The Hiring Cattle Call Can Sully Your Brand

In acting they call it a "cattle call." Hundreds of up-and-coming actors file in to the same audition in hopes of being chosen for a role. It's quite a demeaning process. Kind of hard to tell with a name like "cattle call," but the process goes something like this: The actor stands in the center of a cold, uninviting room and faces a table with what is essentially a panel of judges, similar to a firing squad. The actor does his absolute best rendition of the part, putting it all there for an audience of grim-faced casting directors. If the actor is lucky, he might get a smile, but often it's simply a, "Thank you...NEXT!" Makes you glad you're not an actor, right?

Sadly, this same "cattle call" structure for hiring occurs in companies all over the world. Matter of fact, it could be happening in your company as we speak. I know what you're thinking. “Why does it matter? I'm looking for one candidate, and once I find that person I don’t have time to respond to the hundreds of unqualified people who applied. The majority of these candidates are put out to pasture."

The main reason to care is that the hundreds you didn’t respond to are sharing their experience in an increasingly public variety of ways. Word of mouth from the people who have an impersonal and demeaning hiring experience at your company can effectively throw your brand under the bus. And here's the kicker: The voices of those rejected candidates have grown exponentially more powerful over the years. Forget about word of mouth and say hello to "word of Tweet." Our little friend social media, while giving companies a new marketing arm, also returns some power to the people.

Don't believe me? Have you ever heard of something called "the Arab Spring.”? An entire movement formed by the Middle Eastern people who came together on Facebook and Twitter. It's here, it's happening. If someone has a bad experience with your company, it's not just their close friends who are hearing about it.

Now, before you start locking the doors and boarding the windows in anticipation of the rejected-candidate revolution, please let me ease your mind. This phenomenon called "The Candidate Experience" need not be a detriment; it is actually a HUGE marketing opportunity for your company. Realize you have thousands of candidates researching your company and seeking your employment. Stop looking at them like a herd of cattle when what you really have is a fan base. Yes, there are only a few positions available, but please don't waste the opportunity to give the rest of your fan base a great experience.

How do you do that? Simple: Make it personal, and give them feedback. If you have a great company, let these candidates experience it. Ideally, let them speak to a live person face to face or on the phone rather than sending them to some cold, uninviting “black hole” website. Make sure someone follows up with them after they apply. Let them know that you received their application and be sure to let them know if they weren't accepted. There is nothing worse for a candidate than sitting around the phone for weeks and never hearing a thing. Most importantly, give your candidate good honest feedback. If they didn't qualify for your job, tell them why. If there was something on the resume you didn't like, tell them, so they know what to fix.

Ok, so now I can hear you saying “Who has time for this type of high-touch experience with hundreds of unqualified applicants?” Luckily, much of this can be done via technology. You can put videos up for candidates to see a live person talking about the company, and you can make sure that your online-screening technology has automated response functions in it to provide instant feedback to candidates as to where they are in the process, and even better, you can provide instant and relevant feedback to the candidate to help them improve. All this can be done easily and inexpensively without any overhead or labor. There is nothing your candidates will appreciate more than you helping them get their next job. Once you see the results of providing a stellar candidate experience, you'll wonder why you never saw that hiring is one of your best marketing opportunities.

[Image: Flickr user Alex E. Proimos]

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3 Comments

  • Gerry Crispin

    In an effort to give more acknowledgment to firms who do treat candidates with more respect, a group of staffing leaders (including myself) formed a non-profit earlier this year, Talentboard, and set up the 2011 Candidate Experience Awards.

    The first CandE Awards will be presented at a major conference, HR Technology Conference & Expo, in Las Vegas this October.The awards required companies who applied to not only respond to how they treat candidates in each of 5 stages but to also supply real candidates to respond to  a separate survey to confirm what the companies said. 58 companies applied. About 25 are in the final stages of getting candidates to confirm. More than 4,000 candidate surveys have been completed with two weeks remaining.

    While application the awards for 2011 are closed, the response suggests that making the 'good guys' more visible via specific and transparent practices might change the game for job seekers who care about avoiding cattle calls.

  • David Lee

    Social media connects people in numerous ways.  If you are looking to hire someone whose use of social media is part of the job you must accept that many of your candidates might be connected virtually.  If you aren't honest with candidates the odds are you will get caught.  The lack of integrity in the hiring process reflects on what people think of the company in general.  I recently saw this first hand with a Fortune 500 company seeking an Employment Brand Manager.  The effect on their employment brand is tarnished and is spilling over to peoples opinion of the consumer brand.  People respect honesty and everyone knows that only one person can be hired for each position.