Dear Claudia,

We're one of the only companies hiring in our area right now, and with the recent changes in the economy we're seeing a big increase in the number of resumes coming in. My recruiters are way past overwhelmed, and most are noting that candidate phone calls are becoming much more frequent and confrontational. Today a candidate actually followed one of my recruiters from our office to a restaurant and into the bathroom, refusing to leave until she read her resume. How can I help my recruiters cope with aggressive candidates while still delivering a great experience?

Worn Out


Dear Worn Out,

Ok, so I'm a big fan of candidate experience. Huge, actually. But I'm also a big fan of recruiter experience, and being stalked in a bathroom is just plain creepy. No hire for you, bucko. Have you considered giving your recruiters cans of compressed air labeled "Candidate Be Gone" to use at will? Seriously, a healthy sense of humor may be the best coping skill for your team under these circumstances, and your leadership will make the difference between engagement and burnout in the ranks.

While we were building the Feedback Portal at Improved Experience, we asked a lot (did I say a lot? I meant a boHUGEous amount) of active job seekers about their experiences in job hunting. With resounding agreement, the most popular points of pain were:

1. The process is broken (87%);
2. No one talks to me (92%); and
3. I don't feel valued or respected (94%).

The obvious answer is to assign a candidate advocate on your staff, right? But before you go there (and yes my friend, there are creative ways to squeeze short-term help out of your budget), take a moment to assess your situation carefully.

Engage your team in setting the standards of candidate experience.
If they're accountable for delivering service, they should have a say in what is reasonable and what is not. And most often in my experience, recruiters set the bar higher than I might. As the manager you make the final decision, but make the details of the service level agreement a collaborative discussion.

Engage your job seekers, too.
Preview and select a small panel of candidates to join your next team meeting (yes, really!), and query both their frustrations and their suggestions for improvement. You'll learn a lot, and may find that some of their priorities are different from yours. Have you noticed how often stress is self-imposed? This of course leads to my last point:

Question your assumptions.
What is true in ordinary times is not defacto true in extraordinary times. Look at every candidate touch point. Aim for simplicity and fix the process, communicate clearly, and be respectful. And wherever you can, put a human face or voice on the front line. Your candidates will love you for it, and tell others about their great experience.

Survival doesn't go to the fittest, it goes to the most adaptable. If you can make it through this onslaught with a good reputation and a team that hasn't run screaming out the door, you'll have achieved something worth speaking about at a recruiting conference next year. Let me know how it turns out!

***

In my day job, I’m the Head of Products for Improved Experience, where we help employers use feedback to measure and manage competitive advantage in hiring and retention. Learn more about us here.

Do you have a question you'd like answered in this weekly forum? Drop me a line!

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Good economy or bad you just can’t avoid the occasional stressed candidate that steps over the line. In this sort of economic climate those occasions are a little more frequent. Those of us that have recruited through a couple of downturns (I hate the “R” word) can relate to this post really well!

First and foremost, no matter how difficult it is, remember that losing your job is a loss – have empathy for the person that is, well – stalking you, tell them you understand their situation and (most important) BE VERY DIRECT AND CLEAR about what they can expect from you and what you expect from them. If you can’t help them – or short term prospects are not good, or unknown – tell them. Your brand and reputation in this kind of market is even more delicate. The impression you leave with that candidate – what kind of will you fuel their network with – people that are dealing with this kind of life changing event tend to talk a lot about the experience they are having – so, be sure your people are good ambassadors of your brand.

In the situation where you are stalked like this – it’s really up to your management to set a policy. Personally, in this day and age I would have zero tolerance for that kind of extreme behavior, but other more common behavior (emotions piquing on the phone, calling every 30 minutes, showing up unannounced in your lobby), for that you might have a stated 1 or 2 strikes policy.

Stepping back – thinking ahead – maybe you can employ some low cost technology to help here. Proactive and consistent communication is a good way to reduce your time dealing with every single stressed candidate – but at the same time gives them a sense that you are working for them and you haven’t forgotten them. If you are using a well equipped ATS or CRM – set up a candidate portal where they can check their status and communicate to the recruiter there; have your recruiters send out template status emails to their candidates weekly (an email for different categories: active, no activity, hang in there). Some of your more web 2.0 savvy recruiters may employ micro-blogging tools (twitter), or leverage SMS from any number of platforms to communicate to candidates. Generally, employ tools that help you communicate on the outbound, proactively – and get out of reaction mode.
Claudia,

Combining George's thoughts, acknowledge the disastrous economy and the impact on jobs in every communication piece using honest, non-recycled pablum. Emails, on your website, even the intro spiels of your recruiters. Be transparent.

CF- when I clicked on Meet the Team, uh...
Steve Levy said:
Be transparent....

Great feedback, Steve. And you're so right, transparency (especially when it comes with improvement) goes a long way to building good will with candidates.

Steve Levy said:
CF- when I clicked on Meet the Team, uh....

Thanks for the heads up...migration issue, fixed now. Try again!
George, you rock. So much of what you added resonates for me:

George LaRocque said:
BE VERY DIRECT AND CLEAR about what they can expect from you and what you expect from them. ... Your brand and reputation in this kind of market is even more delicate.... so, be sure your people are good ambassadors of your brand.... In the situation where you are stalked like this ....I would have zero tolerance for that kind of extreme behavior, but other more common behavior ...for that you might have a stated 1 or 2 strikes policy..... Proactive and consistent communication is a good way to reduce your time dealing with every single stressed candidate.... and get out of reaction mode.

I can't say it any better, and won't try. :))
What a GREAT reply..Excellent!!

I have been in this great industry for 20 years and have seen my fair share of ups and downs in the market. With the ups in the job market, the clients are the ones begging us for help and we all love that. With the downs, it is the applicant, yes at times being very difficult to work with. But what we have to keep in mind they are coming from desperation and highly stressed out.

I agree, folowing the recruiter down the street and into the restroom is a bit much..It would be a big old red flag for me!!!

The candidate must have a clear understanding of what we can AND/OR cannot do for them. If they are not right for the position you are recruiting for.. tell them and offer suggestions to them on where they should look. Being honest, helpful and understanding with those I couldn't help has lead to new clients once they found a job. The candidate ALWAYS remembers the good you did for them and will result in referrals. Give them your e mail address and have them send a quick note to see how their search is going. It's PR!!

With the candidates we are working with, I am a big fan of e mailing to us their availability and progress they have made on their own looking for a new opportunity. When they call in it takes away the time you should be using on the phone marketing your candidates to prospects and clients. Email them back towards the end of the day. With a great candidate you always want to keep the conversation going. Remember, we need our applicants just as much a we need our clients.

Joe Cummings
President/C.E.O.
Royal Associates/Royal Staffing
I really would have little to add to what both Steve and George have stated very well and what is implicit in Claudia's post to begin with. This process is and should be a two way street and one which is based on mutual respect and professionalisim. That goes for both the behavior of a candidate (no matter the stress level) and the recruiting organization (no matter the workload). The stats that Claudia has shared are ones with which many of us are all too familiar. Two of the three can and should be addressed through some form of communication has both Steve and George have suggested. One would think that with the communication tools available to us in this day and age that a better job would be done.

We have done surveys on this for a long time, and I can tell you from the feedback we get from both our executive members as well as our RecruitSmart members, much work remains.
To those who aren't link clickers, Dave is the founder and head honcho of Execunet. He has been conducting surveys of both sides of the tracks since - I think since he and I first met in 1992.

What galls me about recruiters are those who won't take a step outside their job description to be true talent scouts. The onus should not be all on the person looking to be your employee. Our job is not just to match spec to resume; it's to look at the twinkle in the eye or the body language that speaks volumes. To recognize talent then go back to the house and see if there's space for another person.

It's hard work; there are always other professions for those wanting to take it easier.

Hi Dave!

Dave Opton said:
I really would have little to add to what both Steve and George have stated very well and what is implicit in Claudia's post to begin with. This process is and should be a two way street and one which is based on mutual respect and professionalisim. That goes for both the behavior of a candidate (no matter the stress level) and the recruiting organization (no matter the workload). The stats that Claudia has shared are ones with which many of us are all too familiar. Two of the three can and should be addressed through some form of communication has both Steve and George have suggested. One would think that with the communication tools available to us in this day and age that a better job would be done.

We have done surveys on this for a long time, and I can tell you from the feedback we get from both our executive members as well as our RecruitSmart members, much work remains.
I agree with the sentiments - these candidates are reaching out to you - and they are people. I realize the volume is getting larger - time for triage. Everyone needs attention - some need more than others (based on priorities you set). In any market, a candidate who takes the time to respond to an open position at your company deserves some form of acknowledgement. In addition, most, not all, candidates will respect your direction and be grateful for your direct and honest communication. Please remember to treat your candidates like people - and in the manner that you would like to be treated if you were unemployed and scared.
From a strictly recruiting perspective, I agree with you Steve. A great recruiter is always scouting for talent, and should be given the opportunity to snap the good ones up when and where available. But from a recruiting management perspective my role is heavily tied to planning and execution which is tied to specific business objectives. Budgets do apply, and the larger the business, the greater the need for well-constructed channels of process (yikes, I hate that word but it is true). Process smooths the communication process because of routine; good process also provides checks and balances for auditing.

Battle scars from these kinds of environments have helped me to understand that the truth is almost always hiding between the extremes: you gotta have structure for hiring, and you gotta hire the really good ones even when a requisition isn't open. One without the other puts a business at a distinct disadvantage when competing for talent.

Steve Levy said:
What galls me about recruiters are those who won't take a step outside their job description to be true talent scouts. The onus should not be all on the person looking to be your employee. Our job is not just to match spec to resume; it's to look at the twinkle in the eye or the body language that speaks volumes. To recognize talent then go back to the house and see if there's space for another person.
Joe, your brilliance lies in your passion for not losing sight of the human element in hiring. Communication is a cornerstone of trust and transparency; and thankfully technology can extend our reach when there aren't enough hours in the day. Love how you think about these things!

Joe Cummings said:
What a GREAT reply..Excellent!!

I have been in this great industry for 20 years and have seen my fair share of ups and downs in the market. With the ups in the job market, the clients are the ones begging us for help and we all love that. With the downs, it is the applicant, yes at times being very difficult to work with. But what we have to keep in mind they are coming from desperation and highly stressed out.

I agree, folowing the recruiter down the street and into the restroom is a bit much..It would be a big old red flag for me!!!

The candidate must have a clear understanding of what we can AND/OR cannot do for them. If they are not right for the position you are recruiting for.. tell them and offer suggestions to them on where they should look. Being honest, helpful and understanding with those I couldn't help has lead to new clients once they found a job. The candidate ALWAYS remembers the good you did for them and will result in referrals. Give them your e mail address and have them send a quick note to see how their search is going. It's PR!!

With the candidates we are working with, I am a big fan of e mailing to us their availability and progress they have made on their own looking for a new opportunity. When they call in it takes away the time you should be using on the phone marketing your candidates to prospects and clients. Email them back towards the end of the day. With a great candidate you always want to keep the conversation going. Remember, we need our applicants just as much a we need our clients.

Joe Cummings
President/C.E.O.
Royal Associates/Royal Staffing
Dave, I am a huge fan of the work that ExecuNet does to raise awareness of perceptions in recruitment, hiring and retention. And I agree strongly that we have so much further to go.

Dave Opton said:
We have done surveys on this for a long time, and I can tell you from the feedback we get from both our executive members as well as our RecruitSmart members, much work remains.
This is the very heart of this issue, isn't it Kimberly? And to translate the words (which are a statment of intention) into matching behavior with limited resources in a high volume environment is one of the greatest challenges for a recruiter, or a manager of recruiters.

We've all heard horror stories of poor candidate experience, but I'm curious to know if the pendulum can also swing the opposite direction? I mean, is it possible to provide such a high level of candidate experience that the business suffers as a result? Would love to know your thoughts.

Kimberly said:
Please remember to treat your candidates like people - and in the manner that you would like to be treated if you were unemployed and scared.

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