After the financial crisis of 2009, the Occupy movement emerged as a voice for the powerless. “We are the 99%” was the symbolic rallying cry they used to highlight the vast majority of people they thought were out of sight and out of mind for those in the positions of power in society. What might this have to do with recruitment? Let me take a moment to explain.
If you speak to anyone from the marketing world, you won’t need to convince them of the importance of word of mouth. They’ll undoubtedly be able to quote you various studies highlighting their value in promoting their product or service. This has been magnified as the Internet has provided us with more opportunities to share what we think with others, and such user reviews are incredibly powerful. Not only are they typically more trusted than any other form of marketing, but they generate more revenue and greater customer loyalty.
Indeed, so important is capturing word of mouth to marketers that a metric has been developed to measure the likelihood that a customer will say nice things about a company or product. The Net Promoter Score was introduced by Bain & Company's Fred Reichheld back in 2003 and provides a disarmingly simple way of measuring customer loyalty. It's calculated based upon the responses to just one, solitary question: "How likely is it that you would recommend our company/product/service to a friend or colleague?"
Answers are typically graded on a scale of 0-10, with organizations then able to gauge the loyalty of their audience based upon the aggregated responses. If you score 9-10, then you have an audience of ‘promoters’, who are considered the best customers and will not only spend more but recommend you to their friends. If you score between 7 and 8, then your audience are passive and neither good or bad. If you average between 0 and 6 however, you’re in real trouble as your audience are categorized as ‘detractors’. Not only are such people largely dissatisfied with the service you offer, but they’re also likely to share their bad experiences with others. In marketing circles it’s fairly well known that people are much more likely to share bad experiences than they are good ones, and what’s more, they will share these experiences with more people.
The beauty of the Net Promoter Score is that it works across all of the numerous touch points across which you engage with your audience. It could be in store, via your customer support channels or via online communities. One of the fields that is criminally overlooked however is in recruitment, and especially how you engage with the unsuccessful candidates who apply to work at your organization.
It's estimated that each and every job opening attracts an average of 150 candidates. So for every one person that's hired, you'll have 149 people who are rejected. What's more, each of those applicants is likely to have applied for something in the region of 30 jobs before getting a solitary offer. That's a whole lot of rejection.
And you know, we get it, it’s hard and you’re super busy. Rejecting each of those 149 people in a personal way takes a whole lot of time. Give each of those 149 people ten minutes of your time to craft a personalized letter to soften the blow a little, keep them onside as advocates of a company they really wanted to join, and you’re adding 24 hours worth of work to an already overflowing schedule.
If you think about how the rejection process often unfolds from the applicants perspective though, you can begin to appreciate how soul destroying it is. A lot of effort will have been put into researching the company, crafting a unique resume, cover letter and other aspects of the application. Maybe they will have spoken to people they know at the company or checked you out on Glassdoor et al. They learn about your culture, your spirit, your way of doing things and hit send on their application. Then nothing for weeks on end, whilst if you’re lucky, you might get a boilerplate rejection message that was sent out to all of those 149 unlucky applicants. Indeed, with much of the initial sifting done by machines, it’s quite possible that the whole process of rejecting and informing a candidate has been done without a human even entering the process.
Think of the 99%
It’s perhaps not surprising that a survey from online job site CareerBuilder found that people were generally pretty disgruntled by the whole recruitment process. What’s more, it revealed that the way people were rejected had a big part to play in their subsequent feelings towards that company. Indeed, if the rejection was handled particularly crassly, it put the applicant off of buying from them ever again.
Alarmingly, this dissatisfaction summed up around 25% of respondents to the survey. Given that customers can cost a few hundred dollars to acquire, and you might be putting off up to 50 customers from ever shopping with you again for each vacancy you have, that’s a fairly costly mistake, wouldn’t you say? Except it doesn’t stop there.
The study went on to reveal that those disgruntled people actively tried to dissuade friends, family and colleagues from using the company that had acted badly towards them. Such a reaction by an unhappy customer is well known to marketing people, but perhaps it’s a message that recruiters still need to absorb. From the second an applicant views your advert, they’re forming an opinion of you as an organization.
“One bad applicant experience can have a ripple effect, with candidates not only vocalizing their dissatisfaction with how they were treated, but encouraging others not to apply or even buy products from that company,” the researchers say. “It’s so critical that your employment brand effectively carries through at every touch point with candidates.”
It’s tempting to think that those who aren’t successful in their application are no longer worthy of your attention. They’re the 99% who can be put onto the scrap heap. That could not be further from the truth however, and just as the Occupy movement persuaded the financial industry to behave in a more ethical way, so too must the recruitment sector begin to behave more ethically towards those who don’t make it to interview. Not only does it make ethical sense but it makes sound business sense too.