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Candidate Experience (and other wild goose chases)

By July 31, 201413 Comments

Busy week for #NZRec this week.  Especially Tuesday where the theme of the day can be pretty accurately summed up as where the bloody hell have all the good candidates gone?

BNZ ran a morning seminar called “The Global War for Talent: Is New Zealand Winning” or more properly are we attracting better people than Australia?

ASB hosted the Sourcing Summit with the theme “Pushing Sourcing Frontiers” or more properly how can we find good people who are trying to hide from us?

Then the day finished off with an HRINZ Recruitment evening at the University of Auckland entitled “Future Forward” or more properly is it actually going to be even harder to find good people five years from now?

I was lucky enough to be at two of these events, bestowing on me great knowledge, improved sourcing skills, and a couple of days tinged with panic as I fought to catch up with my desk again.  Lots to take on board, and far too much to convey on this Whiteboard, but there was one thing that stood out for me.  One of the speakers at the Sourcing Summit was the inimitable, globe-trotting, irrepressibly irreverent mouthpiece that is Bill Boorman. Delivering a typically eye-opening keynote, he also mentioned to keep a look out for the CandE Awards coming to these very shores next year.

Which is pretty cool, if true.  Candidate Experience is a growing area of focus in the wider recruitment world and, if done well, I can see these awards offering our local industry a genuine chance to separate the wheat from the chaff and highlight those of us trying to do things in the right way.


I mean it seems to work pretty well in other sectors.  My attention was brought to something called Net Promoter Scores by Alan Ward and Matt Pontin over some crafty craft beers later that evening.  Apparently Telcos, Banks and other sectors have for years canvassed their customer bases to pretty well find out whether they thought they were great, or crap, and thus how likely they would be to tell their mates how great, or crap, they were.

The best explanation I’ve been able to find is here:

In a nutshell, customers who give you a rating of 9 or 10 on a scale of 0 to 10 are considered Promoters. Customers who give you as rating of 7 or 8 are passive customers and whilst they are not dissatisfied, they do not factor into the NPS score. Lastly, any customers who provide you a rating of 6 or lower are considered your detractors.

NPS Explained

Can this work in recruitment?  Bearing in mind most of us spend a large majority of our time rejecting candidates rather than placing them, how likely is it going to be that those people will be Promoters of our business, or even Passives for that matter?

There’s a couple of points to raise there I think:  Firstly, we are all relying too much on technology that exists to generate as many applicants as possible and then moan about the quality of applications, which is bound to make it harder to please them all.  Secondly, it is possible to let people down in a more humane and civilised way.

We try.

Inspired by a rejection letter penned by Renny Hayes and shared on this blog just over a year ago, we tried to make our standard rejection email a bit more personable and human.  We even stole a few phrases from Renny’s letter, so impressed were we, and so keen to avoid the bland, robotic auto-replies seen elsewhere, or even the dismissive “only successful applicants will receive a response” missive.  But in a classic case of proving you can’t please everybody, Sean clearly hurt the feelings of a rejected candidate just a bit too much earlier this week, who received this response to his rejection email:

I would say thank you for your reply but I feel strongly about the contents or should I say context of your email, and would like to provide you with some feedback.  That was the worst reply I have ever received after sending in an application for a position, it was immature and lacked any sort of professionalism.  May I suggest you try and put a bit more empathy into these emails, using phrases like “I am afraid its a no” and “its somewhat a cliche to wish you well” is I believe very unprofessional and as a recruitment consultant you may like to look at retraining, as you clearly have no understanding of what its like applying for a role and receiving an answer like this.

So, it’ll be interesting to see how the future winners of the Candidate Experience awards handle this kind of rejection and communication piece.  Or maybe, as I suspect, it will just become blindingly obvious that we recruiters get so deeply entwined with the ego, the status and the emotion of our candidates, just by the very nature of what we do, that it’s virtually impossible to please them all.

We will carry on having a go, though.  In the meantime Sean will go and get some training.  At last.


Jonathan Rice

MD at New Zealand rec-to-rec firm Rice Consulting and co-founder of on-demand recruiter offering Joyn. Recruitment agitator and frustrated idealist, father of two, husband of one, and lover of all things Arsenal and crafty beer.


  • Mark Sumner says:

    Great read as always Jonathan! It was a pleasure to host #SOSUNZ and the conversations that followed certainly showed how the Candidate Experience needs to be front of mind at all times. The Cand E’s will come to NZ (and pretty sure Australia too). If anyone is keen to know more feel free to contact me. I’ll be setting up a Webex in August to chat with Gerry Crispin in the USA.

  • Craig Watson says:

    Hi Mate,
    I’d be very interested to see the email you send to unsuccessful candidates to elicit such a response! I hope Sean is not too battered & bruided!


  • I’d also be interested in what that email said to elicit that response.

    I completely get trying to do a personal email and think it’s awesome you take the time to do it. However, I’d probably be a bit miffed to if someone said “its somewhat of a cliche to wish you well”.

    Sometimes a white lie is better that the honest truth. Does my bum look big in this?

    On another note, I know a company that uses the net promoter score internally as well as externally. Teams are rated by their internal customers. For example, the Finance team is rated by people who have regular dealing with them. Perhaps some recruiters would be game to try it with their clients?

    • Thanks Amanda, have just emailed it to you too

    • Mark Sumner says:

      There are a large number of companies that measure NPS / Customer Experience internally and some even measure Candidate / Hiring Manager experience and Quality of Hire too 🙂

      • Oh cool! Thanks Mark. It’s more common than I thought. I’d only really come across the lean manufacturing methods – but I guess that’s what I get for spending so many years in manufacturing 😉

  • Nikki says:

    Good blog Jonathan. I’m a big fan of NPS as a great way to measure candidate / recruitment experiences & using them to identify trends in commentary as to whether a) an amendment to process is valid or b) identify areas where further more focus research is required within the candidate / recruitment experience.

    Agree though we deal with people, so we will never get it right because everyone is different.

    In saying that though we should be able to establish a score board & SLA % (just as lean manufacturing businesses do) to track & improve experiences; along with identifying when process improvement is required. No business will ever be able to be perfect in CE however as an industry whole we can strive for excellence (which could be only 85% of candidates – however I reckon we could aim higher). At the moment though I don’t believe we have enough insights as to what is consistently great CE.

    In regards to Sean’s feedback – poor thing. Stick with honesty is best policy I say. No one likes to be rejected & as much as we “read” people throughout a recruitment process, we sometimes get the feedback delivery wrong. Overall though, in my mind it’s better to have some form of feedback than none at all, which still seems common practice within our industry still.

  • Enjoyed the blog, as usual, Jon. I think you will find Rob Davidson is a big fan of the Net Promoter Score and uses it in his business. As to your email respondent – you can never please everybody.

    PS I am sure Sean still requires training anyway.

  • Nikki says:

    Yes agree Mark more & more companies are seeing the value & negative impact from doing poor CE or RE. Still a new way of thinking for businesses as maybe still focused on dealing with transactional ER/IR issues; along with latest trend in development. I think NPS is a great way to measure throughout whole Employee Lifecycle & would help businesses focus on overall talent solutions. Very commercial approach.

  • Jon, Thanks for the blog. It inspired me to write my own about Net Promoter Scores and the BS around them.
    Where can you go to find a simple transaction these days?

  • A Seth says:

    As an organization, we are also contemplating putting up NPS to measure candidate experience
    I just wanted to get a sense of – for recruiting particularly for large organizations, what is the right benchmark of NPS – is it 10 or 20 or 50? It will be great if some of you could share any insights from your own org or any others you are aware of