Candidate care: the secret to a winning hiring strategy

First, it was the “next normal.” Then came the “great resignation.” And now, it’s “ghosting” (again).

A recent Fast Company article discussed the newest hiring hurdle for employers, ghosting. This is not a new concept, but it’s become more widespread lately. According to research from, 28% of candidates ghosted an employer during 2020, which is up from 18% in 2019.

And the ghosting can happen anywhere along the hiring process – not showing up for an interview, not responding to phone calls or emails and sometimes, even bailing on the first day of work. The resurgence of this phenomenon speaks volumes about how candidates and/or employees have reclaimed the power in this volatile job market that has favored employers for decades. Now, the ghosted have become the ghoster.

Turnabout is fair play

For years, the number one complaint about the hiring process from candidates was that employers would often “ghost” them during the hiring process. What’s more, they would eventually receive an automatic notification several months later after the job closed. And for some, they never receive any communication at all.

My husband experienced this when seeking a new leadership role. Even though he was going in as a referral, he still had to apply through their system. From the date he officially submitted his application to the time he was offered the role; six months had passed! And the offer came ONLY because he had another offer on the table and the employer didn’t want to lose him. Fortunately, he was a passive candidate and in no hurry, but this is often not the case.

During this six-month process, the communications from the employer were few and far between. He would go for months without responses. And when he did hear from them, it would be automated messages that didn’t align with the leadership he was speaking with. The leaders he was talking to would give very positive feedback and then disappear for weeks.

While this experience damaged his initial view of this well-known and highly regarded organization, it worked out well for him. But what if he hadn’t gotten the job? He might still have a poor view of this employer.

This lack of communication from employers (and staffing firms) makes for a horrible candidate experience. Now that the shoe is on the other foot, the power is in the candidate’s hands. And with multiple opportunities to choose from, they are adopting the ethereal approach of ghosting versus communicating.

In response, we in the staffing industry and you, as employers, must take care of the candidates by providing a positive experience. It’s just one of the ways to increase your likelihood of landing the talent you need.

What is candidate care and why does it matter?

Simply put, candidate care is how you treat job candidates and the respect you give to them and their time. Candidate care starts at the job post and goes all the way through the hiring process. It is important even if you don’t hire the candidate. If you do, it then morphs into employee experience – but that’s for another blog.

In this competitive job market, it’s more important now than ever to place a focus on candidate care. If a candidate has a bad experience going through your hiring process, they may never return. More often, they tell their friends, or even worse, their entire LinkedIn network. Your reputation could be tarnished and turn off candidates before they even look at your job listings.

But it’s not all bad. On the flip side, the candidate can be an advocate for your brand if their experience is a positive one. And even if they’re not a good fit for one position, they could be for another one down the road.

How to succeed at candidate care

We’ve all been through the job search and hiring process. And we’ve all experienced the good, the bad and the ugly interactions with recruiters, hiring managers and others along the way. As a staffing company, we can create positive candidate experiences by remembering our own experiences. Then, it helps to establish a candidate care strategy that includes the following:

  1. Communication – Create a repeatable process for candidate follow-up. Hold your people accountable for following through by email or phone. And make sure the communication method matches the situation. For instance, if someone is not chosen for the job, you probably need to pick up the phone to tell them. Sending an email is just not going to cut it if you want to achieve a positive experience for that candidate. A bonus of a formal process is that it becomes part of the recruiting culture and ensures consistency regardless of who is managing the job opening.
  2. Feedback – Provide feedback to candidates throughout the hiring process. Even if it’s to tell them why they didn’t get a shot at an interview, it’s best to be open and honest. That way, they can act on that feedback. Candidates need to know where they lack in skill to achieve ongoing career success, so make sure to pass on the feedback in the most constructive way possible. By delivering feedback, you will also stand out for taking the time, and for being honest.
  3. Manage expectations – We recommend recruiters follow up at certain milestones with the candidate, so set that expectation upfront. Clearly lay out what the candidate should expect from you and why. At the end of every phone conversation or interview, explain under what circumstances they should expect to hear from you next time. That way, everyone will be on the same page, minimizing the chance of miscommunication and thus, frustration.
  4. Make it easy to apply – Take away any barriers to the application process. One way is by allowing candidates to submit their LinkedIn profile instead of attaching a resume. Your goal is to obtain as many applicants as possible by making the process easy. Making it a positive experience can keep them on your site instead of bouncing before they even hit apply. And remember that most candidates are finding jobs on their mobile devices, so mobile-friendly listings are a must.

In summary

We all want to feel cared about, no matter the situation. The golden rule still very much applies, even in the hiring process. Treat your candidates the way you’d want to be treated if you were in their position. Remembering that simple rule could be the difference between attracting talent and turning them away. If you need help with your hiring strategy, contact us. We’re here to help!


About the author

As Executive Vice President, Strategy, Tracey Klein is responsible for the overall growth strategy of the company and planning for the future of its workforce solutions. She has 30 years of experience creating strategic roadmaps for talent acquisition, innovating for next-generation service and product development, managing global partnerships and implementing workforce management process improvement strategies. Her distinguished career also includes being named to the Staffing Industry Analysts (SIA) 2017 Global Power 100 Women in Staffing list. In her spare time, Tracey enjoys attending her son’s Lacrosse games, traveling, book club and, of course, spending time with her husband and teenage son.

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