Candidate Experience: To Call or Not To Call by @PJradloff

Jan 8, 2015
This article is part of a series called Opinion.

Dialing A Phone NumberAs we all know by now, candidate experience is all the rage, and rightfully so. When the lifeblood of your career in this industry is based on your relationships with the people you interact with, this is exceptionally true.  But ensuring each candidate gets 1:1 personal treatment can be a daunting task, and in many cases, so overwhelming, that communication gets ignored completely. And closure (of any kind) is important to a candidate. After all, it’s stressful to be in a full-on job search. Not hearing anything back only compounds this stress.

From a recruiter’s perspective, we ideally want to be able to provide that personal touch and experience for all candidates. However, reality can set in, and being able to personally call or talk to each candidate who has applied becomes nothing more than fantasy. But for many of the people we connect with, knowing where they stand is just good enough.  Don’t believe that? Sift through the results of any of the last few years of the Candidate Experience Awards data. It matters.

And when closing the loop, how do you decide when to call and when to just email? Sadly, it’s not an exact science. But then again, recruiting isn’t an exact science either, which further muddies the waters. There aren’t rules, only guidelines, and the guidelines can vary from recruiter to recruiter and industry to industry.  So, here’s a sample framework for knowing which method of response to use when closing the loop. Your individual preference may vary.

Scenario 1: Candidate Application – No Contact – Rejection

Depending on the size of your company, the amount of openings you have, the size of your team, and how broadly you post your jobs, your candidate flow will vary. Candidates who aren’t even remotely qualified will apply for your jobs. It may not be realistic to reach out individually and personally to each person.

If they’ve applied, but there has been no direct contact, it’s OK to close things out with an email. It’s even acceptable if it is a form email. It’s something. And it’s even better if the email from your ATS (or Outlook?) comes from a real person’s email address.  Yeah, you’ll get the occasional crazy, but they are the exception and not the rule. And what if you get a referral for this or another role, just because they were impressed that you took the time to respond? This is worth it for the positive perception it builds with candidates. From a candidate’s perspective, the relief comes in knowing “hey at least they let me know I didn’t get it”

Side Note: Your internal practices may dictate additional steps, based on the structure of your company’s Employee Referral Program, so keep that in mind.

Scenario 2: Phone Interview Rejection

Let’s take it a step further, and say that they had a 20-30 minute call with you, the recruiter. But after speaking with them and reviewing your notes, or discussing their profile with the hiring manager, they are determined to not be a fit. In this case, you’re probably covered if you just send a personalized email saying that you are not moving forward, but would keep them in mind for the future opportunities. You’re fostering some trust with the candidate, and that is valuable in 3 months if they are a great fit for a new role.

On the other hand, if the candidate has had a phone interview with the manager, you can go either way. It really depends on your experience and relationship with the candidate. There isn’t a hard-and-fast catch all for how you should play this. That said, any written communications should be personalized and definitely not form emails. After all, they did spend anywhere between 30 and 90 minutes cumulatively talking with you and the hiring manager, so if you need to email, make it personal.

Scenario 3: In-Person Interview Rejection

Without question, this is the easiest one of the bunch. This is always a personal call. Always. Always. This person came in for several hours to get grilled by the hiring team. There’s a good chance they probably did the “Superman Change” if they were headed back to their job, and they took time off work to come meet with your company. Call them and explain that they didn’t get the job. Provide feedback if you are able (and if you are comfortable with this). Essentially, you want to provide them the soft landing that you’d want for yourself. Few other things in the candidate experience realm can be more damaging to your reputation as a recruiter and a company than to not provide any response to someone who came in to meet you. Unless of course, you used the form email.


Because candidates matter. Because your professional reputation matters. And most importantly, one day you’ll likely be in that same spot looking for some type of closure about a job.

image credit: bigstock

This article is part of a series called Opinion.
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