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Treat Your Candidates Well - Because They're Going to Stick To You Like Kareem If You Don't...

I know - you've got lots of candidate volume.  It's hard to get your ATS set up with a soulful message to at least give your candidates the solid of knowing where they stand.

It's hard to call all the candidates back who at least had a phone interview to tell them personally Kareem where they stand.  I know I ebb and flow in my ability to do this, so you surely do as well.

We need to do better.  Need motivation?  Then consider this - it's not only the right thing to do, it's self-preservation.  Those candidates you are failing to communicate with - especially the mid-level ones and up - are going to remember your lack of communication.  They'll see it not as negative, they'll see it as neutral.

Need a cautionary tale?  Consider the case of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, one of the greatest basketball players of all time.  He was great, but was unwilling to communicate.  Now the world remembers and rather than him being celebrated as he grows old, he's a bit of an outcast.  More from LA Observed:

"In an interview with The Sporting News, Abdul-Jabbar went public with his feelings of being "highly offended" by the way the Lakers treat the star of five of L.A.'s championship years — and the NBA's all-time leading scorer. His number 33 is up on the wall, of course, but he feels "slighted" that the team erected statues to Chick Hearn and Jerry West and has not made firm plans for a statue of him outside Staples Center. He told the L.A. Times that it goes beyond the statue to include the Lakers' handling of him as a special coach and a big pay cut. "The relationship is fractured," he says. "I don’t expect my relationship with the team to continue beyond this point." He amplified on Twitter, saying the "Lakers have given me the absolute minimum of respect" and "the status was just the las straw."

Here's where it gets interesting.  Kareem went public with his displeasure on the fact no statue of him is forthcoming, and the general public (remember - your candidates) remembers how they were treated. Look at this letter to the editor in LA:

"Kareem, don't worry, you'll get over the way the Lakers treated you in five years or so. That's about how long it took for my 10-year-old daughter to get over the way you treated her 25 years ago when she asked you for an autograph. Karma."

That was one of many letters.  It seems that fans didn't react well to a surly, uncommunicative star. Just like candidates don't react well to your brand not communicating where they stand.

Even someone like me has a Kareem story.  The year was 1994.  I'm an assistant coach at UAB under Gene Bartow and we were playing UC-Santa Barbara on an ESPN feature called "Big Monday" (Look it up, Kids).  Kareem was part of the broadcast crew for the game and was at the shoot-around.  Coach Bartow went over to talk to him, and because he's Coach Bartow, Kareem was at least neutral in his interaction. Then Bartow did what normal people do - he called over his assistants - including me - to meet the great Kareem.  Kareem was sitting on press row and, I kid you not, did not make eye contact or acknowledge us as Bartow introduced each of us to him.

Of course, he's Kareem and I'm nobody.

Of course, you've got the jobs and they're just one of ten thousand candidates.  Nobodies. You don't have time.

Neither did Kareem - for anyone.  Now, people remember.  No statue for you, Kareem.  No NBA coaching job for you, Kareem.  You were one of the 5 best players of all time.  How surly and unapproachable must you have been (and perhaps still are) for you to be on the outside looking in at this point in your life?

The same thing can and will happen to your employment brand.  

Communicate early and often with candidates this week.  They remember, just like Laker fans related to Kareem.



KD - Love the Kareem story to highlight this important area. Always surprising to find companies dropping the ball in candidate care, too many applicants, never enough time.

For any company looking to improve, they should apply for the Candidate Experience Awards this year. It's not just about trying to win an award, this is process that will let you benchmark where you stand and help you in developing the improvement plan. It should only take you a few hours to submit your application. Here is the link to apply:


Man, Kareem's a walking case study for screwing up your brand. Karma indeed!

Thanks for the cautionary tale KD!


I couldn't help but go back and watch this clip from Airplane, between "Murdoch" and Joey. Funny how life imitates art.

Kareem needs to get over himself.


So true...a little effort here goes a long way.

Stephen Harrington

Any recruiter should be able to say that the level of service that they provide to candidates is up to the level they would expect if they were the applicant themselves. Unfortunately this is not always the case and results in negative applicant experience. Similar to how marketing may have a customer service charter, should recruiters not have an applicant service charter?

Karin Knapp

Please re-read Stephen Harrington's comment that recruiters should treat applicants the way they would want to be treated. To that I would add, treat candidates the way you want your spouse, child or parent treated. I am not in the HR field, but found my way to this post from another blog. I feel compelled to comment on the truly shameful and heartless way job applicants are treated today. My husband has been looking for work for an extended period. The employment process today is not humane. Please make the time to treat people with kindness, or at least acknowledge their existence, when they apply for a job with your company. Your actions, or inactions, as a recruiter reflect not just on your company brand, but on your personal brand.

Justin Dalton

This is one of the biggest issues we had as a retained search firm. Trying to push the hiring managers to respond to the candidates was often an uphill battle. Sometimes we couldn't even get them to give us an update. One of our clients was especially bad at candidate communication. As a result they had great difficulty finding candidates.

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