27 Mar 2009
Rejection Management – The Power of No
Saying ‘No’ isn’t easy for many people, neither is hearing it. When it comes to recruitment and saying ‘no’ to unsuccessful candidates, it’s no different. You will always say ‘no’ to far more people than you ever say ‘yes’.
Whether you are a company recruiting direct or recruitment agency acting on behalf of your client, with the turnaround in the candidate market there will be more people than ever falling into the rejection pile and experiencing this key element of your employment brand experience. Rejection management plays a powerful role in telling the market place what you’re like as an organisation, how much you value and respect people, and how much you understand that, in many cases, these same people may be customers, family, friends or suppliers of your business. Recruiting great people with a thorough process is an essential tool for business growth and success. It’s not saying ‘no’ as much as how it’s done that’s the kicker.
6 Degrees of Separation
The joke is often made that in Godzone it’s more like 2 degrees of separation than 6. Someone knows someone knows someone and word of mouth can work for or against you and it can move with the speed of a brush fire. I’ve seen varying estimates of how many people will spread the word of a good or bad customer experience, somewhere between 7 and 15. Take that and pump up the emotional loading of being rejected for a job in the current opportunity scarce employment market and who knows what number we could be talking about. The flow on effects, through your candidates’ personal and professional networks, can be unpredictable and far reaching. I’ve heard many stories of companies losing significant business as a result of their treatment of a candidate or employee.
The Customer/Candidate Dilemma
The employment brand and customer brand experience are not mutually exclusive domains, particularly if you’re a consumer or retail brand. With increasing employment uncertainty and pressure on their wallets, New Zealanders are being ever more vigilant of who to buy from and who to work for. They are carefully taking in all information and building opinions of brands in which they can place their trust and confidence.
Air New Zealand recognised the potential impact their recruitment process and rejection management in particular could have on their brand and bottom line. They fly millions of people around the country and the world every year and receive about 65,000 job applications in the same period. All those candidates are either customers or potential customers. Air New Zealand Recruitment Manager, Simon Pomeroy, says “Like most employers we reject 97% of the candidates who apply to us. That 97% tell more people about the experience, good or bad, than people realize and most recruiters don’t get this. Our candidates are also our customers. When I told people I was joining Air NZ a lot told me of their poor experience of them as an employer: never hearing back, getting automated responses etc. And worse still, internal candidates, our own people, told us that they had the same experience.” If we take the view that each person who was rejected by Air New Zealand might tell up to 15 people of their experience, that’s over a million customers or potential customers who will either experience directly or hear about the Air New Zealand rejection and will have it inform their view of the brand and their future air travel purchasing decision.
So what did the Air New Zealand team do to mitigate this risk? “We put the communication back into recruitment. We decided to surprise and delight people by calling them. We offered 100% of candidates feedback and invited people to come in and pitch their CV to us rather than putting it on paper. We also got into texting as it’s so quick” says Pomeroy. They made sure every internal applicant received personalised feedback thereby ensuring they had information on what they needed to do to move forward with their career. Pomeroy says “We’ve even been on talk back radio because we called people back from a text campaign. People were amazed to hear back at all, let alone a human voice! What does that say about most recruitment practices?” His advice to others “People forget what you say, often what you do but never how you make them feel. Recruitment is all about the customer experience”.
What can you do?
- Understand the brand experience you want to create and engineer your process and communication to deliver it
- Talk with your brand and customer service people about what they’re doing in the customer experience space
- Work closely with your recruitment partners to ensure they are aligned with you and delivering your brand experience
- Ensure you have sufficient and appropriate resource to handle the process
- Set clear expectations with candidates regarding process and time frames
- Start with a strong role brief and don’t be afraid to make it harder to get the job. Better for candidates to self-select out at the beginning and learn more about what it takes to join you.
People are people and a little care and respect goes a long way. You never know who they are, who they know or what decision making and influencing power they may have. They may not be right for the job but someone they know may be, they may be great for another role … or you may want a share of their wallet. The way you say ‘no’ could turn them into an advocate rather than an adversary.