What You Should Expect From an Employer as a Candidate, with Kevin Grossman

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As a job seeker, what should you expect in the way of communication from the employer? Find Your Dream Job guest Kevin Grossman says you should expect timely communication, whether you’re a candidate for the position or not. And if your candidate experience is not a positive one, but you are offered the position, should you take it? Kevin says, not so fast; you need to consider whether the company as a whole reflects the lack of communication of the hiring process. 

About Our Guest:

Kevin Grossman is the president of  the Talent Board

Resources in This Episode:


Find Your Dream Job, Episode 404:

What You Should Expect From an Employer as a Candidate, with Kevin Grossman

Airdate: June 21, 2023

Mac Prichard:

This is Find Your Dream Job, the podcast that helps you get hired, have the career you want, and make a difference in life.

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You can have widely different experiences when you apply for a job.

But you don’t have to accept poor treatment.

Kevin Grossman is here to talk about what you should expect from an employer as a candidate.

He’s the president of the Talent Board.

It’s a nonprofit group that promotes the job candidate experience with benchmarks for accountability, fairness, and business results.

Kevin joins us from Santa Cruz, California.

Well, let’s get right into it, Kevin. How typical is it for candidates to have a bad experience when applying for a job?

Kevin Grossman:

Mac, I wish I could say not that prevalent, but that’s, unfortunately, not the case. We’ve been measuring candidate experience for over eleven years now, and while there are companies that have made significant improvements over the years in our community, it is, unfortunately, still a very non-communicative, potentially dark process for many candidates.

Mac Prichard:

What are common examples, Kevin, of poor treatment of candidates by employers?

Kevin Grossman:

Well, first and foremost, it’s just all about the lack of a definitive response. Meaning if I am an interested candidate for a particular job at any company, big and small, across industries, and I actually apply for that job, what is it that happens next?

For most candidates, it is a very oblique, ambiguous auto-responder that goes out to the candidates saying, thanks very much for your application. If you are qualified, we’ll be in touch. Now, that’s something.

The problem, a couple of problems with that, is that it is, again, not very personal. It’s not very positive. And these days, it’s much harder to deliver emails and get folks to actually see those emails. I mean, everything from spam filters to email compliance issues. I mean, the list goes on, and there are many more candidates that, for whatever reason, just aren’t even seeing the emails, even if they go out. So, that’s the usual experience for most job candidates when they apply.

Mac Prichard:

At this stage, Kevin, are there employers who still don’t send out emails at all? I see the point you’re making about spam filters. But are there companies that don’t even bother to acknowledge applications?

Kevin Grossman:

The good news is that I have not talked, recently, in the past few years, with any organizations that actually definitively say they don’t send out even acknowledgement emails, which is what they’re also called when somebody applies. I do remember a few years ago, this is pre-pandemic, where there were multiple companies that I had spoken with that the recruiting leadership felt like it’s not a very good experience to send them that autoresponder. Which of course, some would argue, including me, that’s probably the case.

But then they decided that they were only gonna respond to those that were actually going to be screened. So the qualified candidates that were gonna make it to the next stages, and I immediately, my response was, not a good idea. Because it is one thing to get an automated email that says, we’re not gonna pursue you, but thanks for your time, which is, unfortunately, the reality for the sheer majority of job candidates today that are applying for jobs, again, at most especially bigger-sized, mid-sized, global enterprise companies. But to not send anything at all, I would argue, is always a mistake.

And so, yes, it can be kind of a double-edged sword. But I haven’t run into companies lately that are not sending things out. I think, for the most part, for any company, even small companies that have an applicant tracking system, there is a message that goes out.

Mac Prichard:

So check your spam filter if you haven’t heard back. What are other examples of poor treatment of candidates by employers, Kevin?

Kevin Grossman:

Well, one of the things, you know, we all have had these experiences, and even myself as a job seeker, I mean, we remember the good and the bad. Unfortunately, the bad can be the most visceral emotional memories that we have, sometimes, when we have a really, really poor candidate experience. But it really comes down to timely and consistent communication from the point, even before I apply, to as far as I get into the process, or lack thereof. So the win for companies and as a candidate, and expectations are much higher these days.

I mean, there’s been a lot written about candidates who are much more used to the consumer purchasing world of when we buy things online, what they also call the Amazonian effect. Where it’s a one-click, I’m in, I’m out, I’m done, and recruiting really hasn’t – it’s come a long way, automation, I mean. It hasn’t really provided that experience. It is much easier to apply for jobs online, that doesn’t mean you’re ever gonna get seen, which is another part of the equation.

But that is an area where the expectations are much higher for candidates, and the defense of every employer that I’ve ever worked with is that those who have any volume at all of applicants, a good majority of them, unfortunately, are just not going to be qualified enough. We all like to believe that we are qualified for a job. That’s why we applied. But at the end of the day, there’s only one thing we all want as job candidates. We want to get hired, and most won’t, for any given job.

And the companies control the dials of how they communicate and with what frequency using the recruiting technologies that they have and the human interaction. So they control that frequency and that timeliness, and that’s, as a job candidate, what I would be looking for when I’m applying for jobs. Are they being responsive? Am I being told what’s next? Am I getting definitive closure if I’m not gonna be pursued? Those are key things that you should be experiencing as a job candidate.

Mac Prichard:

So you could be part of a large group of people who apply for a position. You get an auto-reply because you haven’t been selected for an interview, and nobody likes to get that message, but it’s better to hear than to not hear. Some people are gonna make it to the next stage. In your experience and the research you do at your organization, Kevin, are employers communicating effectively with those people who are getting phone screeners, first interviews, second interviews? Or are candidates having a different experience?

Kevin Grossman:

Well, it depends on who you talk to. And also, so what we help measure in our benchmark research are the company’s ability to do that and what the candidate’s perception is of positive or negative experiences. As well as their perception of fairness.

And when companies and what we have found in our data and research that, again, when things are happening for candidates, meaning, if I am gonna get a phone screen, is everything going as according to plan? Is it happening on the date and time that it was originally scheduled? And I get that phone screen, and then I get a follow-up email right after that saying this is what’s next and what you should expect.

Those are the things that make really a whole bunch of difference. And it really does contribute to the perception of fairness, which is subjective for any of us, for that matter. But engagement and communication throughout every single step is really, really critical and, you know, for those who even, and I would argue, those who get screened and interviewed, at the end of the day, that population of individuals is potentially, can have a much more positive and/or negative reaction to your business and your brand because that’s where there’s more investment from you, the employer, and from you the job candidate, at the end of the day.

When you’re just applying for jobs online, and you get that initial auto-responder, if you are not qualified for that job, that’s the end of the road, and that a good, again, majority of folks, and it’s a very limited experience. It’s not a great candidate experience, and employers only have so much control over that, and everybody wants feedback. But if you’re not qualified, you’re not getting feedback. That’s just the reality at the end of the day. But for those who are getting screened and interviewed, you better be making that human investment and interaction and making sure that there’s definitive feedback and closure.

Mac Prichard:

Well, let’s pause here, Kevin. When we come back, I want to talk about what trends you’re seeing in the candidate experience. Is it getting better or worse? Because you’ve been doing this research for more than a decade now. I also want to ask a question I know that’s on the mind of listeners, when candidates are having a bad experience, why are employers doing this?

So stay with us. When we return, Kevin Grossman will continue to talk about what you should expect from an employer as a candidate.

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Now, let’s get back to the show.

We’re back in the Mac’s List studio. I’m talking with Kevin Grossman.

He’s the president of the Talent Board.

It’s a nonprofit group that promotes the job candidate experience with benchmarks for accountability, fairness, and business results.

Kevin joins us from Santa Cruz, California.

Well, Kevin, before the break, we were talking about what you as a candidate should expect from an employer when you apply for a job, and we talked about examples of bad candidate experience, and you made the point that most employers now are using the auto-reply function since the pandemic, and telling people that if they’re not gonna move on, then that’s a fact. And you also made the point about how important it is for employers to maintain effective communication with candidates who’ve been selected for phone screeners or other forms of interviews.

Here’s a question I know listeners are wondering. Why, when employers don’t communicate effectively, particularly with those you’ve been selected for finalists, do they do this, Kevin? What do employers tell you when you ask them that question?

Kevin Grossman:

I get a variety of answers, but they still relate to a very similar theme, and that is that the recruiting teams that are responsible for screening and responding to job candidates at every stage, for that matter, usually are carrying too many requisitions, job requisitions, open jobs that they’re screening for, and they don’t have a lot of breathing room. It’s no excuse for not being more communicative. But it’s a reality, unfortunately, and many teams, what we’ve seen happen with recruiting teams over the past few years, is that they’ve also come and gone.

And because of a lot of the latest tech layoffs, for example, a big portion of those individuals, especially in the second waves that have occurred, have been the recruiting teams. And recruiting is something that is the first to go when things take a downturn, and it’s one of the first to frenetically come back when there’s an upturn. And they have a lot to do when it comes to managing the recruiting and hiring for the respective jobs that they’re managing.

Not an excuse, and the highest-rated companies in our research every year are definitely making sure that their teams have the breathing room to respond and the recruiting technologies to also help them scale and manage that, especially for those that have any volume at all whatsoever.

So it’s usually, we’ve got, especially the past few years, a lot of overworked recruiting teams. They’re burnt out. They’ve seen peers and colleagues be laid off. People have left the industry in recruiting and hiring, and yet, I’ve always argued, I think it’s one of the most important parts of a business is those who are responsible for sourcing, recruiting, hiring, and retaining people at your companies, at the end of the day.

But the companies that participate in our benchmark research every year are leaning in to make improvements. That’s why they’re participating. They want to learn what their strengths and weaknesses are, and they definitely make sure that their recruiting team is more responsive. And many of those, the highest-rated companies, are also recruiter performance is connected to candidate experience ratings, and part of, whether it’s from being incented or not, that’s definitely something that we see with the higher-performing companies. Your performance rating is contingent on how you’re delivering candidate experience.

Mac Prichard:

Given the importance of talent to an organization’s success, how do companies justify not investing in hiring the recruiters they need to provide a good candidate experience? Kevin, why do companies not do that and hire the people they need to do the job well?

Kevin Grossman:

Well, that’s much more complicated. It just depends on the – usually, when you’re talking about full-time headcounts, bringing on individuals that are full-time employees to help with recruiting or any part of the business, and especially if you are publicly traded, and even if you’re not, even if you’re a private organization, labor’s the biggest part of the bottom line and individuals and full-time headcounts. CFOs and the heads of finance are monitoring that very, very closely. I think those more progressive HR and talent acquisition leaders are ensuring that they have the right balance of people, process, and technology. And that their teams are managing a reasonable number of positions to source and recruit for.

And that they also have a really good relationship, even surface-level agreements, in place internally with their hiring managers. Because, at the end of the day, it’s the managers who are usually making the final hiring decisions for these individuals that recruiters are helping to get to the door. And so, there’s a much better relationship there, as well.

So there are companies that can and do a much better job at this. But we’ve also seen a big churn in TA professionals and their teams, leaders and their teams the past few years too. And it’s kind of disheartening to me to find that we’ve had a few companies that are participating in our benchmark research again this year that have no historical knowledge that they did participate a few years ago and maybe even won one of our awards because they have above average ratings. They have no knowledge of that.

And that is the hardest thing, Mac, that we find. The last point on this is that it’s one thing to identify- these are things we need to do better in recruiting and hiring and improving what it’s like for a job candidate. The hardest part for companies is sustaining it over time.

Mac Prichard:

You’ve been doing this for more than a decade, this research, Kevin. Do you think the candidate experience is getting better overall? Staying the same? Or getting worse?

Kevin Grossman:

I’m always a glass-half-full kind of person. So I believe that, incrementally, it is just north of staying the same. So that’s my positive – I’m consciously optimistic. Again, there’s a really small universe of companies in our data and research that really do this consistently and make a difference for their job candidates over time.

And it’s not, by the way, every single recruiting and hiring professional I’ve ever known and worked with, I mean, ninety-eight-point-nine percent of them all care about what they do and care about the job candidates and wish that they could hire everybody, and they can’t, at the end of the day. Because, unfortunately, for employers, they’re in the business of no. They’re saying no ninety-nine out of a hundred times to people who are knocking at their door to work there. That’s the unfortunate reality on average.

So there are companies that are definitely doing better. I think it has gotten a tad better, but what we find is that when you have leadership changes in organizations where they, for whatever reason, the candidate’s experience isn’t a priority for them, then it takes a nose dive.

Mac Prichard:

If you apply for a job and you have a poor candidate experience, and you get an offer, should you go to work for that organization, Kevin? Or should you have second thoughts?

Kevin Grossman:

Well, my personal response to that is I think you should weigh all of those things. Because it could mean – does that mean that it’s gonna be a poor employee experience? Is it indicative of that or not? And there is a relationship there. It’s not always a correlation, but there is a relationship.

And we did do a study last year of the hundred best places to work according to Fortune that compared that to the way that we manage and conduct that candidate experience research, and it was kind of a mixed bag. Because translating poor or good candidate experience to a poor or good employee experience. There is a relationship there, though.

But here’s the thing, if I want to work for a company that is known to have even a toxic environment, whether or not my candidate experience was good or bad, but I really want to work at that company. I’m still gonna work at that company if I get an offer. I don’t know how long I might stay there. So that comes down to personal preference at the end of the day.

But I would definitely weigh my options. If I was really treated poorly and it took weeks, so much time went by, and I was waiting, and I finally get an offer, and it was just really never-ending. I would weigh that before I actually accepted that offer at the end of the day, and we see that happening over the past few years. I mean, we have – the declined offers are up across the board for most companies, most employers, and individuals not even showing up on day one after they’ve accepted the offer. So, there’s been a lot of existential crises that we’ve all gone through the past few years for sure.

Mac Prichard:

Well, it’s been a terrific conversation, Kevin. Now, tell us, what’s next for you?

Kevin Grossman:

So, we are in the midst of our latest benchmark research program this year for 2023. So, we are excited about that, and I welcome any employer that’s listening to participate in the research and get some benchmark feedback from their candidates.

Mac Prichard:

Well, I know listeners can learn more about your organization’s work by visiting your website. That URL is thetalentboard.org.

Now, Kevin, given all of the great advice you’ve shared today, what’s the one thing you want a listener to remember about what you should expect from an employer as a candidate?

Kevin Grossman:

I think you, at the very least, you should expect a timely acknowledgment of your interest in that company. You should expect consistent communication. And you should get a definitive closure communication if you are not going to be pursued as a job candidate.

And that it should all be in a timely fashion and a nice human touch would be if you actually heard from a human at the end of the day. And that would be even better. That’s what you should expect, at a minimum, is acknowledgment and closure in a timely way.

Mac Prichard:

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Next week, our guest will be Brandi Oldham.

She’s a career coach and the founder of Talent Career Coaching. Her company helps individuals, teams, and entrepreneurs in all aspects of the career journey.

You have a really bad day at work.

It’s so bad that you want to quit your job.

So you go home, and you start sending out your resume.

Join us next Wednesday when Brandi Oldham and I talk about why you need to stop sending out angry applications.

Until next time, thanks for letting us help you find your dream job.

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