Recently, I called a prospective candidate to pitch a great opportunity. He stopped me when he learned the name of my client and said he would never consider working there.
Why? He’d interviewed with the company in the past and was treated poorly. After meeting seven people, no one ever contacted him about the status of his candidacy, nor did anyone reply to his messages requesting an update. As my kids would say, he was “ghosted.”
If this were a single data point, I wouldn’t be terribly concerned. No one is perfect, and people and organizations make mistakes. But it wasn’t one data point – it was the third time in six months I’d heard similar stories about the same client. That’s a pattern.
Companies that don’t treat candidates well eventually earn a reputation that repels talent. The damage is difficult to quantify, but it’s meaningful. Over time it will hurt your business, and the worst part is that you will probably never become aware of it.
What’s the root of the problem? It’s not a lack of knowledge — no one needs training to know that a candidate who’s been through seven meetings deserves the courtesy of a clear answer on the status of her candidacy. Heck, that’s basic manners that all of us (hopefully) learned as children.
The root of the problem, I believe, is discomfort in telling people bad news. This is completely normal for anyone who feels empathy. I know this is true because I’ve delivered bad news to candidates every day for more than twenty years, and despite all that practice it’s still my least favorite part of the job.
Yet I do it, both for professional reasons (I want candidates to feel good about dealing with me and my client) and for personal reasons (it's the right thing to do).
If you’re leading a company, make sure everyone in the organization knows they are expected to treat candidates with respect and courtesy. They must understand they are acting as ambassadors for the company each time they interact with a candidate.
What’s the goal? Win or lose, candidates should leave feeling good about the way they were treated. When this is done consistently, your company will earn a reputation for treating people well. That kind of positive reputation can make your company a talent magnet.