Thursday, September 13, 2012

How Recruiting Impacts the Brand Experience

Image courtesy of flazingo_photos
Are you searching for a job? If "Yes," do you ever feel like you just threw your resume in the ocean, into a sea of other candidates, only to wait forever for a response from the recruiter or the hiring manager? Did you feel like you had a great interview, but there was no follow-up -- and no response to your follow-up?

Trust me. You're not alone. Like many others, I have a ton of friends looking for jobs, and the stories are consistent: companies are missing the boat on recruiting and how that impacts the brand experience. They just don't get it. Let me explain.

I'll briefly summarize the experiences a few friends had, though my own job search earlier this year proved to play out the same. They've sent resumes for posted positions with no acknowledgement of receipt of their resumes; they've interviewed with companies with no follow-up from the corporate recruiters or the hiring managers; they've sent thank you notes and inquiries about status with no response; and they've been pursued/recruited with no subsequent follow-up communication to close the loop and set an interview time (or just to say "No thanks"). There are probably other scenarios, but that pretty much sums it up.

Companies should be ashamed! Yes, I know, they are inundated with resumes. But seriously, come on! Give someone the task to follow up with these candidates. You are hurting your brand if you don't follow up. Especially during this time when so many people are looking for new opportunities, you are being touched by so many potential customers. O, did I say that? I meant, employees. No, actually, I also mean customers.

Herb Kelleher, in his response to being asked his "secret to success," has said: “You have to treat your employees like customers.” And I'll add, "... your recruits, as well." Why? For a variety of reasons, including the following, which I've written about previously:
  1. Would you hire your customers? Even if you're not specifically recruiting among a pool of known customers, know that any recruit is likely/potentially a customer of yours.
  2. Employees want to work for companies with which they are aligned (purpose, values, etc.). This means that they are likely also customers of those companies.
  3. Candidates are customers or potential customers.
Yup. I said it three different ways, but that's the bottom line.

The way you handle yourself during the recruiting process leaves a lasting impression about the company on a candidate. Will the candidate want to work for your company, even if you make them an offer? (Not likely that unresponsiveness will cause that, but some of the other wacky recruiting tactics that I've heard about might.) Will he or she recommend employment at your company to others based on the recruiting process? Will they share their experiences with friends and family, i.e., other future/potential recruits and customers? Will the individual rethink that purchase from your company, given a comparable option?

When your HR folks are recruiting, they are a touchpoint in the employee lifecycle, but indirectly they become a touchpoint in the customer lifecycle, as well. They are representing and selling the brand, the brand promise, and the vision of the company, but if actions don't match words, if you're not living the brand, you're living a lie. And that lie is easily perpetuated at this particular touchpoint.

Your recruiting team or hiring manager must:
  • Be responsive with candidates
  • Close the loop on any open inquiries
  • Politely say "No" if someone is not a fit
  • Be courteous
  • Know that auto-responders are not helpful if they provide no real information
  • Remove job postings from every source if the position is filled
  • Communicate, communicate, communicate
If you have a portal through which candidates submit applications:
  • Simplify the process
  • Don't make candidates attach a resume and then also fill in the blanks
  • Make the status updates meaningful, i.e., actually provide status updates
One final thought: Do you survey your candidates after the recruiting process? If not, why not? Would you be embarrassed by candidates' feedback about this process? Is this a broken process in your organization that clearly needs to be repaired?

Don't just map your customer journey; map your employee journey, as well. If you find that the journey starts out pretty rough, take a look at those interactions and fix the root cause before the word gets out that it's badly broken.

I'll leave you with this, a quote from Jonathan Ive in which the word "customer" could easily be swapped out and replaced with "employee."

"If you're not trying to do something better, then you're not focused on the customer, and you'll miss the possibility of making your business great." 


  1. Annette, I can't agree with you more. I've been in both positions: a hiring manager and most recently a job candidate. Come to think of it, I'd say most of us have been in both positions before which highlights something that could also be raised here: the role of empathy. To know what it feels like to enter that state of "radio silence" should encourage hiring managers to be more communicative with potential hires.

    Another challenge is in the system itself. To paraphrase Deming, a bad system will beat a good person every time. I can tell you that most organizations employ bad tech and processes that can undermine the best of intentions by any hiring manager. Which is why I love your inclusion of employee journey mapping above.

    I've written about this topic in various forms over the years and need to get back to it. I don't believe it's possible to acknowledge every single resume that comes through your door. But once a hiring manager has interacted with a candidate, then it is their responsibility to communicate openly, honestly, and frequently throughout the process. That's not just brand values in action, it's simple human decency.

    1. Chris, thank you for reading and for commenting. I really like how you wrap it up: "that's not just brand values in action, it's simple human decency." To your point, we've all likely been on both sides of the coin and should fall on the role of empathy to guide our actions.

      Annette :-)

  2. Great post. When defining different stakeholder audiences for the brand strategy, organizations should put the employee first, before the customer. After all, the potential employees is the stakeholder that is so connected to the brand that they want to be part of delivering the experience for others. To undermine or disrespect this enthusiasm says a lot about the culture of organizations. Organizations that respect the impact their employees have on their success have considered the full employment journey, just as they would have considered the customer journey.

    1. Stephen, thanks for reading and for your comment. As you know, I'm totally on board with what you're saying. Now if we could just spread this message and get companies thinking this way! Have a great day!

      -Annette :-)