Perception Is Reality: What Is Your Hiring Process Telling Candidates?

If hiring were a T.V. talent competition, it would be more The Voice than American Idol. On the latter, contestants have to impress a panel of judges. Fail, and the judges can laugh you off the stage. But The Voice is a two-way street. A contestant has to impress, sure, but then they have a choice – with which judge do they want to work?

In today's candidate-driven hiring landscape, employers can't forget that selling their place of work to candidates is just as important as the candidates selling themselves to employers. Every stage of the hiring process tells your candidates a story about who your company is, what the team members are like, and how much the candidate would enjoy or dread working for you.

Even rejected candidates matter. Thanks to sites like Glassdoor, more prospects than ever are reading reviews from people who've been through the hiring experience. A bad online reputation can raise your cost per hire by 10 percent.

With each stage of the process, you're telling a story. True or not, it's the one your candidates will believe. So, what does your hiring process tell your prospects?

Job Description

If your job description is little more than a templated list of duties, what you're saying is: "This job is so terrible that the last person to hold it quit unexpectedly. Luckily, they were only hired six months before that so we had this job description ready to put online."

How to Say It Right

Rip up your old job post templates and write each description from scratch. Look at the description through a marketer's eyes – hey, maybe even have your marketing team look at it!

Sell the role. Use colorful language and explain not just what the job is, but why it matters to the business and why the right person will love it. Make your ad stand out from all the other listings on the internet. Then, you'll be saying: "Everyone here is so excited to hire an amazing person in this role. It has the potential for big impact. We can't wait to welcome this person to the work family."

Careers Page

If the careers page on your company website is a list of open roles with a photo of the 2012 team retreat, what you're saying is: "What we do have here is jobs. What we don't have here is fun."

How to Say It Right

If you don't make your careers page the place for candidates to research your company, they'll look somewhere else – maybe at a bad online review or unflattering article. Keep your page up to date with images of your team working and enjoying time together. Film a video that shows a day in the life of the office, or interview team members about your company's core values. Speaking of which, include those on the page. Candidates are looking for employers whose values align with their own.

Then, you're saying: "Our people are our first priority. They love it here, and so will you."


If you are late, unprepared, or haven't read the candidate's resume, what you're saying is: "If we hire you, you can look forward to massive disorganization!"

If you don't leave space for candidates to ask questions of you, what you're saying is: "If we hire you, your opinion won't matter."

How to Say It Right

An interview is just as much a candidate's opportunity to vet you as it is yours to vet them. This becomes even truer as candidates move through the process. When you're down to those last two people, you need to convince them to say "yes" to the job. Come on time for interviews, prepare an agenda if there will be multiple meetings, offer water or coffee if you're meeting in person, and skip questions that can be answered by a resume (you've already read that).

Allowing candidates to ask questions is an excellent opportunity to see how much research they've done, and it shows them that you're interested in their voice more than your own.

Then, you'll be saying: "We've got our stuff together around here, and better yet, we have nothing to hide. Ask us anything! We think you'll like the answers."

Follow Up

If you don't offer clear next steps or wait weeks before you get back to a candidate, what you're saying is: "We're just not that into you, but if our favorite candidate turns down the job, we may be in touch."

How to Say It Right

Be clear about next steps and timelines, as in: "We have two more interviews this week, and then we will follow up with all candidates via email." When timelines inevitably change, communicate. You can use recruiting software to automate much of this. Your best candidates are likely in the process with other employers. Even if you're their top choice, they may be forced to move in a different direction if it feels like the opportunity is stagnating.

Then, you'll be saying: "We want to do a thorough job of finding the right person for this role. We think that might be you. Stick with us."

Rejection Notice

If you aren't sending a rejection notice to applicants who don't fit the bill, what you're saying is: "We want you to grow old waiting to hear back from us. While you care a lot about what happens here, we don't care at all about you."

How to Say It Right

Your rejections should be appropriately leveled for each step of the application process, but they should always be included. For applicants who don't make it past the resume screen, a simple template rejection email with an invitation to apply in the future should do the trick. Interviewed candidates can get a slightly more personalized email. Candidates who go through several rounds and make it to the final few deserve a phone call. Then, what you're saying is: "Unfortunately, it's not you this time, but we're grateful you're interested in working here and would love to have you apply again."

A candidate's perception of your company through the hiring process is their reality. Make sure they get to know the real you by examining each stage and making improvements where they are needed.

Taylor Burke is a contributor for, covering internal communications.