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The Future of Work

How Your Company's Lame Hiring Process Is Losing You Customers

Virgin Media realized it was losing almost as much as it spent on hiring when rejected job candidates switched to its competitors.

How Your Company's Lame Hiring Process Is Losing You Customers

[Image: courtesy of Virgin Media]

In 2014, Virgin Media took a "Rejected Candidate Survey" of the people it had turned down for jobs. A quick run of the numbers revealed that 18% of them were customers, and roughly 7,500—6% of the total number of applicants—switched to a Virgin competitor as result of a poor recruitment experience.

Now, that may not sound like much, and you could dismiss this as "sour grapes" behavior, but Virgin Media was nevertheless looking at roughly £4.4 million in lost revenue as a result—almost as much as the company spent that year on hiring.

As I've written before, some forward-thinking companies are adding marketing budgets for boosting their brands as employers. Employer branding stems from a simple idea: your company's reputation among consumers intersects with its reputation as an employer. If customers like your products and services and also see you as a great place to work, you'll stand a better chance at attracting committed, high-caliber talent.

But it isn't just how you treat existing employees that matters—it's also how you recruit and hire them. Here's how to create a recruitment strategy that actually earns you revenue, rather than loses it.

How The Way You Treat Candidates Can Earn Or Lose You Money

A major part of every company’s employer brand is its hiring process. Focusing on improving how job candidates feel about your hiring practices can lead not only to better quality hires and cost-savings on recruiting, it can also drive sales—creating a virtuous circle.

The employer branding and candidate experience firm, Ph Creative is currently working with Grame Johnson, head of resourcing at Virgin Media, to help them revamp how they recruit and process job candidates. The company's goal, as Johnson explains, is "to be the good guys" by offering content and resources designed to help everyone who applies for a job—even if it isn’t with Virgin Media.

To do that, Ph Creative and Virgin Media thought, "What about the 82% who aren’t customers?" What would the ramifications be if they could convert just 5% of them into customers as a result of a great hiring process? That would mean up to 5,500 new customers and an added £3.3 million in potential revenue.

It isn't hard to see why investing in employer branding and candidate experience can have a major impact on a company’s bottom line. Ph Creative CEO Bryan Adams tells me that his firm expects a lot more companies to follow Virgin Media’s lead:

The candidate experience is a huge opportunity to inspire and attract people to champion your brand. Disparity between customer and candidate experience poses considerable business risks, especially in the event of a large overlap. From our experience, it’s simply not being given sufficient due respect or attention. Our work with Virgin Media, however, demonstrates a huge opportunity for brands that approach their candidate experience from a slightly different perspective.

Ultimately, candidate experience is a form of customer service. The better you are at delighting candidates—including the ones you turn away—the more money you stand to make.

But, if that doesn’t motivate you, then consider the reverse: Neglect your recruiting process and you risk losing potentially millions of dollars—flushing your hiring budget down the toilet.

New research by LinkedIn shows that a failure to invest in employer branding can cost companies quite a hunk of cash. For example, LinkedIn’s VP of Talent Solutions Wade Burgess recently shared several sobering findings:

The cost of a bad reputation for a company with 10,000 employees could be as much as $7.6 million in additional wages. Based on the average U.S. salary being $47,230 (according to BLS), assumed annual turnover of 16.4%, and a minimum 10% per cent pay rise.

Three Ways To Boost Your Candidate Experience

So how can you improve your hiring process so that even the candidates you don't give offers to still feel good about your brand and stick around as customers? Here are a few tips to get you started.

1. Ask candidates to rate you. Virgin took a good first step simply by surveying rejected candidates. As they say, "that which gets measured gets improved." The goal is to come up with a "net promoter score"—the degree to which job candidates say they'd recommend you to somebody else as an employer, simply by virtue of their experience with your hiring process. That can help you validate the need to invest in improving it and to know where to place your focus.

2. Rethink how you reject candidates. When you don’t get the job, it hurts. When a company treats you poorly and rejects you, some people don’t just get mad, they want to get even—and who can blame them? Consumers have choice, and it's their prerogative to exercise it. Companies like Hootsuite are rethinking the rejection process in a way that focuses on building trust and earning the respect of every applicant. Are you just dashing off a two-line rejection email to the candidates you turn down? Or leaving them hanging completely? Getting this piece right can make a serious impact on your bottom line.

3. Share openly (and often!) what it’s like to work at your company. Showcase your employment brand, including your recruitment process, through videos, articles, and pictures. And since so many companies have no content whatsoever on this score, a little can go a long way. So can using social media to open up a dialogue with candidates. Chances are a sizable chunk of your followers are at least passively interested in working for you. Talk to them in real time. Respond to their questions and invite them to learn more about you.

When you show candidates you care, they’ll return the love. When you don't, they'll probably respond in kind. Ultimately, what holds true in customer service applies in recruiting and hiring, too: It costs more money to get a new customer than to keep an existing one. Mind your job candidates, and your bottom line will show it.

J.T. O’Donnell is the CEO of CAREEREALISM, a site for "job shoppers." Her company hosts the new web video series, "The Job Shop," which each month showcases the employer brands of companies to more than 1 million professionals seeking new opportunities. Follow her on Twitter at @jtodonnell.

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