Candidate Discontent and Pushback in a Tight Talent Economy - Shifting Sands as the Tide Turns


Hiring companies are finding out to their cost that the tables have turned in today’s full employment economy.  They are no longer in the driver’s seat when it comes to being king pin in hiring professional talent today.  Candidates are now in control and dominate the space in which historically they have been ill-treated and dismissed for too long, being perceived as yet another commodity.

Three years ago, my company, as so many others in the talent acquisition business, recognized that the recruiting process was broken and something needed to be done to change the paradigm.  Although, from our first-hand knowledge and experience, thought we knew what was wrong, we also acknowledged it is never wise to assume anything.  Consequently, we undertook a major research project to better understand from both sides, recruiters/hiring managers and candidates, what they felt the biggest challenges were and what they disliked the most about the process from their respective viewpoints.  But also, what they felt was right with it too.

From the recruiters’ and hiring companies’ perspective, it was all to do with the process.  Other areas of their organizations were being rapidly digitalized and becoming more efficient.  The most commonly cited was which they thought had revolutionized the sales process in terms of efficiency and productivity.  In the recruiter’s world the Applicant Tracking System was their primary tool but it lacked all the necessary functionality for them to efficiently and effectively operate and they were being bogged down having to use a number of different disparate tools in conjunction with the ATS systems to do their jobs.

Of the 1000 plus professionals we surveyed, the number one complaint to a person was the total disrespect and dismissive attitudes of recruiters and hiring companies towards them.  The primary example of this was that when they applied for positions that were advertised either on job boards, the company’s career page or even when they were referred by a current employee, the chances of ever hearing any acknowledgement or communication whatsoever from the company were likely to be zero; and even if they did get to a telephone screening interview, again there would be a reign of silence and the candidate would be left in a state of limbo if not purgatory. 

The Applicant Tracking Systems amongst candidates have become known as the “black holes’ into which you disappear never to rise again.  Buried for eternity!

The second most common area of criticism centered around the fact that hiring companies and recruiters alike did not seem to care what a candidate’s needs were.  It was “all about them”, the company with no consideration whatsoever about the candidate.  They were being sent on interviews where ultimately, after an investment of time and energy, they would discover that the position was going to be located in an area of the country they had absolutely no desire to relocate to; the compensation was significantly out of the range they had been earning or would consider; it was not the type of employment they were seeking (contract versus permanent, for example) and so on.  But first and foremost amongst these areas of discontent, was that they were being sent on interviews where, once they got there, found that they were not qualified or experienced for the role.  Time and opportunity once again lost.

No one had ever asked them what their needs were, or the position they were being sent to be considered for was misrepresented.   In other words the old adage that was once so prevalent in recruiting, “throw enough at the wall, something will stick” – even if you have to deceive to achieve the objective, was still ever present.

With all of this data and knowledge to hand, we set about to develop a platform to address all of these areas of dissatisfaction – from both sides – recruiters/hiring managers and candidates alike which has resulted in the WFX Digital Talent Acquisition Platform.

However, the situation has now reversed in what has become a very competitive environment.  Today it is the candidates who ignore the companies.  Three years ago, companies were known to “ghost” candidates (ghosting is a newly popular term for the practice of disappearing from a relationship and ignoring texts, phone calls and other attempts at making contact). Today, the shoe is on the other foot and candidates are “ghosting” companies – either not showing up for interviews, or, in extreme cases, not showing up when hired.

It is a wake up call to hiring companies to change their habits and attitudes.  Companies that will succeed and are able to attract and keep the best talent are those who quickly recognize they need to base their talent acquisition programs on 3 Cs - Communication – Consideration – Care.  And, above all, “Communication”.

The first line of communication a qualified candidate has with a company is the internal recruiter.  Today, that individual is bogged down with time consuming tasks that could be better handled by digital technology – robotic process automation and automated transactional process.  The recruiter would then be freed up to manage only what a human being can do – make the candidate feel welcome – promote the company brand and all the positive aspects of working for this particular company. 

Companies that embrace the power of today’s digital world, will ultimately win out and be ahead of the competition in terms of the quality of the people they hire.

Indra Bazaz Turnbull