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The Candidate Experience: Do Companies Really Care?

The Candidate Experience: Do Companies Really Care?

It may seem like a fairy tale, but not too long ago in Japan, we had a candidate-driven market. I’m not sure the accuracy of the data but I read somewhere that in Japan (pre-COVID in 2019) there were roughly 4-5 career opportunities per person.  That means that the market was doing well and candidates were being very selective in their career choices so companies had to roll out the red carpet to interest candidates to join their company. 

Then COVID happened and for a very short time, companies put on the brakes and the hiring slowed down, candidates became anxious and insecure and the market slowed.  Then just towards the end of last year, companies started actively hiring and that trend seems to be continuing which is a great thing to see, however, unfortunately, I still hear from many candidates in the market, stories of long hiring practices, lengthy interviews, no feedback on interview progress, impersonal group interviews and companies that generally seem to care less about the candidate experience. 



Choose the Right People for the Interview Process

One person in my network told me a story about a company that directly contacted her for a very senior role and got all the way to the final interview but was rejected because one of the junior Directors did not like her.  If that person has that much decision-making ability in the process, why not have that Director be first in the hiring process?  It just wasted everyone’s time and left a very poor impression of the company as a whole that they did not have a clear hiring process in place and allowed one member to affect a big part of their business. Not to mention they lost a great candidate. 


Hire for Potential Before Hiring for Culture Fit

I have also experienced companies that are too democratic in their hiring process and they want everyone to vote before they can agree to hire them. These tend to be smaller companies where everyone needs to work closely with others so I can understand where this comes from but at the same time, I generally feel that companies should hire for potential to help the company grow first and culture second. If too many people that are not qualified to assess someone’s professional potential in the company are involved, it will ultimately hurt your business. If your only purpose in the interview process is to hire for people like you, your business will be at risk. 

I remember one company where I worked, the President would ask the team, “would you want to have a beer with them”.  If the answer was yes, they were hired. 

If that is the only criteria, then why bother asking them to submit a resume and asking them questions about their experience?  Just take them to a bar first.  Everyone is different but if a company has the same goals and mission and everyone who joins understands and shares those, you don’t need to hire people that you enjoy socializing with. Remember, it is a business, not a bar. 


Hire for Diversity? In Your Dreams Japan

I don’t remember when exactly the term “diversity” came to Japan but it is clear that most companies still have no clue what it means. 

To most companies, diveristy means hire a female. And that’s it.  Sorry folks, that is not diversity, that is ignorance.  

Diversity should have a meaning similar to the previous paragraph meaning that you hire for potential instead of hiring just because they are female, physically challenged, a different ethnicity or other superficial reasons.  Don’t even get me started on the “age” issue, that is for a different, much longer blog. 

At any rate, if companies really want to strengthen their workforce and grow, they need to rethink what hiring for diversity means. Design roles in your company that attract the right kind of people, don’t worry about how old, young, male or female or ethnic they can help your company look, just hire them for their potential. 


Be an Ambassador of Your Brand

Let’s do the math.  Let’s say you post one job and 200 people apply for that job.  How many of those people are likely to be qualified?  Depending on what sites you post on, maybe 5 if you are lucky. So let’s say that the hiring team selects 20 people from the 200 that applied and interviews them. What impression do you want to leave for the 19 that you meet but won’t be hired?  What kind of impression do you want to leave for the 180 people that got no reply? 

In theory, I understand it is impossible to engage with everyone, but is it?  With the technology today, it is possible to engage with everyone that might apply or at least configure an auto-reply to keep them warm.  While the 200 people that applied for the role may not be qualified for the job you posted, I am sure there is a high chance that someone in there is qualified for another job in the company.  Staying engaged and being an ambassador of the brand and hiring process should be the goal and can open up new talent pools.

There are so many small things that companies can be do to make the candidate experience positive rather than negative.


  • What are your thoughts on the hiring process at your company?
  • What are your thoughts on your own candidate experience? 
  • How can companies improve the candidate experience?