Applicant Expectations

Manage a Job Applicant's Expectations

By Barbara Mitchell 

Q: I need some help on how to manage a job applicant’s expectations during the hiring process. Any ideas that might help eliminate the phone calls and emails asking for an update on when the job will be filled?

A: Applicants form lasting impressions of your organization from the moment they see a job posting and at every step of the recruiting process. You’re right to want to manage expectations so that the best talent available wants to work for you.

The most talented candidates are highly marketable. Don’t leave them hanging for weeks while your organization moves to the interview phase—they’re probably not going to wait for you. However, if you know it will take a few weeks after you receive applications to invite selected candidates in for interviews—and there are legitimate reasons for that, like travel schedules, illness, family emergencies, etc.—let your applicants know what’s happening and why.

In the absence of information, it’s human nature to assume that something is wrong. If I’ve interviewed at your organization and haven’t heard back from you in a week or two, I assume I’m no longer in the running for the position. At that point, one of two things will happen: I’ll move on and never think about your organization again, or I'll start calling and emailing for an update.

If you’re getting inundated with calls for updates, this may be a sign that you need to reevaluate your hiring process and make it more efficient.

Try this: At the end of the interview, tell the applicant where you are in the recruitment process and when you will be in touch again. Once you do this, keep your word. If you’ve said that you expect to finish the first round of interviews by two weeks from Friday and that you will be in touch that day with an update, contact the applicant on that day. Even if there’s no decision, at least provide an update on your schedule.

If there is a prolonged period between interviews, keep in touch with the applicant by sending updates or even press releases or other information on your organization to keep the candidate interested.

If you’re getting inundated with calls or emails for updates, this may be a sign that you need to reevaluate your hiring process and make it more efficient. Remember: The goal is to hire the best talent available, so it helps to make the candidate experience the best it can possibly be.

Barbara Mitchell is a human resources and management consultant and author of The Big Book of HR, The Essential Workplace Conflict Handbook and the latest book—The Conflict Resolution Phrase Book. Do you have a question you’d like her to answer in “Ask the Expert”? Send it to [email protected].

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