Resume ‘Black Holes’ Could Be Costly

If only applying for a job were like online shopping.

Purchase a book on, say, Amazon.com, and the shopper typically receives a bevy of emails from the retailer ensuring that the order has been processed, shipped and delivered — a seamless, informative and, in most cases, efficient process.

When it comes to following up with job applicants, however, the process is anything but, according to a recent study from the Talent Board, a nonprofit organization founded by human resources consultants.

“If candidates ask for one thing, they ask for a follow-up,” said Elaine Orler, a founder of the Talent Board.

But when job applicants submit a resume or application online, only 43 percent of employers said they inform candidates of “next steps,” according to the Talent Board’s annual Candidate Experience survey of nearly 60 recruitment heads of primarily large companies.

The result is what the Talent Board deems a “black hole” effect, where many job candidates are left wondering about the status of their application — or if it was at least properly received and reviewed by a recruiter or hiring manager.

Orler said most employers’ feedback ends with that initial “thank you” email, which isn’t enough.

“I just got a receipt that I did something, [but] it’s not a confirmation that it’s taken care of,” Orler said. “It’s not informative to me. It’s just a receipt.”

When most employers fail to adequately follow up with candidates, it could leave them with a reduced aspiration to want to work for the company — but it might also hamper their desire for that company’s goods or services.

Based on a forthcoming portion of the study, which was previewed in a recent article in The Wall Street Journal, the Talent Board determined that on average 8 percent of job candidates leave the applicant experience with enough resentment toward the firm to affect their relationship as customers.

Further, companies run the risk of these discontented candidates sharing their resentment with at least one other person, such as a family member or spouse, the Talent Board said.

For example, a retailer that hires 5,000 people per year and receives 500 resumes per opening — equating to roughly 495,000 rejected candidates a year — could potentially lose 79,200 current or potential customers, according to the Talent Board study.

If the average customer spends roughly $100 a year with the retailer, the study said, annual revenue loss in this example would total $7.92 million.

“As two-way interaction becomes part of how we live our lives now, it’s going to be more and more important that the needs of the job seekers are met,” said Gerry Crispin, principal and co-founder of recruitment consultancy CareerXroads and one of the contributing authors of the Talent Board study. “And one of the most critical ones is to understand where you are at any point in time in a [recruitment] process.”

As a former recruiter, Orler said she understands the challenges that come with trying to accommodate the hundreds of applicants who may apply for a single opening. Often, she added, general screening questions during the online application process don’t weed out unqualified candidates electronically. This leaves overwhelmed recruiters in a rut and fielding calls from applicants asking for status updates.

Based on the study’s findings, just 14 percent of employers said they electronically push candidates to an exit screen during a general screening process with an explanation that they are not qualified for the position. Moreover, just 11 percent of employers said they did so during a more specific online screening.

Organizations are better off telling candidates up front if they are not qualified — or if the high volume of applicants simply left them off the radar, Orler said.

“There are two basic things every organization can do,” she said. “First, there’s nothing limiting us from sending a secondary message that says you’re still being considered. … The second is, as soon as you’re no longer considering additional applicants, communicating that to the pool as well.”

Either way, HR departments should consider doing an extensive review of their follow-up procedures, Orler said. As social and new media continue to play an enhanced role in the recruitment process, more leverage will shift to the candidate.

“The economic shift, I think, is really going to play into this,” Orler said. “In a recession, candidates can take anything [to get a job]. When we’re not in a recession, candidates don’t have to take it anymore.”

Frank Kalman is an associate editor of Talent Management magazine. He can be reached at fkalman@talentmgt.com.