Tales from a Jobseeker



So anyway, a customer walks into a shop with his money in his hand and enquires about several products with the sales assistants. The first assistant doesn’t like the jumper he’s wearing and ignores him.

The second assistant greets him initially, then loses interest and walks off. The third assistant decides quietly to himself that the customer is too old for these products and after some polite small talk, attempts to persuade the customer that they don’t want to buy these products.

The fourth assistant decides to himself that the customer won’t be able to fit the products into his car and also loses interest. The customer eventually gives up, shops next door, and goes to meet his friends to whom he relates the entire sorry tale. Those friends decide not to shop in the offending store and tell their friends and family about the experience too. They all start shopping next door.

Alright it’s hammy, but you know where I’m going. In today’s age, customers and candidates are the same thing – there is no difference. Those of you who have heard me speak on the subject of brand will remember that in my opinion, a brand is all about experience. We form our opinions through experience; our opinions and experience drive many of our behaviours. I’m not alone in this opinion, that’s why companies invest so heavily in their customer experience. Your opinions about their tax issues aside, Amazon is the massive success that it is because of the fantastic customer experience they provide (One Click anyone?). And I suspect you will find that the experience is so compelling that Amazon will probably ride out the swell of public opinion in a way Starbucks cannot. In today’s world where the customer and candidate converge in so many markets this experience becomes a matter of some importance.

As such, I’ve spent many years talking about the importance of experience and trying to improve the candidate (and subsequently, employee) experience with mixed results, but it’s something that’s always high on my list of priorities.

So when I started job hunting I braced myself for some poor experiences, and boy oh boy have I had them! I expected hideous ATS applications, automated emails and long delays and I wasn’t disappointed. But here’s the worst bit, and I’m sorry to jump on the bashing bandwagon, but the vast majority of those poor experiences have come not from ATS’s but from….you guessed it….recruitment consultants.

I’ve had the whole host of scenarios: ignored applications, screened calls, unreturned messages, direct referrals ignored – the lot (and before you say it, I’ve been applying for roles that are a close match to my skills and experience – these haven’t been unrealistically aspirational applications). I’ve recently found out (by slightly covert methods) that the latest recruitment consultant to ignore my application has done so because she has decided that I live too far away for the role. This isn’t a conversation we’ve had, she’s just decided it on her own. And of course, she hasn’t told me about this.  From a client perspective, if I found out that a recruitment consultant acting for my company had made such an arbitrary decision I know I’d be having pretty stern words.

And so I’ve been left wondering how many of the clients using these consultants have any inkling of the treatment their candidates are receiving in their name (let’s be honest, even the unnamed clients are pretty easy to guess)? How would they feel about the impact this has on their brand? But here’s the bit I simply can’t get my head around: given my field, many of the roles I’ve applied for will have management of the agency PSL. Surely it doesn’t take a genius to work out that, of all the candidates out there, as a recruitment consultant, these are the ones to look after regardless of status? These are the people who will have either the final say or a significant influence in whether or not your company continues to be used; doesn’t it pay dividends to treat them with at least a minimum level of courtesy? Even if you dismiss a candidate as inappropriate, if they are in this field it is likely they will turn up somewhere you want to do business. With first hand experience of the treatment candidates experience at your hands do you really think you will make the PSL in future? Even if you don’t really care what happens to your client’s reputation when you deliver this type of candidate experience surely you care about the impact it has on your own brand?

I know, it sounds like the rant of a bitter and twisted woman right? You’ll have to put that down to poor composition. It’s partly my fault I admit: I have a tendency to believe that everyone is decent and ethical and this inevitably leads to disappointment from time to time. However it’s worth mentioning that there have been two shining lights on the recruitment consultant front, so there are some good eggs out there. I’ve also had some fantastic treatment from direct applications too, so it’s not the end of the world. Would you like to know what made them positive? Information and contact. Nothing else. I simply received timely and informative responses. And it really doesn’t have to be anymore complicated than that. If you don’t have the resources to radically overhaul your application process then simply focus on giving timely feedback and information and you’ll be fine.

On another positive note there’s nothing like a little bit of time on the receiving end to charge you with renewed enthusiasm (more like fanaticism…) for the vital importance of creating a positive candidate and employee experience*.

So let me make this plea to all of you who are, in one capacity or another, responsible for dealing with candidates: when you dismiss applications, make sure you’re doing so on defensible grounds; acknowledge an application, even if you can only manage an automated email; and tell candidates if you’re not proceeding with their application.

In short, treat candidates like you would treat your customers. Because guess what? They are your customers.


*See my earlier point: experience=brand. Anyone who values their employer brand should start with the experience they provide their candidates and employees.


This post was written by the fantastically talented Sarah Lenton – follow her on Twitter here.