Three ways to quash questions from desperate applicants

TOPICS: Human Resources

by Anthony So

How to deal with candidates'  relentless questions on their interview progress

Colleagues in human resources oversee recruitment and handle large amounts of the applications and interviews. One of their problems is dealing with overly passionate job-seekers. Some candidates may even email or call the interviewer, to learn about the recruitment progress and their chances of securing that job. On career learning platform OnMyGrad, roughly 10 percent of questions posted relate to the hiring process of specific management trainee programmes. This reflects concern from a number of applicants who have clearly failed to get answers from potential employers on their preferred positions.

Before discussing ways to tackle the problem, let's begin with why some candidates will keep asking about the hiring process.

1.  The company factor
Companies typically receive over a thousand applications for their management trainee programmes. The process of putting together a vast talent database, sorting out applicants' information and interview grades is often a lengthy one. I was once in charge of an interview for 300 people at an assessment centre that was conducted over two days. There were four sessions each day, with four groups of interviews during each session. Each group consisted of ten applicants that required two examiners. It took two colleagues an entire day to computerise everyone's grades. Once grades were tallied and details of the next round of interview worked out, management approval was needed before that information could be shared with candidates. It is hardly surprising that candidates will still be waiting for updates two weeks after their interviews.

2. The waiting list factor
Quite often, a couple candidates are placed on the waiting list as spare. That is because successful applicants may change their minds the day before starting or even end their contracts within the first week on the job. As long as you haven't received a rejection letter from human resources, the wait can still be treated as a lifeline to the job.

3. The personal factor
Applicants who greatly value the position they are after, tend to keep checking on their application status. Some applicants may become overly anxious and make daily calls to get updates for fear their application has been forgotten. Some candidates may have even secured offers from their "second choice" but would prefer to find out about their "first choice" before signing the contract.

The profound impact of candidate management on employer branding

Sound communications with job applicants can help build a positive corporate image. If mishandled, it could create a public relations crisis. Posting recruitment information on social media is a common phenomenon in this day and age. Every company will have more job rejections than hires. As a recruitment specialist, how do you communicate with those who did not make the cut? See if you can follow the three methods below.

1. Set rules
Set clear deadlines and ensure effective communications. Recruiters should work on expectation management and present to candidates, a clear date for information on the next round. Many companies often give an approximate date, such as "mid-May" or "roughly two weeks". You cannot shirk responsibilities by setting a loose deadline, which is also one of the reasons in creating an expectation disparity. The correct way is to give the exact date for the next round of updates. Even if news cannot be released on that day, this could be communicated and explained to candidates via email. Not only will this console candidates, it can also create a rather open and transparent corporate image.

2. Effective tools
Build an effective system of communications to distribute information from one location. A communications system is more than the traditional phone call or email. These days, human resources personnel may need to use their personal phone numbers to reach out to candidates via online chat software like WhatsApp or social media platforms such as Facebook. Whilst time-saving, these external communications are hard to manage. If mishandled, this could develop into a public relations crisis. A better way is to set up a designated phone number for the recruitment department where online chats are monitored and managed jointly by human resources colleagues. This will ensure every applicant's questions are handled appropriately.

3. Change perspective
Look at enquiries in a positive light and utilize your resources. You might give candidates a second thought if they have provided new information, such as their works or a letter of gratitude whilst enquiring about their status. Even if they have not provided new information, the company can also consider referring them to other roles on offer. After all, their actions show how much they value working for your firm. Change your perspective and you may realise the candidate is talent worth pursuing.

I hope that the above three methods can help improve your employer branding. If those of you in human resources have any questions on this topic, please feel free to reach out to OnGrad for more details.

About the Author

Anthony was once a graduated Management Trainee of a conglomerate and is now a coach and bootcamp moderator for Startup Weekend Hong Kong, co-host of Startup Salad Hong Kong, HKJC & Sir Edward Youde Scholar, Advisor and Mentor for different university student associations and mentorship programmes. After the graduation from his undergraduate degree in Marketing, he pursed further study in University of Oxford and Saïd Business School, UK respectively in Social Entrepreneurship and High Performance Leadership. Along with the development of his startup company OnGrad, he was invited by Airport Authority Hong Kong, Hong Kong Institute of Human Resource Management, Hong Kong Management Association, LinkedIn, McKinsey Generation Programme and more institutions as the guest speaker and trainer, to share on the topics of “Millennial Recruitment” and “Talent Acquisition Innovation”. Anthony’s continuous community engagement in millennials’ life and career planning is recognized by the public sector. He is recently appointed by the ICAC to be the youngest member of its Citizens Advisory Committee on Community Relations, contributing to Media Publicity and Community Research Sub-Committee on advising Community Relations Department’s work in enlisting younger generation’s support on integrity education and promotion.