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The Candidate Experience: Thumbs Up or Down!

Posted by Blair Fleming On May 22, 2013 2:34:00 PM
 The Candidate Experience_ Thumbs Up or Down!

For most people, looking for a new job can be tedious, time consuming and at times a daunting experience. However, you turn around on the subway or drive by a billboard on the road and there they are, helpful signs saying “Sick of searching for a job? We can help” or “Need a job? Call us!” All of this sounds easy, right?


A few years ago I was looking for a new job and saw an advertisement prominently posted on the train for a large staffing firm. I called the number, the phone rang, and as I proceeded to go through the automated prompts, I thought, “was this normal”?  New to the process I remained on the phone for a total of about 10 minutes before I reached a real person.  Before I could state the reasons for my call I was asked to hold!  Five minutes later my call was eventually picked-up again. At that point I expressed my interest in finding a new job. The person on the other end of the phone said to email him my resume and he would get back to me within the next few days, and then he rushed me off of the phone.  Once I got home I emailed my resume and waited for a response.

The promised call never came, but 3 months later, out of the blue, I received a call from a different representative at the same recruitment agency, saying that they were interested in my qualifications. He asked me if I was still on the job market and ran me through what seemed like very basic questions such as: Are you currently employed? What is your availability?  It wasn’t until after asking a number of similar questions that he informed me that he didn’t have anything for me but that he would keep my resume on file for future openings, and then he promptly hung up.  It’s been 5 years now and I still haven’t heard back.  Thankfully success in my job search was not dependent on that elusive call back!

It seems like every recruitment agency claims that they have a special/unique process for reviewing resumes, sourcing candidates, and access to candidates that sets them apart from their competitors, but do they really?  If this were true, why did I and so many other candidates have bad experiences with some agencies? So much so that my one bad candidate screening experience put me off using agencies for years.  Now having been in Talent Acquisition for the last few years, I have come to realize that not all agencies treat their candidates badly during the application/screening process.  Truly great staffing agencies bring value to the candidate experience recognizing that strong positive relationships are the key to good business.


Recruitment firms with established relationships and solid reputations didn’t get there by accident!  They are successful because they have maintained their level of integrity and quality of service year after year, setting themselves apart by delivering the best possible value to their client candidates and client employers alike.  One of these agencies is
John Leonard Employment Services, Inc.  They have been building trusted and lasting relationships since 1969 and they are still maintaining this core value to this day! Full disclosure: I recently joined John Leonard as their Marketing Specialist and although some might assume me to therefore be biased, I can assure you that I call things as I see them.

Building relationships with candidates and employers starts from the very first interaction!  One way John Leonard has maintained its quality over the years is their unique screening process. They don’t just match candidate resumes to jobs, they match “the whole individual” to a career enhancing job.

Considered to be one of the best ways to identify key candidate qualities, the in-person initial interview is a powerful resource to determine personality, skill set, and overall fit of a potential candidate to a job.  So why, according to the 2012 Career X Roads Candidates Experience Report, were only 78% of candidates asked even basic qualification questions (e.g. “Are you eligible to work in the U.S.”?). Only 66% were asked about their work history and performance and only 60% of candidates were asked job specific questions like, “What is your experience in direct client interaction?” One reason for this could be that many of the less committed staffing firms focus on submitting resumes rather than qualified individuals.  Rather than refining their search criteria to provide a small number of qualified candidates, they lean toward playing the numbers game…the theory being that if they submit enough resumes hopefully one will click with the hiring manager!

The impact of these practices on the recruitment experience is often a negative one and taints the staffing industry as a whole. Let’s take a few minutes to consider how the better staffing firms operate and maybe review just a couple of reasons why agencies like John Leonard conduct a thorough candidate screen during the initial application process.

Cultural Fit? 

Employers don’t just want a person to do a job they want the “whole package”: a candidate that is not only qualified but also fits into their company’s cultural 

makeup. Sometimes a good cultural fit can often trump qualificationswhich can be a challenge for recruiters. Given that a candidate’s personality is not discernible from his/her resume alone it is imperative that recruiters dig deeper.  This is where the screening process becomes a tool for determining the best fit.  Through the screening process you get a better sense of a candidate including how they present themselves, their communication skills, as well as what type of work environment best suits their particular personality and preferences.

Candidate Interest?

Engagement is critical from the very outset of approaching a candidate about a potential career opportunity and lays the ground work for providing employers with new hires who have a consistently high engagement level from day one! As a result, recruiters need to make sure the candidate has a genuine interest in the role before presenting their qualifications to the hiring manager. Failure to do this may result in candidate withdrawal late into the process creating disappointment and frustration all around. Effective screening will bring to light a candidate’s interests and career ambitions/goals that are not necessarily evident from their resume.  Having these initial conversations demonstrates a greater level of respect for both the candidate and employer.

Many agencies skip these important screening questions during the initial application process and only meet candidates (if they do at all) after the employer expresses interest.  Every industry has its share of bad apples, but this has become such a serious problem that it causes many good candidates to withdraw from the process, denying both themselves and their prospective employer the opportunity for a really successful match. 

So how do good recruitment agencies guarantee excellent service to clients?

Agencies such as John Leonard are determined to match the best possible candidates to the best possible opportunities. This is enshrined in their mantra that Actions Speak Louder Than Words™. They further back-up their action with a comprehensive performance guarantee for every direct hire and temporary placement. With this level of commitment John Leonard is positioned to provide the best possible level of client satisfaction with each placement.

What qualities do you want in your recruitment agency?

TAGS: Recruitment Tips, Corporate Culture, Management & Leadership

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