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The Hiring Process: Five things candidates are saying behind your back

Updated: November 10, 2011 4:46PM



"Your brand is what people say about you when you leave the room."

That's how Jeff Bezos, Founder and CEO of Amazon.com, defines company branding. It's the sum of all the impressions that you, or your business, leave on another person. And the real test of the quality of your brand identity is what people say to their friends, family and colleagues.

But there's another, equally important dimension to your brand strategy, and that's the employer component: what are current and prospective employees saying about your company?

Managing your employer brand is important since it influences your ability to attract and acquire talent. Here are five examples of common grievances that job candidates wouldn't dare reveal to you directly -- grievances that have the potential to damage your brand strategy, along with tips on how to ensure that your applicants don't utter these same words:

"I still don't have a clue what I'd be doing in this job."
Many job descriptions focus more on what skills and experience the position requires, and less on the actual job responsibilities. Those that do detail job duties often do so in such a generic fashion, that they provide scant guidance as to what a typical day on the job involves.

"I can't get a straight answer from them."
Job candidates often feel strung along by prospective employers. One minute the hiring process is moving forward at breakneck speed; the next it comes to a complete standstill -- yet the employer continues to reassure the candidate that everything is on track. Internal dynamics are often driving this equivocation: glitches in getting approval to hire, longer-than-anticipated candidate sourcing, an extended interview process, etc. But no matter how legitimate the back story is, the end result is a candidate who feels misled.

"My time is as valuable as yours. Don't waste it."
Ever arrive late to interview a job candidate? You apologize and the candidate politely replies, "No problem, I understand you're busy." What candidates won't say to your face is that making them wait 20, 30 or more minutes is a personal affront to them. It sends a signal that you don't think their time is as valuable as yours.

"Here's an outrageous idea: How about reviewing my resume before the interview?"
Employers like candidates who demonstrate that they're organized and prepared. But this expectation cuts both ways. When candidates encounter an interviewer who is obviously unprepared ("What job are you applying for again? Give me a minute to browse your resume..."), it sends a disturbing signal.

"Thanks for following up with me as promised... NOT!"
It's so easy for those involved in the hiring process to make cavalier commitments ("You'll hear from us in the next two to three weeks"). Then three weeks go by and most candidates are greeted with... deafening silence. Promising to follow-up promptly is a great show of respect to the candidate. It's the follow-through, however, that's really needed to earn goodwill with your candidates.

The importance of understanding what candidates are saying behind your back (and addressing their criticisms) can't be overstated.

These days, when candidates do talk behind your back, they're usually shouting from the rooftops, thanks to various social media platforms, some of which were established precisely for the exchange of information about employers.

Fortunately, you can put the candidate word-of-mouth dynamic to your advantage. All it requires is shaping a recruiting experience that's distinguished by its professionalism, respect and courtesy.

Do that and you're bound to have people talking behind your back. But this time around, they'll be singing your praises and pointing other candidates in your direction. That's what great branding is all about.

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