May 19, 2016

It’s all about people, not systems and compliance


When one looks at the hundreds of articles published about candidate care, they all say the same: be organized, answer all candidates, use a system to track all applicants. Moreover, there is the growing importance of diversity, non-discrimination, etc.

These are all important aspects, but it struck me that essential issues are seldom covered. There will always be someone who gets forgotten in the process, but the biggest damage is not being done by forgetting to give a negative answer to some candidates. The crux is rather the treatment of those candidates who have passed the first hurdle and are being invited for interviews. As a headhunter, I am often surprised (considering also the amount of money invested by the client into the search) by the way things are handled by hiring managers once it gets to a personal contact.

Some examples of this are:

  • Having a candidate travel for several hours one way and receiving him for 30 minutes without offering him a coffee or showing him the company
  • Inviting a senior executive for an interview for a position worth several hundred thousand per year and buying him a second class train ticket
  • Interviewing people, giving them a positive feedback and then losing interest because there is a hiring freeze or a change in the profile sought and not giving feedback anymore to the candidate or the recruiter
  • Not reacting to a profile for several weeks or months and then coming back, expecting the candidate to be enthusiastic about the job offer
  • Suggesting only one interview date and time, and expecting the candidate to be available even though a big effort has often been made to identify him and „sell“ him the job, respectively acting as if the company had a hundred possible candidates even though there are only a few qualified individuals

These candidates have often received a lot of information about the company, its strategy and general situation, as they have been in close contact with one or more of its senior executives. Having had a prolonged exchange with the company and not just a negative reply to an application, they will naturally remember their experience in more detail and, especially if it has been negative, share it with a great number of people (there is no lack of studies showing that it takes about 12 positive experiences to compensate for a negative one.

This will be shared in different ways with a large number of people and may even have an impact on client or market views of the firm. Last but not least, the candidate the company actually would like to hire may end up declining the job as he doesn’t feel treated respectfully.

So what should you do as an HR Business Partner? On the one hand, it is important to coach the hiring managers in such a way that they will become aware of this (if, for example, they have very little time for the candidate, they can inform him about this in advance and also delegate showing them around to another person).

It might be a good idea reminding oneself that the candidate of choice often needs to be convinced, and that expecting him to adhere to company culture from the first contact on might not be reasonable.

So it could be of great value to give the candidates the chance of making a realistic assessment of the situation he will find when he starts work, while still “selling” the environment and the role to him. Most importantly, one should not forget that this is all about interaction between human beings with emotions, values and principles.

Grégoire Depeursinge

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