Poor candidate experience. Why it's bad for business.

Poor candidate experience. Why it's bad for business.

Colleen Condon, Founder of Facilitated Training has created this article as part of our Locimo Experts series.

The impact of Covid 19 has meant that its boom time for candidate applications.

When applicant numbers are ever-growing, it can be easy to lose sight of the longer-term implications of poor candidate management. 

And here’s the scary thing. Getting recruitment right has never been more important.  For a business to not just survive a recession, but to grow and be sustainable, ensuring the right skill and cultural fit is key.

Whilst having an inbox overflowing with applications means that employers are spoilt for choice, the way that the applicants are treated is crucial. 

Today's applicant is tomorrow’s customer.

Most of us have heard the stat regarding customer complaints and the roll-on impact to the business, and brand damage. 

Damaged Reputation

Warren Buffett said "It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you'll do things differently." 

Every recruiter and hiring manager needs to remember what it’s like to be seeking employment. Just as the recruiter or hiring manager is reviewing the candidate’s suitability, so is the candidate. Technology has made research for all parties easier than ever. Google, Glassdoor, Linkedin, to personal networks. Past candidates tend to have clear opinions and memories of their recruitment experiences.

A study conducted in 2007 suggested that we recall bad memories more easily and in greater detail than good ones for perhaps evolutionary reasons. Researchers say negative emotions like fear and sadness trigger increased activity in a part of the brain linked to memories. Researchers say this technique of preserving bad memories may have evolved as an evolutionary tactic to protect against future life-threatening or negative events.

Increasingly it’s not uncommon to see posts on social media such as this one post on Linkedin in September 2020.

“I received an ‘application unsuccessful’ email last week. Nothing new as I’ve been out of work for the last four months when my contract ended due to Covid, but this one hurt more than most.

I was fortunate enough to speak to the hiring manager, a contact made possible through a friend of mine, and applied for the role. A week later I received a call and had a 30 min phone interview, being told I’d be contacted early the next week with next steps, if any. I was feeling confident about getting an interview.

After not hearing anything back, I tried contacting the team twice over the next two weeks but received no reply. Then after six weeks I received the e-mail letting me know the position had already been filled

Please, can companies update candidates as soon as they are not going to progress any further? I, like many in my situation, am emotionally invested in every application until I get a definite no. I can then move the application to my unsuccessful folder and move on, but until then I have a small glimmer of hope regardless of how long the process takes.

Unfortunately, this wasn’t the first and it won't be the last, and I have plenty of applications where I have heard nothing at all.”

Replies to this post came in thick and fast, offering support and sharing similar experiences. The reality is that incidents like this tarnish a company's brand, and the smart ones have woken up to the fact that they need to be more diligent with their recruitment processes. That leaves a lot of companies that don't.

The worst answer in life isn’t no; the worst answer in life is no answer at all and to be left spinning your wheels.

Impacts: Candidates have long memories.


Research shows that the No.1 frustration during the overall job search is the lack of response from potential employers or recruiters.


According to a Career Builder survey, 75% of applicants never hear back from potential employers.

How would you like to be treated when you apply for a job? To live in uncertainty whether the application was received? To not hear anything at all from the company until a month later when you see a new email in your inbox with the rather dull wording “Thank you for your application. The position has been filled.” as the only, and final, communication. Even worse, is when you see the role re-advertised, without any correspondence, or when the recruiting manager ghosts you. Yep. Recruiter ghosting, who knew that 2020 could get worse. 


The applicant has taken the time to:

  • Research the role and organisation
  • Update their CV
  • Respond to specific job criteria. This is time-consuming, particularly for government roles and educational institutions
  • Created a targeted cover letter.

Not forgetting those who have made it through the initial cull of applicants they have also prepared and completed at least one or more interviews.  It’s hard to justify not responding to the applicant.


Choosing not to respond, says a lot about the company, government department or institution. 


Consequences of bad candidate experience. You’ll lose product or service revenue if candidates stop doing business with your firm.


According to a Career Builder survey, the effects of one candidate’s negative experience can lead to a broader impact on the employer’s ability to recruit or sell products. 

Further research showed that:

  • 63% of job seekers will likely reject a job offer because of a bad candidate experience (Source: Software Advice).
  • 72% of job seekers that had a bad experience told others about it, either online or in-person (Source: CareerArc).
  • 64% of job seekers say that a poor candidate experience would make them less likely to purchase goods and services from that employer (Source: CareerArc)
  • Not only can a negative candidate experience have a disastrous impact on your recruiting process, but it can also very negatively impact your company’s bottom line.

Still not convinced?

Poor candidate management cost Virgin Media $5M annually. The cost of poor candidate experience to Virgin Media, produced by employer branding agency Ph.Attraction. According to the study, poor candidate experience cost Virgin Media £4.4M in 2014 ($5.5M U.S.).  More than 130,000 candidates applied for jobs at Virgin Media that year, 18 % of whom were existing Virgin Media customers. Due to bad candidate experience, more than 7,500 cancelled their subscriptions and switched to a competitor.

  • Now imagine that you are recruiting for a role for a Bank.  What would be the lifetime cost of losing a customer mortgage, credit cards and investments?
  • What if the role is for a company that builds houses? What would be the lifetime cost of building a house or 2?
  • What if the role was for a Supermarket? What is the lifetime cost of losing a customer’s grocery shopping?

How much is poor candidate management costing your company?  

The impact of Covid 19 will continue to have an impact for some time to come. Maybe you will find yourself looking for a role.  Perhaps it is as simple as professionally treating others with dignity and respect.

Author bio:

Colleen Condon is one of Asia Pac’s most well-rounded HR & Organisational Development professionals. With her finger in every piece of the Human Resources pie, Colleen has trained 1000s of people across multiple industries and countries. She has conducted training department reviews in Soul, facilitated regional planning programs in Mumbai, deployed leadership programs across Australia, Singapore and New Zealand, to name a few.

Colleen has coached professionals to enhance the soft skills geared to increasing their employability, reviewed resumes and rewritten, created behavioural based interview training materials for workplaces, taught managers to conduct ethical behavioural interviews and has recruited employees at all levels of business, across multiple industries.

Most recently, Colleen was a Director of Learning Development, Asia Pacific, overseeing the development of 64,000 employees.

Her global and regional responsibilities honed her ability to work and create training materials that are adaptable across industry and culture.