Is Your Hiring Process Hurting Your Recruiting Brand?

Is Your Hiring Process Hurting Your Recruiting Brand?

By David Lee

“Your website and application process is the absolute worst I’ve ever encountered. Hopefully your company is not as disorganized as this site makes you appear.”

“…I was completely disappointed in the lack of professionalism and consideration. If this is how potential new employees are treated, I can only surmise that existing employees are treated poorly, too.”

“This experience has changed many perceptions about (your company) for us forever. We may choose other healthcare options in the future.”

–Source: anonymous job applicants, responding to Improved Experience employer surveys


Are job applicants saying things like this about your organization to their friends and family? Do you know what job applicants are saying about you? Do you know what your job application and hiring process say about you as an employer?

If you’re thinking “Who cares, it’s an employer’s market,” feel free to stop reading this and move on. This article isn’t for you.

However, if you agree with the following four points, this article is for you.

  1. Your competitive strength will always depend on your ability to attract and retain the cream of the talent crop — regardless of the economy or unemployment rate.
  2. Your employer brand isn’t just affected by the experience you deliver to your employees. It’s also shaped by your job application and hiring process.
  3. As explored in an earlier article of mine, when it comes to your employer brand, “Everything Matters.” Every interaction job applicants have with your organization has the potential of shaping your employer brand. The experience they take away with them can profoundly affect your reputation as an employer and, in many cases, as a provider of products and services. Therefore, if you want employer of choice status, examine each step in the job application and hiring experience.
  4. When the economy does turn around, companies who have great talent already in place — and not just worn out, warm bodies doing time — these are the companies positioned to capitalize on emerging opportunities.

What Does Your Job Application and Hiring Process Say About You to the Labor Market?

Stop and reflect on each step job applicants take in your application and hiring process.

Ask yourself whether each step communicates that:

You’re a well-run company, one they could feel proud to be part of…

or…

You’re a slipshod, second rate organization.

Employees are treated with respect in your organization…

or…

Disrespect and incivility are the norm in your organization.

Do You Make These Common Job Application and Hiring Mistakes?

Based on the survey responses she has seen over the years, Claudia Faust, CEO of Improved Experience, recommends that employers ask themselves if they are making these employer-brand-damaging job application and hiring process mistakes:

A confusing, and sometimes infuriating, online job application experience that leaves a horrible early impression. Remember, everything matters. Not only does a poorly designed online experience leave the job applicant with a bad taste in their mouth, it also communicates:

  • “This is a poorly run organization that accepts mediocrity.”
  • “We’re not concerned enough about would-be employees to provide them with a user-friendly experience.”

In his excellent article “We Should Be Ashamed,” Kevin Wheeler describes an experience a talented friend had wrestling with poorly designed, information-deprived corporate recruiting sites:

Most of them lacked good general information and offered nothing specific about the kind of work he was interested in. Only one of the sites listed the position he knew was open, offered little information about the position except the usual boilerplate, and then asked him to go through a tedious process of uploading a resume. None of them really learned anything about him or his referral. No questions, no interactivity, nothing. He didn’t know what they really wanted to know about him, and they certainly weren’t providing him much that was useful.

Requiring more than 20 minutes to fill out an online job application. Notes Faust: “Based on our interviews and survey data, 20 minutes seems to be the tolerance threshold for applications. After that, interest turns to annoyance and drop-offs.”

Faust goes on to recommend that employers examine what is the “right amount of information to collect at the right time.”

“When job seekers are required to provide details up front that aren’t pertinent until a later stage of assessment, the process may be efficient, but experience suffers. If your first interaction feels like a proctology visit, where’s the incentive for job seekers to deepen the relationship with your company? And for those who remain engaged in the painful process, doesn’t it beg the question ‘why?’ It’s important to think about the behaviors you’re filtering in — and out.”

An exhaustive application followed up by… nothing. Back to the saga of Kevin Wheeler’s friend. After surviving his death match with the company’s website, he never received a response. When he called, the voice mail message said someone would get back to him. No one did. Six weeks after his initial contact, friends inside the organization told him the position was still open.

What are the odds that this talented, currently employed passive candidate will ever apply for a position in this company? What are the odds he has told others of his impression?

Disrespectful Interview Behavior. Alise Cortez, an independent consultant and board member at Improved Experience, found the prevalence of incivility reported by applicants startling. “Job applicants report a surprising level of basic discourtesy: managers showing up late and not apologizing. Others… not even showing up. You know it happens, but it’s astounding how frequently it does happen. I hear from candidates all the time the manager answered cell phone calls during the interview. They end up saying:

“I wanted this job so badly, but now I am certain I don’t want it.”

“I think ‘if this is the way they treat prospective employees, do I really want to work with them?'”

Because We’re Pattern-Seeing, Generalization-Creating Creatures…

If you review the survey respondent quotes at the beginning of this article, notice the connections they made between their experience in the recruiting process and their broader impressions of the organization as an employer. Notice how some even extrapolated their experience to include a new — and unflattering — perception of the employer’s status as a service provider.

We make these connections and create generalizations because our brains are hard-wired to see patterns — even when they’re not there.

That’s why as customers we can have an unpleasant experience with a call center representative and think “This is a lousy company. I’m never going to do business with them again.” Although it was one person, we naturally — without trying — extrapolate that experience to include the whole business.

This is one of the reasons why I’m always preaching everything matters when it comes to onboarding (or any aspect of the employee experience and its potential impact on engagement and morale).

So Find Out What They Think — and Say — About You

In today’s world of social media, a careless, thoughtless, or clueless recruiting process can offer unlimited opportunities for employer-brand-damaging PR.

So, if you’re serious about enjoying the benefits of a great employer brand, and engaging new hires from their very first interaction, find out what job applicants think about your hiring process.

I recommend that you use both a survey and interviews. While surveys can give you important breadth of information, interviews can give you the more granular, in-depth information you’ll need to upgrade and refine your process.

No matter what, though, ask them about their experience.

You may be surprised about what you hear.


David Lee, the founder of HumanNature@Work and StoriesThatChange.com, is the author of nearly 100 articles and book chapters on maximizing employee and organizational performance, which have been published in North America, Europe, India, China, and Australia. The second edition of the business class The Talent Management Handbook includes a chapter of his on onboarding. He is also the author of Powerful Storytelling Techniques. For questions related to this article, email him at david@humannatureatwork.com