can certainly learn some lessons from in various aspects of their process – maybe I’m not the only one.

Anyway, enough of the feedback/insight (for now). To all of the great people who I worked with during my job search, thank you very much and to the rest (and you probably don’t know who you are) I hope I’ve given you at least one piece of information to stimulate you doing something different

[I also wrote a rather tongue in cheek view of my perceptions of the candidate experience which you can find here]



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The one with the honest experience

Over recent weeks for some unknown (for that read completely known) reason I have been thinking a lot about the candidate experience. I was then provoked to share some thoughts when Lisa Scales at Tribepad formed a LinkedIn group to discuss the same topic and some interesting conversations are developing. You can find a link to the group here and ask nicely and I’m sure you’ll get an  invite.

The thing I keep coming back to is that in order to have any kind of meaningful conversation we need to start with the truth and that’s a difficult thing to find. Let’s face it everyone wants to present the idealised, nice polished version of their candidate experience and I’ve yet to go to conference where anyone stands up and says “we tried this but it failed” or “ours is a complete shocker”

With this in mind I started to think about how you could describe a typical (and for typical I accept the caveat that of course all of you amazing people have super candidate experiences) experience and put it in a form that would both allow and provoke discussion without it getting ummmm ‘handbag-y’. Then I talked to some friends both inside and outside recruitment and had more of a think.

So with tongue partially in cheek, here goes:

Stage 1: Attraction

At this stage you are likely offering something akin to either Miss Megan Fox or Mr Bradley Cooper. Shiny, beautifully groomed and desirable to most if not all of your target market. The only major thing likely to send your candidate running for the hills at this point is the secret code book or in plain english a job advert written in language that you need 5 years deep immersion in your organisation to understand, this will likely lead to an exit!!

Stage 2: Gaining Entry

At this point, to get anywhere near Miss Fox or Mr Cooper you need to get past the bouncer and donate a pint of blood (or complete 12 pages of questions, tick boxes and disclaimers on your ATS, having registered an account)

Stage 3: Getting the Nod

At this point you will either wait outside X-Ray for a mythical appointment and then be contacted by an over excited bundle of fun who is desperate to get you in front of their big brother (line manager), for the lucky few you may not have to go to X-Ray at all. For the unlucky few you may spend forever waiting outside x-ray

Stage 4: Selection

Depending on the level of the role, complexity of the process and investment in selection you will then be subjected to something akin to Robert De Niro in “Meets the Parents”. Hopefully this will be have been explained in advance and everything you are subjected to will have relevance to the process.

Stage 5: The Jury’s Verdict

So it get’s a bit tricky here…

Success may be the equivalent to a teenage boy on prom night – very excited, eager and keen to get on with it or a radio DJ managing a competition winner, wanting you to sound amazingly excited and coaxing answers out of you. Failure is the Grim Reaper – likely with as much chat (feedback) on why you’ve met your end. On either route you may experience tumbleweed for periods for 1 to n hours, where n is an integer between 1 and infinity (you may never hear)

Stage 6: Doing the Deal

Meet the Negotiator. This person (who may be the same person as the teenage on prom night, the over excited bundle of fun or the radio DJ) may now throw out a few hoops for you to jump through – previous payslips, signatures of 7 living grandparents, the certificate of authenticity for the previous submitted pint of blood, etc. It will then be about ensuring they get the ball in the hoop whilst trying to get you in the business. It may not be pleasant!

Stage 7: Onboarding

So you hop on board the plane, fill in a ream of Health & Safety policies, find out about the company history and get some form of tour. From there a myriad of 1 to 1 meetings with people who don’t really know what you are going to do, how it relates to them or actually why they were included on your induction plan

Stage 8: The Holy Grail

You finally make it. You finally get to have what you wanted all along. BUT and there has to be a but, thanks to the haste and the chinese whispers of the recruiting process, the changes that have occurred in the organisation during the process and the different interpretations put on the role through the process – your job is not Bradley Cooper or Megan Fox rather Ralph Fiennes or Zooey Deschanel. Not to say they are bad jobs, they look very much like the ones you first saw but they are just subtly different….

Random Stage: May Occur at any time

Let’s face it you are not the only employer out there, the rigours of the process may seem too much, the silence may be deafening or any number of things that you have no control over may happen. Probably worth bearing in mind that your candidate (or customer? or is that the line manager?) has the opportunity at any point to head for the exit… but don’t worry it’s not like they could be a consumer of your brand, user of your service, stakeholder in your future is it?

As I said at the top, of course your process isn’t anything like this…but somebody’s is….trust me!


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The one with a rant about interviews

Dating was easier when I was younger. It just involved going out, drinking just enough to get over myself, bumping into a girl and then snogging. After that was kind of the “seeing each other” bit and eventually we were boyfriend and girlfriend. Until we weren’t and the whole cycle began again. And this is in the days when you had to call a girl’s home number and ask her Dad if you could speak to her – none of this easy get out texting/facebooking/tweeting malarkey. Proper fear!

Then, somewhere along the way, dating became harder. It became like dating was portrayed in American films – a contact sport or a numbers game. Going out with a girl seemed like running the gauntlet of a set of boxes requiring ticks. It ceased to be about two people just getting to know each other and finding out if there was chemistry and became about passing some test. Those were trying times – all nerves, can I remember an anecdote that will fit the situation? Am I being impressive/empathetic/funny/interested* enough (*delete (or not) as appropriate)? I usually ended up being the worst version of myself and definitely not me…

[There should be a segue in here, I know!]

A lot is written about recruitment these days. About the future of recruitment, about how it is increasingly social, how technology is changing it and how businesses need to attract talent differently. A lot of what is written (or at least what I get to see) is actually about a small part of recruitment i.e. attraction, and not about an equally important part of recruitment, selection.

I’ve read the studies (best data is Schmidt & Hunter 1998), the best predictors of job performance in terms of selection techniques are (in order) work sample tests, cognitive ability tests and structured employment interviews. What am I saying? I’m saying I get it – the structured interview is up there with the best of the best in terms of job performance, or so the research says.

Personally, I was always more of a fan of the semi structured interview. Whilst I believe that the research is valid I also believe that it doesn’t mean that’s exactly how you should do your interview. Let’s be honest an interview is not ALL about selection. It’s also a little bit about attraction – because whilst the person is sat in front of you, they aren’t saying yes…..yet.

Also, whilst I understand that validating competence through examples from previous work is a very valid process it does nothing to help you understand how the person would react given a new challenge, how they think about the possibilities and how their existing competence could be stretched or even (perish the thought) developed in your organisation. Also, and let’s be honest here, people prepare their examples.

I’ve been trying to think of a way of describing my favourite form of interviewing and the best analogy I can use is Prime Minister’s Questions. If you ever watch PMQs (and you should do at least once) it’s a fascinating process which shows the archaic process of parliament at its most entertaining. Any MP can table a question, that is submit it in advance for the PM to answer. The submitted questions are vetted by the PM’s team and possible answers are prepared in advance (you know the folder he takes to the despatch box – that’s his homework). However, should the same MP rise again to ask a further question (and the MP will likely be called by the Speaker) they are asking what’s called a “supplementary” question where it has to be on the same topic but otherwise all bets are off, and it’s down to the thoroughness of the prep and the ability of individual to think on their feet as to what happens next. That’s how I like to interview.

Ask the ‘can you give me an example of a time’ question but then probe the answer, get stuck in, explore and try to truly understand how the individual thinks and how they learned from that experience. If you spend the time ONLY asking the “give me an example” questions you are likely only testing the ability to prepare.

Which may seem something of a tangent from the dating stuff at the beginning BUT I am getting to my point (I promise). In recruitment terms I am not a pushover I like to really get stuck in and understand the individual BUT I realise the multiple requirements of an interview. I put my ‘date’ at ease, I establish rapport, I make them feel comfortable, I let them share something about themselves and reciprocate because let’s face it; I want to see the best version of them, not the version that comes out under the pressure of nerves and intimidation.

To finish the dating analogy, I never wanted to date a girl who without thinking offered a second date, but I did want a girl who realised that the whole process isn’t easy and that making it comfortable for both of us was the likeliest route to us working out whether we wanted to meet again.

And to finish the recruitment rant, I always wanted the candidate to leave the room a) wanting to come back for a further meeting and b) feeling they’d had the opportunity to present the best version of themselves. I may have failed as often as I succeeded but this was always the intention and I’m not sure how many people share it.

As a final thought, I am very happily in a relationship and to any of you reading this who are out there dating I wish you the best of British luck! I had my fill….



Schmidt, F.L. & Hunter, J.E. (1998) “The Validity and Utility of Selection Methods in Personnel Psychology: Practical and Theoretical Implications of 85 Years of Research Findings”. Psychological Bulletin Vol 124, No. 2

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