Written by: Adam Lloyd
I will never forget the morning, during one of many college business courses, a guest lecturer from Aramark visited to discuss customer service. This was before candidate experience and branding, etc. were hot buzzwords. Anyway, point being, what hit me that day was when this tenured executive told myself and the 300+ person lecture hall that his most opportune moments were when they [Aramark] did wrong by the customers. Wait a minute. Was I still half asleep? This bold statement was a complete contradiction of everything I had learned in business studies up to this point, especially for a hospitality related industry. What we were taught first-hand that day was that the most rewarding consumer experiences happen when a customer has an negative exchange that is then exceeded by overwhelming gratitude, provided by the supplier - YOU.
In the interview transaction, candidates are our consumers. Forget about them taking a job. They are either buying into what an organization stands for, it’s brand, or not. Their candidate experience results in how they will portray this brand to the market. So, what if it goes terribly wrong during the interview process? Don’t panic, Aramark taught me a long time ago that this is your chance to shine. Here’s how:
Timing is critical. Once you learn of the candidate’s perspective and have gathered as much information about the experience as you can, do not allow time to lapse. There is nothing worse than a long silence period, talking about adding to resentment. I’ve heard many times from candidates that have been flown in for interviews and left with a poor taste of the organization. The worst part, it was all topped off with going weeks without communication from the hiring organization. Radio silence is a killer. Of course, being the recruiter, I try to bridge this gap but it only goes so far. Hiring companies, it’s simple – you must act quickly! In addition to making timely outreach, keep in mind that executives have hectic schedules, so be accommodating and make sure to take the return call. It shows you value their time and are freeing up yours.
ACKNOWLEDGE & ACCEPT
If there is anything you should avoid, it’s being defensive. Even if you believe you’re not in the wrong, bite your lip and put the candidate first. Openly acknowledging and addressing the poor experience head-on is an honest form of taking responsibility for actions and shows great character and responsibility to the candidate. While addressing the situation, take your time, candidates don’t want to interpret this gesture as a data gathering exercise to apply to your future process. Yes, it is great to know you will prevent this in the future, but right now it is all about them. Tackle it head on. You won’t regret it.
DITCH THE SCRIPT
When you reach out, lose the robotic formalities and scripted conversations. Compliance is one thing, but coming across as an outsourced agent is another. Executive candidates will sniff this out and it defeats the whole purpose. It’s ok to not have all of the answers, sincerity will override this. Ask questions to understand where the process fell apart and admit to mistakes. It’s a powerful thing to hear from reputable companies that they do make errors and own up to them. Believe me, there are many worse things than being human and humility is one of the strongest attributes to gain a loyal following. With that in mind, this conversation is all about relating to each other as people, not candidate and hiring manager. In addition to understanding what went wrong, discuss the positives as you can jokingly mention you got a few things right. This type of discussion with higher-level candidates will open future doors and heighten your word-of-mouth standing.
At the end of the day it is important to remember that it’s ok to fall sometimes. As I learned years ago, failure can be beneficial. Just make sure you know how to seize an opportunity and you’ll be sure to recover.