With unemployment figures at their lowest level for seven years, it has become something of a job seekers’ market. Employers should take note of recent research which suggests that many candidates are now actually turning down jobs offered to them by recruiters. A study of 600 HR professionals revealed that the most common reasons for rejection included being outbid or that an offer was simply not strong enough to tempt them.

The evidence also suggests that competition for high quality applicants has intensified in an increasingly candidate-driven market. However, it appears that some hiring managers are yet to adjust, with 40% taking over a month to make an offer, by which time candidates are turning them down. Of course, money will always be a significant factor in a candidate’s decision, but many also criticise companies for failing to communicate their broader value proposition.

Become an employer of choice

The message is clear: if you want to attract great candidates, you may need to change your mindset and consider how to make your company an employer of choice. This starts with how candidates are treated when they apply for a position. An applicant who has a poor recruitment experience is unlikely to apply for a role at that firm again - or recommend their services to others. This is damaging to an employer brand – the very thing that firms are investing in to attract top notch talent.

Candidates should be treated with the same care and courtesy that is extended to a client. Even if the candidate isn't right for a specific role, they might be suitable for another position – or be able to recommend someone in their network. So, an organisation should leave an applicant feeling like they would come back and apply again, even if they are unsuccessful the first time.

Three ways to get it right

  1. Be a source of information
Spend some time investing in the job description and person specification. This will help you to decide what you are really looking for as well as helping applicants decide if the post is right for them. Remember to include key information in the vacancy advert such as:
  • Clear time frames: the closing date for applications, details of the process and when it is expected to end.
  • Company background: ethos, how many people work there, what kind of clients do you have?
If recruiting regularly, I’d advise creating a careers section on the company website as this is the easiest way to provide information that’s relevant to all roles. It can also be used to provide information about the business, including culture and values, as well as offering the opportunity to sell the benefits of joining the company.

Social media sites such as LinkedIn can be great tools if used correctly and can provide more insights into working life at your organisation. The target pool of candidates are probably already on here, so make full use of this free medium.

  1. Keep in touch
Good communication is vital. Start by acknowledging receipt of an application which can be done by automated response. It may lack the personal touch, but a confirmation lets the candidate know that everything has been submitted correctly.

Unsuitable candidates should be notified promptly – it can be very frustrating to spend time tailoring CVs and completing application forms only to hear nothing back. A polite, qualified ‘No thank you’ is much better than no reply at all. Similarly, if a candidate is promised a response within a set time limit, make sure that is adhered to. Responding to all candidates in a timely manner reduces requests for email and phone updates from applicants.

  1. Give feedback
Often avoided at the early stages due to time constraints, this is an important part of the process and a professional courtesy whatever stage a candidate reaches.

Feedback is especially important after the interview stage as the candidate has invested their time and travel costs. Be timely, honest and respectful. Try and focus on the positives, but be truthful and factual about why they were not successful.

How an organisation treats potential employees can be enlightening and a reliable indicator of its ethos and attitude to staff. So, think about the image that you want to convey to the world and put those principles into action.

By Sarah Dowzell of Natural HR