Candidate Experience Isn’t a Real Product

I love watching really good comics.  Sarah Silverman has a new special on HBO called “We Are Miracles” it’s brilliantly funny in the way where she makes her self laugh at some of the things she is saying.  I love that.  I find it funnier when the comic finds themselves funny, not fake funny, but naturally tickled at what they are thinking and saying out loud.  There is one part in the special where she talks about a product that is being marketed to women for a certain kind of odor, in areas we don’t talk about on family blogs like this.  She describes how these odor fighting products, marketed directly at women, going after their worst fears, aren’t really products.  We think they are because we see the commercials and someone holding a can in their hands and talking on TV, I mean it has to be real, it’s on TV!

But they aren’t.  There is no real need for this product. Women can use soap and water, like they use on the rest of their body.  As Sarah says, if you do that, your normal washing, and you still sense an odor, you don’t need a ‘perfume’ spray, you need a doctor!

This is exactly how I feel about Candidate Experience.  It’s not a real product.

We think it is because we have really smart folks telling us it is.  These same folks make their living off of consulting to companies who have unrealized fears of a candidate having a bad experience and then those candidates no longer wanting to use or buy their products and services.  This is made up.  This is private parts deodorant.

Here is what Candidate Experience is built upon:

1. At some point an executive had their sister’s kid, a niece or nephew of the executive, apply for a job with the company online.  Your system/process did what is was suppose to do, it weeded out this crappy candidate, sent them the “Dear John” letter, and that was it.  But it wasn’t!

2. Executive hears from her sister that her daughter Mary, a brilliant child, was not selected and not even given an interview, in fact there was no human interaction at all!

3. Executive has to save face with family.  Comes down hard on Talent Acquisition leader about how can we treat our candidates like this!

This is how Candidate Experience was born.  A niece not getting hired.

The executive not wanting to make this ‘about herself’ comes up with other reasons, and all the sheep follow along.  “We need to treat all candidates like we treat our customers!  We need to make candidates advocates of our products and services.  We need to treat candidates this better than we treat each other because it’s a competitive advantage for talent.”  And we begin to buy into the rhetoric.  We begin to believe that we have an odor, that what we’ve been doing is bad.  Our worst fears, that a candidate who feels they have a bad experience will stop using our products, is so overplayed it’s actually funny when you stop and actually think about it!  You will have candidates who feel they are great, you won’t, they’ll get upset and not like your company.  That is life in Talent Acquisition.  A minute percentage will think this way, and there is nothing you’ll ever be able to do about it!

The reality is, for the vast majority of Talent Acquisition Leaders, what we’ve been doing is just fine.  We treat our candidates like normal humans, we communicate with them if we feel they fit or not, and the process works.  Sure, some of us, have some bad processes, or parts of processes that need to be fixed.  But we don’t have an odor problem.  The biggest lie that is perpetuated in the Human Resource Industry is that Candidate Experience is important.  The reality is candidates have extremely low expectations when it comes to applying for a job.  All they really want and need is to know that you saw their application and/or resume, and do you feel they would be a fit or not.  That’s it!  Treat them like normal humans.  Give them enough respect to communicate with them the next step: 1. Thank you, but no thanks we have some better fitting candidates, try again next time; 2. We’re interested, here is step #2.

It’s not hard.  You don’t need to spend time and money on this.  You don’t have a real problem. I know you think you do, so many people are telling you so, so it must be real.  But it’s not, it’s private parts deodorant!



6 thoughts on “Candidate Experience Isn’t a Real Product

  1. This: “The reality is, for the vast majority of Talent Acquisition Leaders, what we’ve been doing is just fine. We treat our candidates like normal humans, we communicate with them if we feel they fit or not, and the process works.”

    would be more accurate if written like this:

    “The reality is, for the vast majority of Talent Acquisition Leaders, what we’ve been doing seems just fine because we have no way of actually knowing if what we’ve been is actually just fine so we assume that it is because it works for us. We treat our candidates like normal humans, we communicate with them if we feel they fit or not, and the process works for us. If it doesn’t work for some of them, well, they should have known better than to apply to work for us. After all, we’re us. We’re not them. Thank goodness. Because if we were them, then we’d have to get rejected by us.”

    • Steven,

      I’m sure your connection with the Candidate Experience Awards has nothing to do with this response. Here’s what I know of dealing directly with Talent Acquisition and real candidate experience on the front lines of hiring, not consulting, for 20 years. Consultants are scaring normal HR pros into making them believe this is a really big deal, when it’s not. Treat people like how you would want to be treated, your grandmother and mother taught you this, you don’t need a consultant and to spend thousands of dollars to figure it out.

      Making an award for the company who does it the best, just perpetuates the belief this is a ‘real’ thing. This has nothing to do with TA Dept. or HR Dept. thinking they are above candidates. This has to do with how far do you go before you’re asking TA/HR to go negative ROI on a concept where people are naturally going to be upset. One person get’s the job. 100 apply, 99 are unhappy. How hard should I try to make those 99 happy? How much money and resources should I spend? That’s the real conversation Steven. So, you can keep believing that companies that don’t focus on your ‘candidate experience’ as organizations that think their above candidates, but you’re wrong.


      • Your sarcasm is delicious, Tim. I mean that sincerely. I took it in the spirit in which it was intended.

        I was a judge for the 2012 Candidate Experience Awards and a Council member for the 2013 CandE’s. But if you think that my volunteer service during those two years influenced the opinions about the candidate experience that I expressed in my earlier comment to your blog article, it is actually the other way around. My opinions about the terrible candidate experience created by many (most?) employers influenced my decision to pursue a position with the CandE’s.

        As a business owner, I look at issues like the candidate experience both as a moral obligation that we each have to all other members of our communities but also from a profitability standpoint.

        I get that you feel that consulting fees paid by businesses to help them improve the experience of their candidates is a waste of money for those organizations which provide a positive candidate experience. I agree. But the organizations we’re trying to help FOR FREE are those who are trying to improve their candidate experience. We need them to provide a massive amount of data that can take dozens and even hundreds of employee hours but then we provide back to them massive amounts of benchmarking data, research, ideas, advice, and often recognition. There are no “losers” with the CandE’s. It is all carrot and no stick. There isn’t even a “winner” as all organizations which apply and which meet some pretty basic standards are recognized and applauded.

        The data shows that organizations which treat candidates well receive a higher quality of applicant, convert a higher percentage of applicants into hires, and have higher retention rates. So treating candidates as they wish to be treated — which may be quite better than you would wish to be treated — simply makes business sense. And moral sense.

  2. One thing you don’t know about me? I hired marketing managers and brand managers and market researchers to work on the FDS line.

    Thank you, Alberto-culver.

  3. I would agree with you more if it didn’t seem that the vast majority of companies aren’t doing the basic soap-and-water approach. From what I hear, 90% of applications go into a black hole where you never hear from the company at all. Not even a form rejection letter (which I would consider to be the water, in this case… the absolute least you can do).

    And the truth is, those companies really do damage their reputation doing this. Now, I agree totally that the fix for this is a minor tweak in internal processes (aka, sending a damn form rejection letter), not anything that costs money or that you should even need to hear from a professional, but I’m worried that this column will just reinforce to that vast swath of companies that treat their applicants like crap.

  4. lol. great piece. I agree with the notion that candidate experience, undefined and amorphous as you make it sound, and as its generally written about, is a useless concept.

    But, science, in the final turn, trumps.

    If I can measure something we (as employers) do to candidates in our recruiting practices that directly correlates to + and – changes in their attitudes and opinions (emphasize ‘their’ not ‘your assumption about their attitudes’)…and if those opinions are reflected in subsequent behavior that can be measured i.e. referral rates, buying behavior, conversion rates, retention rates, performance downstream as well as influencing other candidate opinions and behaviors within earshot, then you can call IT whatever you like but IT will impact which practices you adopt, drop or emphasize in the future.

    Oh, and we can! And, we’re not selling it…we’re giving what we learn away. Unfortunately, common sense about how to treat candidates is neither very common nor supportable in most businesses unless it can be connected to an outcome. On that I’m sure we agree.

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