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This recent blog post by Katrina Collier about the importance (and decline) of professionalism on LinkedIn made me stop and think. I believe that the problem goes well beyond LinkedIn and has tarnished what many of us use LinkedIn for: recruiting. Recruiting in general is full of unprofessional behavior — and we have the reputation to prove it. We’ve lived with a lot of unacceptable behaviors long enough that we probably don’t think much about them.
Furthermore, if we aspire to an ethical code in the workplace (servant leadership, for example) or otherwise set high standards for how we treat people, I think we have to admit that the following examples fall short.
Sadly, it has become commonplace to ignore applicants who don’t meet our hiring standards. This is unprofessional, even rude. To look at it differently, even pragmatically, we can “wow” even the applicants we don’t hire simply by treating them with the respect they are due — which can pay off in many unexpected ways. By the way, I’m talking about more than an autoresponder when they submit an application. At the very least, I’m talking about letting them know if you decide not to consider them for a position. (If you have an ATS and you are using it properly, this involves little or no extra time and effort on your part.)
If it’s not cool to ignore applicants, consider how this standard applies to candidates who have jumped through all our hiring hoops! Failure to keep finalists apprised of our hiring decision is disrespectful. I know only too well how awkward it is to call a great candidate to tell them “I don’t have any news for you yet,” much less “sorry, we went with a different candidate,” but that doesn’t make it any less important. We owe them at least this much respect.
If we make a candidate jump through them, we should express (and show) our appreciation. A friend recently experienced how it feels when this doesn’t happen. She drove two hours to a prospective employer (she was open to relocation) for interviews and an in -person skills assessment. A couple of weeks later, the employer decided they wanted her to complete another in-person assessment. She made the round-trip again. While she did well, the employer selected a local candidate. The employer did call her to tell her she wasn’t selected, but they never thanked her for the two days she took off from her current job, much less offered to reimburse her for her mileage. That’s pretty lame.
Keeping a candidate waiting for a scheduled call or interview (because a hiring manager is busy, for example) is rude, and it sends an ugly message about company culture. Similarly, making assumptions about a candidate’s schedule — such as, it’s OK to assume they can stay an extra 60 minutes to complete an assessment — is presumptive at best. Everybody’s time is valuable. For a top-notch example of how to do the opposite, and turn scheduling into a really positive candidate experience, check this out.
A friend recently shared that he had been asked to go though a total of 15 interviews for an opportunity. At that point, he was offered the position … and declined the offer. Not so much because there were so many interviews, but because the company was so inflexible about scheduling them. “Limited availability” of their executives (a choice, not a true condition) meant that these interviews spanned 7 visits over 2 months. And at least half of their executives were unwilling to meet before or after regular working hours. So, essentially they shifted the entire burden of making their cumbersome screening process work, onto him. He thought that was very inconsiderate. IMHO, it’s’ as foolish as it is unprofessional — what a great way to scare off passive talent.
In a great article on this common question, author Liz Ryanmakes the scathing observation that “we don’t even notice that the question ‘What’s your greatest weakness?’ is no less forward, nosy and presumptuous than the question ‘So, do you watch a lot of porn?’” Both are exceedingly personal questions. If you have not established enough rapport that it would be equally acceptable for a candidate to throw this question back at you, it sends a clear message that you do not view your communication as happening on an even playing field. Of course, there are other common interview questions that send the same implicit message.
I view these lapses as being unacceptable on two different levels. First, someone once observed that “character is how you treat those who can do nothing for you.” Assuming that includes pending candidates, do you consider these behaviors acceptable?
Second, there are practical ramifications for unprofessionalism, even with respect to an applicant who is completely unqualified and has absolutely no chance of being hired. You never know who that person knows. She may the perfect candidate for our next opening. He may be (or soon go work for) an ideal customer. She may be an avid Glassdoor reviewer or a Twitter user with 10,000 followers. He may develop skills we will desperately need in five years. We just don’t know.
Either way, it’s time to clean up our act!
The original LinkedIn article can be found here.