However, these negative perceptions can be overcome if the consultant puts more effort into candidate engagement by trying to form a working relationship with the candidate.
“You never should treat a candidate as part of the supply continuance. You treat them as you would the client. If consultants got that right, they’d get everything else right,” says Maree Herath, a director at Harvest Recruitment.
Taking care of the candidate not only provides a better experience for the job seeker, it can also make good business sense. Herath points out that today’s candidate can be tomorrow’s client because once they get a job they can be decision makers about recruitment or influencers of decision makers.
Herath says it’s all about communication and managing expectations, because candidates disengage when they don’t hear back about jobs.
Consultants need to set expectations by outlining the recruitment process, such as highlighting key milestones and keeping candidates informed along the way. “If you can do that and you can understand what candidates expect and deliver to that expectation or manage that expectation, it’s a whole different ballgame,” says Herath, who is also the author of Bodysnatchers – Unlocking the Secrets of the Recruitment Industry.
Giving candidates ownership of the process is also very effective, says Herath. This means letting them know that the shortlist will be compiled in two weeks and encouraging them to call to see if they’re on it, for instance.
Candidates need to be told that the recruiter might not hold their hand throughout the entire process, but will always let them know where they stand.
When a busy recruitment consultant moves onto the next job, the candidate is left hanging until they call, only to be told the job has already been placed. “How bad does that sound to a candidate who thought they were on a shortlist and didn’t hear anything?” Herath asks.
A focus on the candidate experience
She singles out automated reposes to job applications as a particular problem. Candidates often fail to notice the fine print in the pop-up box which tells them that if they don’t hear back then they won’t have got the job. She always notifies candidates that they haven’t been successful, which only takes five minutes with a standard letter and a database.
Jo Skipper, the Melbourne Director of the Next Step, says consultants need to recognise that many candidates come to them at vulnerable times in their lives, perhaps when they have just been made redundant or are searching for a new job for the first time in many years.
Recruiters should focus on their professionalism and reflect at the end of each quarter, not just on how their billings were, but also on what sort of experience their candidates had and what the outcome was for them.
Skipper says she takes the time to understand candidates’ situations and gives them feedback in their initial hour-long meeting.
“A majority of people come in with not very good CVs,” she says. “A very basic practical thing is helping them to rewrite their resume so that it actually speaks to what the market is looking for at that particular time, making sure that they’re using the language of the industry segment.”
At the end of the meeting she gives the candidates some initial feedback about how they presented and what they can do to improve their chances at an interview.
“Just initially give them a little bit of feedback because it’s demonstrating that you’re listening, you’re engaged in what’s happening in their world, and you’re supporting them to be the best that they can be,” she says.
Finally, says Skipper, respond to and return candidates’ phone calls, ideally within 24 hours. This recognises that they have given up an hour of their time to see the recruiter and that it’s a professional relationship.
“It’s basic but it doesn’t get done consistently enough to create that relationship,” she says.