Hiring, the Nice Way

The surprising consequences of treating candidates badly is forcing firms to update an outdated system.



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Job applications are responded to within a day. Candidates to be interviewed receive helpful emails with directions and nearby coffees shops and landmarks. The interviewer has snacks ready and knows the candidate’s history. A rejection may come, but is prompt and with a full explanation.

If this isn’t the kind of hiring process most people would recognize, it’s because companies across the globe are struggling with a deluge of applications while hoping to save on rehiring costs with careful scrutinizing of candidates. But it turns out that job applicants are not just getting angry with the system—they’re getting even.

According to a new Korn Ferry survey, three- quarters of job candidates around the world say they likely would stop buying products or services from a company where they had a bad interview experience. Worse, nearly half would urge friends and family to stop being a customer as well, says Sarah Lim, a managing director at Korn Ferry who heads the firm’s European Retail practice.

Experts say the problem isn’t so much turning down candidates, it’s the typical “ghosting” that has been endemic to the process. So the best firms are revamping the whole approach, with speedy replies, better talent matching and more thoughtful interviews. Johnson & Johnson created an online system that tells candidates how long it will take to move to the next phase and what that next stage entails. The pharmaceutical giant also is looking at artificial intelligence, robotics, virtual reality and other technologies to help create “an exceptional, more diverse workforce,” says Sjoerd Gehring, J&J’s vice president of talent acquisition and employee experience.

Changes like these may not eliminate the sting of being rejected for a job, but experts say they may keep candidates from becoming angry critics.

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