When you come to work at TRIMEDX as a field manager one of your new-hire training sessions will be with me. I get one hour to provide a brief overview of our company’s interview and selection process. One hour is hardly enough time to cover all of the things that you will need to know so my lecture covers three essential elements. For the first 20 minutes, I rapidly cover the entire process. Next, I cover the importance of the hiring manager always being on the look-out for talented and ambitious people. Finally, I hold up my one and only visual aid and we talk about candidate perishability. That is the subject of this article.
Perishability refers to what happens to candidates whose interview cycle takes too long: the candidate loses interest and for whatever reason withdraws from consideration. The visual aid that I use is two pieces of paper. One is a picture of a nice ripe yellow banana. The other is a picture of a rotten brown banana. The difference between the two is only a matter of days but one is delicious and the other resembles something that might require a shovel in order to remove it from your yard. To the new managers, this sends the message home that once a person enters the job interview process, the clock starts ticking. As time moves forward but the process does not, the candidate starts to experience fatigue. As time drags on, the level of fatigue steadily increases. Eventually the candidate’s attitude toward the employer starts to sour and shortly after that, the candidate’s attitude about your company is the same as a rotten banana. At this point, something else bad usually happens. The once excited candidate is now a sour former candidate who unfortunately tells other people about the unpleasant experience he or she had with your company. Sometimes that person will even go online and write a review of the experience and suggest that future job-seekers avoid your company all together. For a recruiter, this is the kiss of death.
Here’s a typical sequence that will illustrate what this looks like from the candidate’s perspective as well as from the employer’s perspective. The candidate is sitting at home scrolling through jobs online and eventually finds your company’s open job. The candidate creates a user profile on the employer’s career site and applies to a job. The recruiter gets the application, calls or emails the candidate and a preliminary phone interview is scheduled. The recruiter phone screens the candidate and things go well. The recruiter tells the candidate, “I’m going to send over your resume and my notes and I’m going to recommend to the manager that he schedule an interview with you. You can expect to hear back from me in 2-3 days.” The recruiter does as he says.
The hiring manager is busy doing manager things. He sees an email from you and it’s got a little paperclip on the email indicating that there’s a Word document attached to the email. He opens the email, then opens the attachment, reviews the resume, contemplates whether or not there’s a potential fit. The phone rings and it’s someone important with something urgent. The resume and email get disregarded as the manager tends to whatever issue just showed up. The manager finishes his work day, goes home and the resume is long forgotten.
Two to three days go by and the candidate is wondering what’s going on. The recruiter said, “give me a couple of days and we will set up the next step.” But the candidate hasn’t heard anything and is beginning to wonder if something is wrong. The candidate wonders about a lot of things. Is there an error on my resume? Is the job no longer available? Do they not like my resume? Did something else change? All of these things get louder and louder in the mind of the candidate. He is beginning to show initial signs of interview fatigue and at this point he’s only spoken with the recruiter.
The recruiter calls the hiring manager and leaves a voice message, “Hey, it’s Todd, I’m calling to see whether you’d like me to schedule time with you and that candidate I sent over a few days ago. Please call me back.” The hiring manager remembers he’s got a job open and that H.R. is interviewing applicants for him. He looks at his inbox for your email from a few days ago but then sees a few other emails that appear to be more urgent and more important. So, he decides to deal with those issues and never actually re-visits that resume. The candidate calls the recruiter to find out what’s taking so long. The recruiter doesn’t know because the hiring manager, being busy dealing with a crisis, forgets to call the recruiter back, again. So, the recruiter doesn’t have any new information to pass along to the candidate. The candidate, who also applied to other jobs, by the way, is starting to seriously wonder if your company is actually a decent place to work. The fatigue is growing and his opinion of your company is in decline. Sadly, you and your company haven’t actually “done” anything wrong, because, well, you haven’t “done” anything.
Now it’s a week or two later and the hiring manager suddenly realizes that if he doesn’t get his job filled he’s going to be in big trouble. So, he locates your email with the resume, reviews it, and instructs the recruiter to set up an interview. But, guess what? That delicious banana no longer looks delicious. It looks rotten. It’s spoiled. The recruiter calls the candidate. The candidate recognizes the phone number and lets it go to voicemail. He has no intentions of returning the call. The recruiter emails the candidate, “Hey, I finally heard back from the hiring manager and he’d like to schedule an interview.” The candidate does not reply. The candidate already had two or three other interviews with other employers and in both of those instances, the process moved in a timely fashion.
The recruiter is frustrated because he’s got dozens of other jobs to fill and has to allocate his time carefully. If you’re a slow responding hiring manager, I hate to break it to you but you’re no longer on the top or even near the top of his list or priorities. But you need your job filled because stuff needs to get done and in order to do that stuff, you need people. So, what’s a hiring manager supposed to do? Here is where it gets easy. As the hiring manager, when that emailed resume arrives, you make a binary decision: “Yes, please set up and interview, my Outlook calendar is current.” The other option is, “No, the resume isn’t what I’m looking for. This resume isn’t a fit because…” and you provide the recruiter with a few details to share with the candidate as to why things are not going to move forward. Read that last sentence again. It applies at every step throughout the process. If the candidate is, for whatever reason, being eliminated from consideration, you must give the recruiter some feedback to pass along to the candidate. Otherwise, the candidate is very likely to feel slighted, and away he goes to Glassdoor to tell the world what a lousy company yours is. You don’t ever want that to happen.
So, the moral of the story is this. When you have an open job and your recruiter sends you a candidate, read the resume and respond with your decision or feedback. The absolute worst thing you can do is nothing at all. Doing nothing at all quickly produces rotten bananas. Unless you’re making banana bread, there’s absolutely nothing you can do with rotten bananas.
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