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Crowdstaffing featured as Rising Star and Premium Usability HR platform in 2019

Crowdstaffing has earned the prestigious 2019 Rising Star & Premium Usability Awards from FinancesOnline, a popular B2B software review platform. This recognition is given out annually to products[...]

May 13, 2019

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Treat Job Applicants Like Your Customers - Because They Might Be

Think about the last time you applied for a job and never heard back. It was sort of discouraging, right? Days, weeks passed by as you eagerly awaited a response. Were you overqualified? Under-qualified? Maybe your cover letter wasn’t eye-catching? All these unanswered questions likely left you feeling confused and perhaps even a little bit angry.

Now, imagine the roles are reversed and you’re the potential employer who left the applicant hanging on the line. Somewhere out there, your rejected candidate is telling others about their negative experience. And if that candidate was also a customer, you might have a problem on your hands.

An Unhappy Candidate Can Affect Your Bottom Line

In 2014, Graeme Johnson conducted a study for Virgin Media, the largest subscription-based telecommunications company in the UK. Using feedback data from thousands of rejected candidates, Johnson and his team analyzed how candidate experience affected Virgin Media’s customer base. They found that 6% of the candidates were former customers who decided to switch providers after having a negative recruitment experience. The loss cost Virgin more than £4 million.

Of course, this example is on a massive scale. Most employers don’t have hundreds of thousands of applicants whenever there’s a job opening. But just because your company isn’t an enterprise doesn’t mean these findings are irrelevant; candidate experience is just as important – and a bad one can be just as detrimental.

The Virgin study references one candidate in particular: Louise, a hairdresser who was looking for a part-time job. After having a negative experience during her assessment interview (the interviewer took a phone call and then kicked her out!), she left feeling upset and embarrassed. Naturally, she told her family what happened. Soon afterward, both her and her sister dropped their Virgin Media subscription and switched to another provider. Hey, you know what they say: bad reviews reach twice as many people as good reviews.

Buyer and Candidate Journeys Are Closely Aligned

After the study, Johnson rolled up his sleeves and decided to do something about it. He sought to improve the hiring process for everyone, including recruiters and hiring managers. If job applicants were treated more like customers, he wagered, it would lead to better hires and improved brand reputation.

The trick was finding a way for busy employers to ensure that applicants are treated fairly, without expending too much time or money. Working hand-in-hand with the sales and marketing departments, Johnson came up with the “Gold Standard” for candidate experience. Perhaps not surprisingly, it looks a lot like the buyer’s journey:

  • Candidates, just like buyers, have different personas. Those looking for part-time, entry-level jobs are going to have different needs and expectations than those looking for high-level jobs. Virgin first focused on creating content to nurture entry-level personas, for example, one of their campaigns taught candidates how to prepare their resume so that it aligns with Virgin’s company culture. The initial interactions a candidate has with your brand are similar to the buyer’s awareness stage, where content, user experience, and efficiency are all imperative to capturing interest.

  • The interview stage comes next, and it’s important because it's the first time that candidates will have in-person contact with your brand. Virgin asked candidates for specific feedback at different touch-points throughout the hiring process. This helped them identify which hiring managers were providing the best candidate experiences, which in turn helped other hiring managers improve their processes.

  • Finally comes the decision stage, which just so happens to have the same name as the last stage in the buyer’s journey. It’s here that you must tell the candidate whether or not they got the job. It’s also here that feedback is absolutely critical. Impersonal or minimal feedback can leave a candidate feeling spurned – and we all know that’s bad news.

Tips for Improving Candidate Experience

Making candidates feel valued isn’t difficult, and it doesn’t have to be a fully-fledged, inter-departmental movement like Virgin’s. However, it should still be one of your top priorities. As Graeme Johnson says:

“Candidate experience is a strategically important business imperative, not only to protect against customer churn but more importantly, to add value back to society and those in most need of help.”

So, how can companies hope to improve their hiring processes without expending a ton of resources? Let’s take a look:

  • Offer educational content based on candidate personas. Virgin created content to help applicants prepare for job-hunting and interviewing, which is quite helpful for entry-level candidates. You might want to think about creating similar content to accompany the job opening announcement, or as static landing page copy under the “work for us” section of your website.

  • Fine-tune your job description so recruiters and candidates know exactly what you’re looking for. This has the added benefit of (gently) filtering out unqualified applicants, which means less work and better candidates for you.

  • Find ways to offer personalized feedback to rejected candidates. If an applicant doesn’t make it past a certain stage, tell them why! They’ll appreciate that you went out of your way to help them on their job-searching journey.

  • At the very least, make sure you notify applicants when you’ve decided not to move forward with their application, and do so politely. There’s nothing worse than getting a blasé rejection email, aside from not getting one at all.


  • Leverage automation platforms if you don’t have the time or resources to reach out to all your applicants personally. Segment applicants into rejection categories, then create content that’s valuable for each. For example, you can offer tips for improving cover letters and resumes, interview skills, appealing to company culture, etc.

A Job Rejection Doesn’t Have to Mean Goodbye

Everyone on the planet wants to feel like they matter. Just like customers, candidates who feel they aren’t treated well are going to remember it – and they’re probably going to tell their friends about it. Instead of losing valuable business, treat your candidates like the customers that they are. Even if they’re not the right fit job-wise, you still have the opportunity to change what could be a negative experience into a positive one through personal and helpful communication. Who knows? You might even find that rejected candidates become your biggest brand advocates.

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Casey Enstrom
Casey Enstrom
I am passionate about helping business leaders adopt crowd-based hiring solutions to hire the best talent. Through a comprehensive workforce and staffing programs assessment, I help identify areas of opportunity where having a hiring marketplace with a curated network of staffing agencies & independent recruiters​ could dramatically impact results.
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