Job seekers have story after story about employers who communicate poorly or not at all, who advertise jobs that don't match up with the reality of what they need, and who send such negative messages about the company culture that it appears only the desperate would want to work there.
Employers may feel that they don't have to pay much attention to the candidate experience; it's a buyer's market, after all. This is short-sighted because the best candidates have options and will turn elsewhere. And it's also pretty unkind to people who are in a vulnerable and anxiety-producing spot.
Here are five components of a hiring system that takes the candidate experience into consideration:
1. Set expectations for the timeline and process. Whether it's through an auto-reply after an application is received or through direct contact with a hiring rep, employers need to have some way of telling candidates when they can expect to hear back and what the next steps will be.
2. Don't require an unreasonable investment of time and information up-front. More and more companies are switching to endlessly long online application forms. When candidates know there's a good chance they won't even get so much as an acknowledgment, having to spend an hour wrestling with an onerous application system simply to submit a resume is a bitter pill to swallow.
3. Don't require candidates to hand over their firstborn just to get considered. Increasingly, companies are asking candidates to submit their social security numbers and references with the initial application. There's no reason to require this kind of information from candidates who haven't even gone through an initial screening round yet.
4. Provide candidates with clear, well-thought-out job descriptions. Too often, employers post jargon-filled, incomprehensible job descriptions that make no sense to anyone outside their organization (or maybe even inside). Job candidates shouldn't have to struggle to figure out what you're looking for, or if they might be suited to providing it.
5. Reject candidates promptly. I recently surveyed readers at Ask a Manager about their biggest frustrations in the job-search process. A full 49 percent said their No. 1 frustration with job searching is employees who don't bother to respond to them in any way, even after they take the time to interview. There's just no reason that someone who takes the time to reply shouldn't receive the courtesy of an answer, even if it's a form letter saying "no thanks."
Simply treating candidates with courtesy and respect has become so rare that employers who do the above will stand out—meaning that good people will want to work for them and even candidates who don't get interviewed will leave the experience with a positive impression.
Alison Green writes the popular Ask a Manager blog, where she dispenses advice on career, job search, and management issues. She's also the author of Managing to Change the World: The Nonprofit Leader's Guide to Getting Results and former chief of staff of a successful nonprofit organization, where she oversaw day-to-day staff management, hiring, firing, and employee development. She now teaches other managers how to manage for results.