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When hiring, treat every candidate like they might work for you someday — even if they’re not getting this job

Applicants who are qualified should feel welcomed to apply again in the future, and they should want to, Talent Board's Kevin Grossman says. Here's his advice for a better candidate experience at all levels.

Stressed jobseekers. (Photo via

When hiring, the only candidates you should be concerned with are the ones who advance to the hiring stage — right?

Not in this economy. Or ever, if you’re doing it right.

Talent Board President Kevin Grossman, who spoke about candidate experience as part of’s Introduced video series, discussed the importance of a perception of fairness on the part of every candidate.

“Most candidates for any given job aren’t getting the job,” he said. “It’s always a small group out of every 100 candidates, maybe one or two or three [who are hired], depending on what the volume of hiring is.”

You don’t want those 97 or so other candidates leaving feeling wronged. Those who are qualified should feel welcomed to apply again in the future, and they should want to. And if you’re a consumer-based business, you definitely don’t want them to leave swearing off buying your product or service.

Everything impacts experience

In HR recruiting, you may be completely focused on who is going to be getting an offer, and the candidates are focused on getting hired. But while the recruiter is zeroing in on the specifics of the candidates, for the candidates themselves, everything about the experience has impact.

“All the things that you’re doing as an employer — your people, your process, your technology — impacts that experience,” Grossman said, discussing Talent Board’s research. “So it’s all the things, whether I’m conscious of it or not, at the end of the day. And what we do know is that on the positive side, the majority of the candidates — 90-plus percent — don’t get hired, [but] 30% of them are still likely, they say, to refer others, to apply again and to make purchases if it’s a consumer-based business. Though it does skew negative, we find that there is a third of candidates that, when it’s a positive experience, are willing to do it again.”

Communication and feedback

You’ve probably heard about the importance of communication and feedback when recruiting. It’s basic, old-fashioned advice that continues to hold up, Grossman said.

“I feel like I’m this grumpy old man telling people that it’s the same things every year: Communication and feedback loops make all the difference, get off my lawn,” he quipped. “But while there definitely are different trends that we’ve seen over the years, especially the past two years [of the pandemic], for the most part, communication and feedback are huge differentiators every single year in candidate experience. Why do we still let those who apply never hear from us ever again?”

Use automation, but keep it real

Most employers use some kind of automation in their hiring process, such as auto responders when a candidate submits a resume. That doesn’t mean it has to be robotic.

“We still control what we say, how we say it, when we say it and what most candidates should be getting,” Grossman said. “There’s some human interaction in and out of that, but unfortunately many companies aren’t dispositioning, as the industry calls it, or rejecting or saying ‘Thank you, but we’re going to pass’ and doing it in a timely fashion.

Dealing with serial appliers

There are some candidates that make things go less than smoothly. People who apply for each and every job, including jobs they are not qualified for — called serial appliers — can be a problem that is even challenging with automation. Even in those cases, the annoying, unqualified candidate of today might be a contender of tomorrow.

“You can try to have what they call knockout questions, trying to get people to screen themselves out early on,” Grossman said.

Knockout questions can range from “Do you have X degree/license/certification” to “Do you have X years of experience in the field” to “Are you able to work weekends” if those things are essential for the role. These to-the-point questions can disqualify a candidate in a second.

They’re not a guaranteed solution, though, if an underqualified candidate is determined, he said: “There are those that are trying to get through the process, that are interested in a given job and really believe that they have something for that job, or that they’re somehow qualified somewhat enough for that job.”

Avoid resentment

An unhired candidate can leave disappointed but still feeling positively enough to consider applying again, or disappointed enough to leave feeling more negatively about the company than before. Sometimes, they leave beyond disappointed, with tons of resentment. These are candidates that are likely to tell everyone they know not to apply to your company or give it their business.

In feedback, these are candidates who rate their experience as horrible, giving it the lowest rating possible.

“[The candidate] could be extremely happy with the experience and then somebody doesn’t respond to them and it goes south,” Grossman said. “That’s the reality, though, of recruiting and hiring — and not just with external candidates, with your own employees as well. Those are things that can definitely impact referrals, which is one thing that companies definitely depend on.”

Candidate experience in an evolving market

The pandemic brought a lot of changes, and a lot of flexibility to jobs and the hiring process. Some companies have seen high turnover and a shortage of talent — which is all the more reason to strive for a candidate experience that doesn’t alienate the majority who won’t be hired.

“For now, we will continue to be a candidate market,” Grossman said  “I don’t know how long it will last. I think at some point, the employers still hold the cards, even for the most sought after candidates that you’re looking for for hard-to-fill positions. You as the employers, you’re the ones that are hiring, you’re the ones that are offering the money, the salary, the benefits. The experience will impact what they decide to do.”

Watch the full video:

Projects: Builders Conference / Philly Tech Week

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