The process of recruiting additional members of staff, though necessary for a business to grow and flourish, can be time-consuming, energy-sapping and, occasionally, entirely fruitless. There is no guarantee, after all, that those hours spent scanning CVs, setting up interviews and then grilling potential employees will actually unearth the individual you seek.

However, despite the various anxieties and frustrations that can emerge during the hiring process, there is one thing to always keep at the forefront of your thoughts; candidates are not just potential employees, they are also prospective customers.

Candidates are not just potential employees, they are also prospective customers

People have long memories, and we tend to remember bad experiences with particular clarity, which is why it is essential that ensuring everyone you interview and interact with – regardless of whether they end up securing a job – emerges from their encounter, however brief that may be, with no thoughts that could be considered negative.

Attaining positivity from candidates that will ultimately be left disappointed after failing to land a job is not an easy task, but it is certainly something that can be achieved if the process is handled in the right way.

The recruitment procedure

According to a recent survey carried out by Ph.Attraction, as many as one in four job seekers admit they would go off a brand should they suffer a poor recruitment experience. The study, which assessed the views of 1,200 people, found that a quarter would stop buying a business’s products if treated poorly when applying for a position.

One in four job seekers admit they would go off a brand should they suffer a poor recruitment experience

What is perhaps more concerning – from an organisational point of view, at least – is that one in four in-house recruiters firmly believe that their role has ‘very little impact’ on the wider reputation of a brand. However, analysis of a Virgin Media recruitment campaign appears to show that a poor experience can significantly hamper a company’s bottom line.

The study of Virgin Media, also carried out by Ph.Attraction, discovered that after a detrimental involvement with the company’s recruitment procedures over 500 candidates cancelled subscriptions, costing Virgin Media somewhere in the region of £4.4m. While this is a financial blow, it’s particularly damning when you consider that almost a third of adults (29%) say a positive recruitment experience would enhance, or at the very least retain, loyalty towards a brand. Being courteous and considerate, it would seem, can reap immense rewards.

Company culture and openness

Being fully aware of your company culture, and then accurately echoing it to show candidates what they are letting themselves in for should they accept a position, is vital. Most people do not join an organisation just because the role excites them: they sign their contract because the company suits their personality, and they feel they will be surrounded by like-minded, compatible people.

If upon starting a job an individual discovers that they have been led astray during the recruitment process, or that the way the company represents itself externally is far removed from its personality internally, it’s unlikely they will stick around for too long.

Recruitment companies such as Glassdoor – which makes a point of prioritising transparency and openness – are currently thriving because job seekers value the ability to accurately assess what working in a company will be like, from the people that work there. It goes without saying that candidates appreciate being given precise information; they are, after all, looking for an environment in which they will spend a sizeable chunk of their life.

Personal and genuine feedback

Sending a bespoke response to each applicant may seem a laborious, and potentially thankless, task, especially when research indicates that every graduate job receives approximately 40 applications. However, by refraining from regarding responses as a necessary evil to be endured, and instead considering them an opportunity to further enhance the reputation of your brand, you will already be well on the way to improving your company’s recruitment processes.

By responding to applicants – especially those that are going to be left disappointed in the wake of a rejection – with a message that offers encouragement, advice or constructive critique, you are ensuring they feel valued, and will be buoyed by the fact that you have acknowledged their application.

Research by American recruitment firm CareerXroads found that the vast majority (75%) of Fortune‘s 100 Best Companies to Work For don’t bother to tell job applicants if they are being considered for a role, which is certainly not the attitude one would expect from companies revered for their attitude towards workers.

Respect and decency

In recruitment, as in wider life, you should take the time to ensure you treat people as you would like to be treated yourself. A failure to treat an applicant with respect once they engage with your recruitment process is not only poor etiquette, but it could genuinely impact your bottom line.

In recruitment, as in wider life, you should take the time to ensure you treat people as you would like to be treated yourself

According to research carried out by CTMA, negative experiences are ‘twice as likely’ to be shared when compared to positive experiences, while a Zendesk study concluded that more than half of adults (55%) admitted they would switch to a different company or product should they suffer a bad experience. Zendesk also discovered that 48% of people would encourage others not to buy products should they have a negative customer service experience, while more than a third (39%) would continue to avoid a brand for more than two years in the wake of a poor experience.

While these pieces of research primarily demonstrate the impact poor customer service can have upon a company, and do not necessarily relate to the consequences of a misjudged recruitment campaign, they do highlight just how damaging adverse exposure can be to a brand’s reputation. It is, after all, incredibly difficult to build a loyal and devoted audience if friends, family or respected peers have made a point of voicing their displeasure at an organisation’s operating methods.

A positive experience during the recruitment process is essential when it comes to dealing with all candidates

In short, a positive experience during the recruitment process is essential when it comes to dealing with all candidates, not just those you wish to ultimately consider for a role. Applicants are not just potential employees, but also potential clients and customers; treat them as you would treat a patron and your reputation as an employer of choice is assured.