Sunday, August 26, 2007

Why Doesn’t HR (Recruiters & Hiring Managers) Follow Up? Job search question of the week - Page 2

Job seeker E.S. emailed me this question:
“I was recently in discussions with a recruiter about a consulting position and we went through the ‘the company's HR person is on vacation next week dance’. I sent the recruiter an email last week asking her to confirm my candidacy was a dead issue so I can move it from my active folder to ‘dead’ and I got no response. Why can't recruiters suck it up and be honest with candidates instead of just ignoring emails. A simple, yes you are right the company is not interested is all that is needed and would keep me from nagging the recruiter. It would also make me willing to help him or her in the future. Now this recruiter is in my ‘dead’ list. Can you explain the behavior?”
The answer is basic - Politeness to the candidate is an expense to the employer.

To you, the candidate, the task of an interviewer giving a response seems simple. It’s a courtesy that you’re used to, so when you stop receiving one, it seems rude. To the candidate it’s also inconvenient, because you’re left hanging, unsure if this opportunity is live or dead.

Companies used to treat post-interview follow up this way, both out of courtesy and to leave the rejected candidate with as positive an experience with the recruiter (or company) as possible.

Then the internet changed things. Web based job boards exploded the number of candidates a company received - by as many as 10 or 20 times pre-job board numbers. Recruiters see similar numbers.

Now think about the numbers involved when you multiply it all out.

A company (or recruiter) may have hundreds of positions that they are interviewing for at any single time, and may arrange hundreds of interviews per week. That 5 minute follow up is just for you - when you multiply it by hundreds of interviews or thousands of applicants, it turns into one or two full time positions.

HR and recruiting staffs have had headcount reductions also. The same with the hiring managers that you’ve interviewed with - that 5 minute phone call to each person interviewed could mean an extra hour per day ... when that manager is already tasked with doing more with less, having absorbed staff cuts thanks to the recession.

In many cases, there’s just not enough hours in the existing staff's day, so follow-up becomes an added expense. This can be solved with additional staff or automation - both of which require budgets. Or it can be blown off, which doesn’t require budget approval.

This hits recruiters also - when companies hire fewer people, recruiting firms cut their own staff. Remaining staff are managed to focus on new business, rather than politeness. Candidates are inventory to recruiters - the recruiter’s customer is the hiring manager that pays their fees, not the candidate.

It’s no longer about politeness, or common courtesy ... it’s about cost. Companies trying to stay afloat have cut costs in order to remain competitive and stay afloat themselves.

We don’t expect a follow up from the local gas station to make sure the gasoline we purchased worked as expected, nor from the grocery store to follow up on the quality of our recent food purchases. Why not? Because this follow up is expensive.

I asked the client who posed this same question this morning: ”What if you had to bear the cost? Would you be willing to pay extra for groceries, just so you could get a callback? What % increase would be worth it to you?”

She responded that she wouldn’t want to pay extra just to get a follow up call.

So why should employers?

Readers - What do you think? Would you pay more for consumer goods, so that you can get follow-up from employers?

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When Do I Bring Up Salary? Job search question of the week

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Michael said...

I completely understand the costs involved, but consideration should also be given that this is not only payroll cost, but a marketing cost as well. Not only is this person a candidate, but they may be also a customer (or potential customer.) Is this the way the company treats it customers? Or is the reputation the company wants to create about the way it treats its people? Whether it is the HR department or the Recruiting staff, they are reflecting the image of the company.

And it doesn’t have to be a phone call. With today’s technology, even a form email letter to the candidate will do the trick. Two weeks ago a friend of mine paneled interviewed with six people from a company. She thought it went well; but after days passed, then weeks she assumed they were moving on. As one last effort she called and reached the recruiter, only to find out, “Yea, they really liked you. We want to schedule follow ups when we can schedule them.” What? How was she to know? What does this say about the company’s culture; specifically about people?

One final word about the customer angle... If this is a company where a candidate does business with; the company has potentially created one customer who is dissatisfied. And, maybe even has now lost that customer. That could result in thousands of dollars in sales being lost. So it goes beyond just the payroll line, it also effects the marketing/advertising line item, the top line sales, and the company’s image. Collectively, that’s worth five minutes of time and pay.

Phil Rosenberg said...

Michael - Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

Would you be willing to pay more for products and services to offset the costs of HR departments being more responsive to candidates?

What about business that are B2B - where the candidate isn't a potential for their services? Should those businesses pass the additional costs of follow up along to their clients ... eventually also raising consumer prices? Would you be willing to pay more for gas, groceries, clothing, housing, cars, electronics, etc. to get better follow up?

Matthew said...

I worked for a small company and we posted a job very quietly in mid-2009 (local Craigslist for a single week with very tough & specific requirements). We received 74 apps in 5 days from all over the country, all except 5 met the criteria. As the hiring manager, I spoke to 10, interviewed 4 in person, and hired 1. Then HR sent out a bulk e-mail. If there'd been 300 e-mails to cut and paste, we wouldn't have bothered.

So, when I get a non-response, I'm frustrated because I think I was a good candidate, not because I wasn't contacted. So, I check my marketing approach to see why I didn't pop into those 10, who I'm sure did receive a "no thanks" after receiving initial contact. Welcome to the world, folks. That's why we see more and more private company boards with automated "check your application status." They don't even want to spend the manpower on the folks who try to follow up. It is a reflection on a company practicing good economics, not one being intentionally rude.

Further tip, of the 4 who got personal interviews, we already knew 3, and hired one of those. One of the 3 didn't meet the criteria, but we interviewed him because we knew him and he had some interesting skills. Much more highly skilled people who we didn't know, we skipped right over.

Phil Rosenberg said...

Matthew, Thanks for sharing your experiences ... you describe the typical hiring process for small companies.

As for your frustration ... you may think you are a good candidate, but can you get your audience to see that you're a good candidate? Even with the small response you described, that's still 74 resumes to review. Try even that small number and you'll experience how your eyes start to blur, how they all look the same ... and how difficult it is to stand out using the same tactics as your 73 competitors.

If this opening had gone on the major job boards, you would have likely gotten many hundreds or thousands of responses.

So when you're checking your marketing approach, visualize these numbers and processes, as you try new ideas to get your resume to stand out in a visual as well as an automated review.

Jennifer Brigham said...

Thanks! I linked your informative article to my blog, using the link you provided to do so. I appreciate being able to share with our job seekers. It is a common frustration.

Matthew said...

Phil, We specifically did the limited release because we didn't want the 100s or 1000s. As the hiring manager who reviewed all the resumes, what you said is absolutely right. Anyone who didn't have a clear message, was shuffled rapidly off this mortal coil no matter the skill set. I read the cover letters, then ignored them, just didn't care.

My lesson, which it took me a bit to bring to my own job hunt, was the personal relationship. I've been following your blog assiduously, thank you very much, and you are right. It is the jobs where I've made inside contacts anywhere in the corporation that are bubbling along, not the ones I apply to no matter how good a fit and how clear my customized resume message.

Anonymous said...

Do you believe there is a difference in how a "retained "search firm vs a "contingency" search firm would treat this? As a "retained" search they are getting paid no matter what- shouldn't that make some difference??

Phil Rosenberg said...

Susan, Thanks for your question. Last time I checked, retained search firms are paid by the employer - so their client is the employer. The candidate is effectively inventory to the recruiter, weather the recruiter is contingency or retained.

Also, because a retained firm is paid before placement, they must concentrate their efforts on their clients, the employer, or they risk loosing future paid assignments to other retained firms.

Hammstah said...

Your blog post/article is foolish. Completely foolish. While most every other Chicagoan works more than 40 hours per week, are you saying that the poor human resource and recruiting people -- most of whom don't know a damn thing about what their company or client does nor about the actual positions they are shopping to candidates -- just can't work an extra hour each week to send out one-sentence emails to candidates or reply quickly to phone calls?

As yourself a question, Phil: "Do I like it when I leave a phone message for somebody asking them to call me back about something that is important to me, and they don't return the call?" I have a very good feeling you'll answer "no" unless you, in life outside of your blog, are a useless HR/recruiter, too.

Phil Rosenberg said...


Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

I wonder why are you assuming that HR folks aren't already putting in extra hours? And why assume that an extra hour each week is all it takes?

Most HR people I know (In Chicago and elsewhere), most recruiters I know, and most managers I know are already working anywhere between 45-60+ hour weeks already, including those with families. Nearly everyone has been asked to "do more with less", which means lower priority tasks are often ignored.

People throughout organizations are stretched thin - and the follow up process seldom takes just an hour per week.

I'm not suggesting that anyone in the process is lazy - it's their employer's issue. Unless an employer makes candidate communication a priority to all in the process (including top executives), what incentive does HR or hiring managers have to take the extra time to follow up?

Most companies aren't making this a priority today, because they don't see it as a large issue and don't see it causing a large falloff of buyers.

le said...

Your article was interesting but I don't think you can treat candidates as commodities when you are running a business. An organisation is the sum of its people and eventually, this complete lack of professionalism will come to bite the company on the backside!

Phil Rosenberg said...

Le, Thanks for sharing your views.

The fact is, like it or not, Companies can and do treat candidates like commodities. One big reason is because candidates usually treat themselves (unintentionally) as commodities.

Right now, few companies are planning for "eventually". Given today's rough business environment, they are planning for this quarter ... trying to make enough in profits to avoid another round of cutbacks.

You may not like it, and decide to take your candidacy or business elsewhere. Time will tell if businesses start to see enough of a business falloff (or return to candidate shortages) to make this trend reverse.

Dean said...

I don't think the financial angle is always the case. I've been on interviews that lasted at least half a day, taking up the time of 3 or 4 top people at the company. A lot of time was spent both by myself and the company I was applying for, therefore a significant investment had already been accumulated. The candidate pool was very competitive, but not necessarily that large. Still no feedback. There is more than money involved. Maybe event more than time invovled. I believe there is a feeling that feedback creates problems, and no one wants problems.

Phil Rosenberg said...

Dean - Agreed, businesses who provide feedback could face greater risk of lawsuits. But that's part of the cost as well. I didn't cover the liability part in this article, but it's a great idea for a future piece.