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When Your Applicants Are Your Customers

Rejecting applicants is risky business. Especially in branches such as Retail, Hospitality and Customer Service. More often than not, your applicants are your (future) customers, and turning them down for a job might turn them away from your business.

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The cost of unhappy applicants can be significant. Here’s an example from Virgin Media: in 2014, six percent of its candidates were customers who, as a result of their applicant experience, decided to unsubscribe. The cost of this unfortunate business: over 4 million pounds. What’s more, unhappy customers usually are more efficient in spreading the word than happy customers. Hence amplifying the effect – and costs – of a lousy candidate experience. To avoid all this from happening, here’s what to do when your applicants are your customers.

Make it Personal

Let’s be honest, nobody like to be just a number. Even if you get hundreds or thousands of applicants a year, you need to add a personal touch. The fact that you’re being swamped with applications is not the candidate’s problem after all. So what you want is for people to feel at ease during the recruitment process and ideally you want to give them your personal attention – or something that comes close to it. Easier said than done, that’s for sure.

With many of your candidates being your customers things become even more complicated. You want to minimise the risk of rejected applicants turning into former customers and ambassadors of your biggest competitor. The best scenario you can wish for when you reject a candidate is for them to remain happy customers. But how?

Of course there is the obvious stuff. Meaning, make sure you reply to your applicants in due course, keep them posted about potential next steps and the timeframe, and tell them when the position is no longer available. In other words: show some basic, polite human behaviour. It sounds crazy, but you’d be shocked to know how many candidates never even receive an acknowledgement email when they send out their application…

Then there is the constructive feedback part, something to give your applicants in return for their invested time and energy. This one is up to you, but in an era where job seekers – and employees – are hungry for feedback, you should give the matter some serious thought. Think of interview tips or, if you want to take things a few steps further, a free voucher to use for your products or services.

Personalisation through Automation

Interview tips and vouchers are good ideas, but what do you do when you have high volumes of applicants? Impossible to manually send every rejected candidate an email with a voucher, while the need for a personal touch remains all the same.

Recent developments in HR Technology and preselection software enable companies with lots of applicants to give personalised feedback. Every candidate goes through an online application experience, tailored to the organisation’s requirements. While the applicant deals with real, work floor situations, different algorithms gather relevant data. Based on this data it’s then possible to predict how likely the candidate in question is to succeed in the role they’re applying for. But what’s just as important, is the individual test report every applicant receives afterwards. In it, they’ll see exactly how they scored on each part of the test.

From our own experience here at Harver we know how much candidates value this kind of application process. An example from one of our clients: Out of the 2196 applicants that went through our tool, TalentPitch, 65% rated the experience as super positive, stating that ‘It was the most funny and interesting application they’d ever made.’ Another 22% said the experience was very good, making them feel ‘as though my application for this job was actively processed, as opposed to my CV lying on the bottom of a digital pile somwehere’.
On top of that, even though most of your applicants won’t get the job, they leave knowing they’ve got something they can work with: their individual results report.

Brand Building Opportunity

In a time where customer competition is fierce and social media are omnipresent, every brand building opportunity counts. Even more so in Retail, Hospitality and Customer Service where customers are merciless. When it comes to your candidate experience, don’t take any risks. Structure it in such a way that even the most disappointed applicant comes out of it as a happy customer. The tools to help you do this are out there, no matter how high your volume of candidates is. Give something valuable back to your candidates and chances are they’ll be loyal customers for life.

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Neelie Verlinden is the Co-Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Digital HR Tech. She’s an experienced digital HR & HR Tech writer, speaker, and entrepreneur with an international background. She has written countless articles on all things HR technology.

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