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Viewpoint: 9 Ways Employers Turn Off Talent

A woman sitting on a couch with a laptop on her lap.

​As a longtime HR professional, I've been on both sides of the job market: I've recruited for positions and been a job seeker. Over time, I've watched the process evolve from newspaper ads and paper applications to online job boards and electronic submissions. The candidate who stopped by to drop off a resume has been banished. And the black hole where paper resumes were sent has been replaced by automated "no reply" e-mails, assuming you get a response at all. Don't bet on it, because most applications are met with silence.

The number and type of hiring tools has exploded from job boards, recruitment software and online screening assessments to social media, video ads and virtual interviews. Yet while our recruitment technology has become sophisticated, our social skills are stuck in middle school. Many employers think they have the upper hand in hiring. Their mentality is that they don't need to court employees—instead, employees should come to them. This approach may have worked in the past, but not now.

Our current job market is very tight, even with talk of a recession in the air. Go to any networking event and you'll hear employers discuss the difficulty of finding talent. But instead of seeking ways to attract candidates, many employers are alienating them. Let's count the ways: 

  1. Having an off-putting application process. There are few things less irritating than having to fill out electronic applications with umpteen required fields. Job seekers realize they likely won't get an interview, so why spend 45 minutes filling out a tedious application? Chances are, they won't. They'll click off and move on to another that doesn't require their life story.

    As the first step in the process, the application should be quick and easy: resume, contact information and optional cover letter. After you have finished screening, there will be plenty of time to get detailed information from the applicants you are seriously considering.

    If you require more than the basics at the application level, you risk losing qualified candidates. This is especially true for Millennials and younger generations. Glassdoor said 58 percent of its visitors are using their phones to look for jobs. Try filling out 65 required fields on your phone and see how far you get. 

  2. Missing a phone screen appointment. The candidate has a confirmed date and time, which the interviewer misses. Why? If something came up at the last minute, then the candidate should have received an e-mail or text. Not sending such a notification is rude, unprofessional and dismissive. You may not get a second chance to talk to them.

  3. Arriving late for an interview. You expect the candidate to be on time, so you should do the same. It might make you feel powerful to leave them languishing in the lobby (whether physical or virtual), but it's not professional. Remember, it's not all about you. The candidate is also deciding if they want to work for your company. Make a good first impression by being on time.

  4. Being unprepared. Have you ever gone to a doctor's appointment, reviewed your medical history with the nurse and then the doctor came in and asked the same questions? Frustrating, wasn't it? You probably wondered why the doctor didn't review your chart. This is how a candidate can feel when the interviewer comes in cold. Before the appointment, take some time to review the candidate's resume. This will help you comment on their background and build rapport.

  5. Not following up. Phone screens aside, candidates who have had either an onsite or video interview deserve a response. It takes minutes to send an e-mail, so there is no excuse for lack of follow-up. Note to recruiters: You aren't off the hook. Saying you're going to present someone to an employer, then never following up with an update or responding to a candidate's inquiries is not acceptable. The industry doesn't have a great reputation, and I believe it's largely due to recruiters ghosting candidates instead of giving them the courtesy of a response. 

  6. Ignoring e-mails from candidates. See No. 3. If the candidate is asking for an update on a recent interview, have the professional courtesy to respond. If you've decided to pass on them, tell them so. If you haven't decided, say that. This is Professional Courtesy 101. 

  7. Checking out. Looking at your phone, texting or taking a call from someone during an interview isn't a good look for any interviewer (just as it isn't for the candidate). Allowing interruptions from staff while you troubleshoot issues isn't likely to make a favorable impression on the candidate. Give the person your full attention. If something urgent comes up and you must respond, excuse yourself and step out of the room. 

  8. Requesting references with each application. This goes to the one-size-fits-all mentality of No. 1, the laborious application process that covers every base for every applicant. It is poor hiring practice to ask people who haven't been interviewed to provide references. Many candidates will be put off by this because they don't want to "burn through" their references unless they are seriously being considered for the job. They are right. Save this for when you're close to an offer. 

  9. Using virtual interviews. Some companies are using artificial intelligence technology that sends a virtual interview request as a first step in the interview process. The candidate clicks on a link and answers prepared questions, speaking to a camera. There is no other person present. The interview is usually short, perhaps 20 minutes. The candidate receives an automated e-mail that someone will review their video and respond if there is interest.

    While this may seem efficient, especially for larger companies, I call foul. This is dehumanizing. There is no opportunity to form a connection with the person, nor can the candidate comment or ask questions. They are in an artificial setting, staring at a camera, talking to no one.

    As an employer, using virtual interviews also invites potential bias and discrimination. If you have 20 minutes to watch a video, you have 20 minutes to talk to the person. Not doing so opens the door for you to click off two minutes into the video because the person is too old, the wrong race or doesn't have the look you want. If you had the person on the phone, they'd have an opportunity to speak to their experience before you judged their appearance. Even a video interview is better than a virtual one, because the candidate can still interact with you and sell themselves in a way they can't if you're watching a recording of them.

    Yes, I've spent a lot of time on this one. That is how much I detest this idea. May it die the death of resumes that included applicants' headshots. 

Eileen Kilgore is a writer and HR professional in Baton Rouge, La. She has led HR departments at several companies and is particularly interested in change management, including facilitating integrations and the merging of different company cultures. She also enjoys the challenge of coaching managers, drafting corporate communications and looking for new ways to attract and retain talent. Connect with Eileen on LinkedIn.


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