I was chatting to Alan Whitford recently of RCEuro .

To any innocent eavesdropper it would have sounded like an episode of grumpy old men/woman. You see Alan and I are from the old school of recruiters – before technology, before faxes – hell even before electronic typewriters. But during the last twenty odd years one thing has remained constant – the complaint from candidates about the candidate experience.


So why haven’t we learned? And there really is no excuse, as technology has made it easier than ever before to engage. But still we have the problem of candidates applying for jobs online and, at best, getting some impersonal auto reply. I know that we have a huge pool of candidates at the moment – and okay – many of then may not be suitable. But how difficult is it, on that auto reply, to point them to something that may help – a careers guidance area on your website for example with downloads on networking advice, coping with redundancy, the benefits of temping, upskilling etc etc .  Because when the war for talent comes back – and having worked through three recessions I can tell you it surely will, which recruiters will those candidates remember? A recruiters reputation can succeed or fail on something as simple as this so isn’t it time at last to try and get it right?  Here are my three  favourite anecdotes from my conversation with Alan:

  • The candidate who received an e-mail to say your details  look exactly right so we will be putting you forward for the job and will contact you shortly.  The candidate then never heard anything.
  • The recruitment firm that sent an auto reply after two weeks.
  • The candidate who, having uploaded her CV as requested was then sent a form asking for two referees

There were lots more but it is too depressing! Technology is a great tool but you can’t e-mail a handshake! What are you doing to engage?


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  1. Great piece Tracy! Like yourself and Alan, I also pre-date the Fax machine (surely the BC/AD for modern recruiting!) and it was drilled in to me from earliest days that each candidate can and will become a future client.

    Unfortunately, most recruitment businesses measure and reward on sales activity and too few regard the candidate experience as part of this activity.

    Whole generations of future clients are being alienated, possibly to the point of turning away from using 3rd party recruiters, and it’s frustrating to see so many of today’s consultants ignore this source of future business and referrals.

    I’ve long believed that a shift in the way recruiters are rewarded, with client & candidate feedback becoming an integral part, will help bring about a change of mindset.

    If you reward recruiters for good candidate experience..they’ll give it!

    1. Very true Mervyn. In fact, one of my clients, CBSbutler, a technical and engineering recruiter does just that – 40% of their bonus is based on things other than billings. They are approased on customer service, teamwork, developing self and others, problem solving etc – makes for much more rounded consultants – and thaty;ve had better esults since they implemented it!

  2. I would add that when you open up pretty much any job site, you will find it littered with cut and pasted job descriptions and badly written copy full of grammatical errors, posing as advertisements. The allure, the enticement, the capturing the casual browsers attention rather than the desperate job seeker – all seem to increasingly be a thing of the past. The candidate when searching is faced with a wall of largely bland, uninspiring ‘ads’ that seem to have been thrown together and put scattrergun style on a few sites here and there in the hope that candidates will bite. I am not saying that happens all the time, but there is definitely a density of inferior recruitment consultancy content that is dumbing down the overall online offering. And people wonder why they get such a bad response. At least they get a response which is often more than the poor candidate does.

    1. Absolutely – in fact one of our clients will be launching a guide on how to write decent ads – I’ll blog about it’s when its done!

  3. Totally agree with the sentiments expressed!

    If I cast my mind back as long as 10 years ago (pre e-mail, pre internet, even pre-Windows (!!) I ran an in-house recruitment team looking to recruit upwards of 500 employees per year. We succeeded, and I would put that success down to having a very simple Service Level Agreement in place; an SLA that was intended to satisfy both recruiting managers and candidates themselves.

    The SLA was as follows:

    All applications acknowledged (by old-fashioned snail mail!) within two days of receipt
    Within two weeks all candidates to either have been invited to interview or rejected
    Within four weeks all interviews to have been conducted
    Within one week of interview, candidates to have either received offer or rejection

    I find it alarming, bewildering and in fact downright shoddy, that in our technology-enabled recruitment environment, the care shown to candidates frequently gets nowhere near the level of service that I’ve described above.

    In answer to the question of “Who Cares About Candidates,” sadly I’m led to the answer of : not many of the recruitment agencies, or so it would seem.

  4. There are actually plenty of guides out there already which a quick search can bring up. I am tempted to write an e-book on the subject though, go into a bit more detail. If only I had the time!

  5. Glad to hear it Tracy! Think there should be more.

    Stopgap / Courtenay (where I work) have always based bonuses on feedback…I can honestly say that the buy in you get from clients & candidates when they know that your service, and their feedback, (not the actual placement) is your key motivator is immense.

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