Brand perception implications of recruitment rejections

There is a clear link between brand-perception and the employment perception of a firm. With many firms who are selling to consumers, there is an increased likeliness that candidates are also customers. We’ve seen instances where four times as many candidates were existing customers as you’d expect from a random sample of the same population.

Candidates and customers don’t typically differentiate between the experience they receive during a recruitment process and how they expect the firm to behave in a customer relationship, especially in an area where there have been no existing experiences. It is normal for a candidate of an insurance firm to use experiences set during a recruitment application to develop expectations of how the firm will behave when confronted by a claim.

Given the emotions and importance of job-changing for candidates the recruitment process is a time when it’s possible to build strong brand advocates (if you exceed expectations) or to easily ruin the hard work spent developing a strong customer relationship.

One measure that is linked closely to perceptions, and can be seen from transaction-based data, is how long the process takes. The most important time periods are those when the candidate doesn’t know what will happen next, for example between submitting the application and being invited to interview, or after an interview and before hearing if they will get to the next stage.

Time-based data like this is best understood through distributions rather than the more typical (in HR metrics at least) averages. Our favourite way of illustrating this is through box plots. It is useful to explore the data through various cuts, filters and brushing techniques using box plot visualizations to explore differences between the experiences of various groups. One implication of needing to view data like this it that when designing systems is that it is important to record periods when candidates are likely to feel uncertain. This typically is through well designed stages in the system.

One of the key views that you should be making is by splitting the data by the stage the candidate reached during the process. Here is an example that would be typical for many firms. The measures on the horizontal scale are the number of days between an application being sent and that application being closed (the candidate rejected for the position or withdrawing). The categories here are the number of interview stages, where 0 means that a candidate wasn’t called for interview.


a typical distribution of application durations

One of the key results here is that candidates typically wait longer if they aren’t invited to interview than if they are (and for this firm – unfortunately not at all atypical – 25% of candidates have to wait at least 77.5 days!) Why is this happening? Typically this type of result shows that recruiters are holding-off from rejecting candidates until they are confident the recruitment process is going well, or the position is filled. The result of this behaviour is the long time that the majority of applicants/customers experience. How do you think this behavior will effect brand perception?

From our research a better way of developing the process would be for recruiters to reject candidates as soon as it is decided not to invite them to interview. With this alternative approach the majority of candidates would receive a a quicker response time. If the recruitment process needed to be restarted then we have found that few candidates mind being contacted and asked if they wanted to be considered. In many instances the earlier recruitment process changes what the firm is looking for so it’s reasonable to communicate that the requirements have changed and the candidate is now suitable.

Details such as how and when to communicate with candidates can be developed through research – there can be differences due to norms in the relevant recruitment market-segment. We recommend spending effort getting communications right and testing these with candidate groups before using. Wording can make a huge difference.

From a brand-perspective understanding how the recruitment process is altering brand perception is vital. Whilst nobody likes to be turned away, most people understand that it can and will happen and respect companies who do it in a sensitive manner.