Management consultancy firms should give as much consideration to rejected candidates as those they offer jobs to.
Many of my friends, former colleagues and contacts are at an age where their youngsters are entering the job market and are often appalled by the poor way they are treated by potential employers. Some of those offspring graduating this year are applying to management consultancy firms. What is clear is how polarised these experiences are: usually bad but one or two beacons of hope.
More than one of the “Big 4” management consultancy firms boasts that they have over 30,000 graduate applicants in any one year. You would think that they would be more careful about these potential ambassadors for their company. Offering someone an interview and then changing their mind because “The team have been very fortunate to have received such a high volume of applications” is simply not acceptable. Meanwhile, any adherence to the published recruitment timetable was abandoned long ago and even now a friend’s son is “in a que [sic] of candidates, should an opportunity to interview become available”.
This can be contrasted with the same applicant’s experience at McKinsey: personal coaching for all shortlisted candidates and a well-run and efficient process. The fact that he wasn’t a successful candidate is irrelevant, he was left with an overwhelmingly positive experience.
Graduate recruitment is a notoriously time consuming process, but many of the new graduates of today will be applying for senior positions in a few years’ time. It is therefore important for management consultancy firms to ensure they manage the candidate experience well or applicants will be much less likely to apply again. An ill treated candidate is much more likely to tell the marketplace about their negative experiences, and since culture is such a crucial factor in employer attractiveness it could deter top talent from applying to a particular company in the future.
The same problems also occur when hiring at more senior levels, despite the current challenge of talent shortage management consultancy firms are experiencing and therefore competition for the best candidates. Again, the experience of my business and of other people I speak to as candidates and recruiters is too often negative.
What makes a bad candidate experience?
A survey carried out by CareerBuilder identified the five most frequently encountered frustrations:
- An employer not giving candidates a decision after the interview
- Finding out during the interview that the job advertisement is inaccurate
- Interviewer not presenting a positive work experience
- Company representative didn’t seem to be knowledgeable
- Employer not acknowledging the receipt of an application
And from our own management consultancy survey
1) Feedback and responding. Overwhelmingly and by far the most frequent comments related to the lack of response from employers to applications and lack of feedback.
2) Improve advertisement and job requirements: comments about wasted time on both sides
3) Real jobs. There was concern about inactive and already filled jobs as well as start/stop hiring: “only advertise real jobs, don’t fish!”.
4) Process and communication There was frequent reference to the speed of processes, delays in response and lack of communication.
5) Inclusivity and flexibility There were frustrations about apparent rigid and “unrealistic” requirements
6) Personal touch. It was clear from many comments that applicants found impersonal management consultancy recruitment processes very frustrating.
How should a management consultancy firm ensure a good candidate experience?
1. Always keep applicants informed during the process and acknowledge all applications. Don’t wait weeks to send them a rejection letter, if at all.
2. If you don’t intend to hire someone, let them know as soon as possible. This can be done via a recruitment agency if you are using one. Be direct, but positive.
3. Ensure every candidate (particularly those not successful) is a positive ambassador for your organization. Candidates will talk about their interviewing experiences whether you like it or not. With all pervasive social media and sites such as Glassdoor, the feedback applicants give about your company will influence those who might apply. Treat all candidates such that they will want to work for your company, even if they are unsuccessful.
4. Treat all candidate referrals with great care regardless of whether you hire them. Where there is one referral, there are potentially several more. The first recommendation may not be suitable, but unless the first candidate has a good experience future referrals are unlikely. The referrer will have a sense of responsibility. This is important because according to a survey by Prism Executive Recruitment small and medium sized management consultancy firms cite referrals as one of the most successful sources of talent.
5. Don’t leave a candidate on “indefinite hold” for any reason. Never leave a candidate hanging while you wait for a better one to come along.
6. Don’t put candidates off with an elaborate and time consuming application process. For example in addition to requiring a CV, summaries of why a candidate’s experiences is relevant, followed by an online Test. Especially if the latter rejects the candidate instantly.
7. Finally, if you decide to hire the candidate, stay in frequent contact with them until the formal offer is extended. Not least, this ensures you are in the best position to deal with a candidate with multiple offers or tempted by a counter offer from their current firm.