The Broken Candidate Experience: Part 3

November 21, 2023

Attention Talent Acquisition Leaders: Can you feel it? Can you hear it? YOUR RECRUITING PROCESS IS BROKEN FROM SOUP TO NUTS!

This is the last in the 3-piece blog series on how the Candidate Experience is affected by what is broken in the recruiting process. I started this passion project because I have been moved and saddened to hear how job seekers are treated through the application, interview, and rejection processes. When did we forget that at the core of “human resources” lies the word human?

Those of you who know me and our company, Elevation Talent Group, understand that our top priority is to provide best-in-class candidate experiences. Our client experiences are elevated as a result. Out of the over 50 respondents I spoke with, 95% are director level and above Talent Acquisition and Human Resources professionals who had a lot to say and a lot to suggest.

The first blog in my three-part series focused on the application, interview, and rejection processes. The second blog took a deeper dive into interview practices. This final blog in our series focuses on communication, feedback, and rejections:

  • Every viable application deserves a response
  • Every talented individual who is interviewed deserves closure
  • Every person still in consideration deserves to be updated
  • Use automated updates responses appropriately, not as your only form of communication
  • Ghosting is inexcusable and reflects poorly on you, and your company as a whole


Every Viable Application Deserves a Timely Response

I get it. You’re busy. You received over 200 applicants in just a few hours. How can you possibly respond to everyone? And what about the applicants who were clearly unqualified? Our talent reported that 95% of the time they get no response or a severely delayed response to their application. We’re talking 3, 6, and even 10 months in some cases, if they hear anything back at all. We have two suggestions:

  • Acknowledge the application was received. Unless you are using LinkedIn’s Easy Apply, these people have taken somewhere between 5 and 45 minutes to complete your application process and their time and interest should be acknowledged and respected.
  • Have a few different response types ready:
    • One for those clearly unqualified, providing an automatic rejection
    • One for those who meet your criteria and are under review
    • One for those who are second tier and should not be dismissed because they are missing 1 or 2 of your criteria


Talent Comments:

  • “The most impactful and useful feedback would be at least some reasoning where my background falls short for further consideration for a position especially if my resume/background is aligned to all bullet points on their job posting. Having a better understanding of the ‘why’ behind the rejection would be helpful”



Every Talented Individual Who is Interviewed Deserves Closure

No matter the stage of the the interview process, if you are rejecting a candidate, they deserve to know and whenever possible to know WHY. Many have taken time away from their jobs to engage with your company on your opening (some using precious PTO to do so).

  • In the early stages, an automated email is fine.
  • Once they have met with your team more than twice, a personalized email makes sense.
  • If they have made it past 4 rounds or to final stages, either a call or email with some feedback would go a long way.


Talent Comments:

  • “The most helpful feedback I received was that the candidate who was selected over me was able to more effectively demonstrate their strategic mindset vs. tactical execution. So, I focused more on strategy for upcoming interviews.”
  • “One rejection I received was a phone call. It was nice because it wasn’t an email. It felt more personal.”



Every Person Still in Consideration Deserves to Be Updated

Whether your position has been put on hold, your hiring manager is slow to respond, or whatever the reason for the delay, keeping people in limbo indefinitely is just rude.

  • Set reasonable expectations at the end of each application/interview step.
  • Invite them to follow up after a specific amount of time has lapsed and what method works best for you … and then make sure you respond.
  • If they aren’t in serious consideration, let them go. Give them closure.
  • Use this opportunity to find out if they are still interested in your firm and where they are at with other opportunities.
  • People are not side dishes. You cannot put them in the warming drawer indefinitely.


Talent Comments:

  • “Even if a decision hasn’t been made yet, I feel like the recruiter should do a quick follow up and give updates along the way to keep candidates warm. It ruins the candidate experience when you hear nothing and that’s what is remembered. We’re all adults and can take not getting a role, or being told a role is being put on hold, etc.”
  • “Recruiters should communicate with candidates in the interview process even if they are not moving forward. It is not a good feeling to be left in limbo without the opportunity to ask for feedback that can be used toward future interviews.”
  • “I understand if they get 100s of applications that they can’t respond to all, but if I take the time out of my day to have an hour interview with you, I don’t think it is too much to ask for some sort of follow-up.  I’m fine with an e-mail follow-up. It is the ghosting that bothers me.”


Use Automated Responses Appropriately, Not As Your Only Form of Communication

80% of the respondents said they receive automated responses 100% of the time (if they even receive a response at all).

  • Use automated responses when you have a high volume of responses to get out quickly. It’s fine if they are not personalized at the volume level – that helps in avoiding mistakes.
  • They are best used when someone is clearly unqualified. Let’s define what that means:
    • A prison janitor with no healthcare experience or training applying for a pediatric phlebotomist role is clearly unqualified
    • An accountant with 5 years experience who checks off 5 out of 7 criteria is second tier, at least
  • Automated responses should never be used after later or final interview rounds – like EVER.
    • They have invested, time, energy, and emotion in your process and deserve a personalized message, ideally with feedback.
  • If you have your own pre-drafted messages you rotate through, be sure your messages are free of spelling and grammar errors.


Talent Comments:

  • “I would understand getting a generic response if it was after an initial recruiter phone screen, but if I’ve been talking to member of the HR team or the business, or was a finalist, I feel like specific and individual feedback should be given. A generic response after going through that many interviews feels like a slap in the face and makes me question their employee experience.”
  • “I’ve been addressed by the wrong name, no title mentioned or different title than applied for, misspellings or received message with missing info where info should be filled in like [name], [job title].”


Ghosting is Inexcusable and Reflects Poorly on You and Your Company 

This was the top complaint from our respondents. Only 2 people out of over 50 said they had never been ghosted. There were way too many responses with choice words on this practice for me to include, but you get the drift from the other responses in this article on how ghosting makes people feel … so just don’t do it!

The bottom line and common theme throughout this series has been how dehumanizing the recruitment process has become for job seekers. Here are some of the things I hope you take away from this series:

  • The employee experience begins as a candidate experience.  If you say you are a “people first” organization, this is your time to prove that.
  • Automation isn’t making things easier or better if it means eliminating qualified talent based off of technicalities.
  • People are craving human interaction! They want to know that eyes viewed their resume, that a human took the time to review their qualifications, that someone put some thought into the decision to include/disqualify their application.
  • Empathy is a critical part of your candidate and employee experience. Remember that conducting a job search is scary, time consuming, and full of frustrations and heartache.
  • Treat applicants the way you would want the most special person in your life to be treated if they were applying (your parent, your child, your significant other).



Thank you to everyone who shared their experiences and thoughts with me to contribute to this blog series.  I would welcome feedback from TA/HR leaders in response to some of the above perspectives. And I would LOVE ideas for future blogs regarding the job search or talent search experience as well! Please feel free to email me at or message me directly on LinkedIn

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