Improving Job Candidate Experience, Part Two: The HR Side

Young woman on phone

Several weeks ago, I wrote about my pledge to improve the experience of job applicants to my organization.

And I’m committed, totally committed,  to doing what I can to making my application process more positive.  At the same time, I can’t help but notice that applicants probably have no idea of some of the challenges I encounter every day with applicant communication.

I want to tell my HR side.

Did you know that:

Approximately 20% of the resumes I call list phone numbers that are either out of service or have voice mail queues that won’t accept additional messages? When sending out your resume, pick your contact number carefully. If you’re contemplating switching cell carriers in the near future, use a land-line as your primary number. Check your messages frequently to keep your message queue low. Advertising your overload of unanswered messages does not bode well for any positions involving follow-up and customer service.

Almost half the time, applicants have the default, sing-song automated message on their voice mail (“You have reached 2-4-0….”), leaving me unsure I’ve reached the correct party. When you’re job hunting, record an outgoing message that includes your name. While you’re at it, take off the bedroom music and anything that is TMI or makes me roll my eyes and crack up in disbelief.

Other times, I leave messages or send emails that are not returned. If you’re no longer interested, give me a courtesy call or e-mail to let me me know. Believe me, it won’t hurt my feelings, but I’ll be glad to close the loop. And you come out looking really good, and who knows, maybe you’ll want to apply for a different position with the company later.

Also, many times, I call someone’s home phone to encounter one of the following. A family member answers and declines to take a message, instructing me to call on Thursday after 1 p.m. A  child–who is old enough to pick up the phone but not old enough to write a message–answers and offers to sing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. Or a family member answers but is so surly and rude that I cut the call short.  Solution: Don’t use a family number as your primary contact number if you can avoid it. If you have to, e.g. your cell phone is down, give strict and detailed instructions–upon pain of death!–to anyone who will be answering the phone.

I’m often recruiting for hourly positions, and a lot of the applications are riddled with typos and formatting errors, such as fonts changing mid-sentence, resumes sent in all caps, and typos that are particularly disastrous.  I am not a perfectionist or a purist by any means. I’ll tolerate a few typos and spelling errors because we’re all human and you know what, I make mistakes, too. But when your application crosses the invisible line and makes me laugh out loud for reasons that don’t advance your career, I have to be honest, I’m not calling you.

Here’s another thing: on a daily basis, several candidates leave messages I can’t return. Either they forgot to leave their name or they forget to leave their number, or I can’t decipher either one. Or I can’t figure out who the heck they are, because they just say, “This is John, returning your call.”   These are probably the same people who later leave a second, irritated message, “This is Mnmful. I left you a message last week, and you STILL haven’t called me back.” (In case you’re wondering, leaving messages like that doesn’t make me feel warm and fuzzy and it doesn’t light a fire under my butt to run to figure out who Mnmful is.)

Another sizable group are simply unqualified. Let’s be practical:  if you meet none of the qualifications, in this economy, someone else is landing that interview. You’re just one more person I have to catalog and respond to. Think of it this way: if you applied for a job that was a perfect fit for you in every way, would you appreciate less-than-personal attention because I have to spend untold hours responding to  hundreds of applicants who are not qualified?

So as a job seeker, when you’re commiserating with others about the horrible response rate you get from HR and hiring managers, remember that at least some of the time, someone may be trying to reach you. And there are steps you can take to make that just a little easier.

Happy job hunting!

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