Avoid a Major Employer Branding Mistake By Doing This One Thing

I’ve learned the hard way that the manner in which a company treats applicants can play an enormous role in a company’s brand. A bad candidate experience can cause rumor spreading, a poor public opinion, and can turn away potential customers.

Let’s look at how the candidate experience plays a role in that person’s perception of a company:

  1. Candidate hears about an opening at your company and gets excited.  She get her hopes up.
  2. Candidate spends a considerable amount of time/effort updating her resume, writing a cover letter, and submitting her application on your website.
  3. Candidate sits and waits for a few days growing increasingly excited with hope that she will receive a call.
  4. A couple of weeks go by and candidate hasn’t heard anything. Candidate loses excitement about your company.
  5. A month or longer goes by and still no word. Excitement turns to frustration in disbelief that your company can’t take the time to provide a quick little email follow up.
  6. Candidate becomes a detractor of your brand and tells her friends about the negative experience.

Communication, or lack thereof, with applicants is often where the problems stem from.

In soliciting resumes, you’re building relationships that are full of excitement and hope. Those people are excited about your company and are building hope that they’ll be chosen. They picture themselves proudly working at your company as they craft their resume.

Unfortunately, so many employers fail to harness that excitement. They fail to realize that job candidates have the potential to become brand ambassadors and future customers.

Instead, employers find it too time consuming to follow up with candidates to let them know if the job was filled, what the status is, or if the candidate wasn’t selected. But we all know what happens with dissatisfied customers, right, and how many people they tell?

Believe me, I realize how time consuming those emails can be, especially if you receive dozens of applicants (or more). But I also know how not sending those emails can lead to negative sentiments from potential customers (i.e. job candidates) and from potential future hiring prospects (perhaps their friends/colleagues).


Here are some suggestions for improving your candidate communication:

  • All Applicants – All applicants who submit their resume receive an immediate auto response so they at least know they’re in the system and their application has been received. Ideally, the auto-response includes the time frame for when the company hopes to narrow down the pool to the first group of interviewees.
  • After Screening Resumes – Upon narrowing down the pool to those whom you want to phone screen, consider emailing all non-selected candidates to let them know that you’ve identified other candidates you’ll be moving forward with, but you greatly appreciate their interest as well as their support of your company/brand. Composing email communications like this at this stage in the process will remove a lot of work for you later on when it’s easy to get lazy with communication. You remove risk in letting applicant communication affect your brand by doing it here because people appreciate timely responses (even if they aren’t selected).
  • After a First Round Interview – If a candidate is phone-screened and not selected, send them a personalized email thanking them for their time, interest and support of the company and letting them know you are moving forward with other candidates.  Don’t delay, just communicate if they are in or out of the next round.
  • After a Final Round Interview – If a candidate makes it to the final round but doesn’t get the job, email that person before too much time goes by.  And if you had a difficult decision, consider calling the person to keep the relationship warm.  A personal phone call goes a long way and you never know when you might need to hire another person.  That person put a lot of time/effort into the interview process and personal phone call goes a long way.

Some companies may take a slightly different approach than what is listed above, but the important thing is that applicants are communicated to at the beginning, middle, and end of the process. This communication goes a long way and has a huge impact on your brand at large.

Here’s my challenge to employers / hiring managers…

If you don’t currently follow up with every applicant, try doing it for the next position you hire for. Just this once, give it a shot. I bet it won’t take as long as you expect. I bet you’ll come up with some shortcuts to save you time. Maybe you’ll even find some tools to help automate the process. I know you’ll end up with happier candidates and over time, a more people-centered employer brand.