This article was originally published at Recruiting Trends.

Mother-ShipWhen it comes to push and pull, employers have got the marketing model down. At least, that is, when it comes to talent acquisition broadcast and attraction. From their career sites to social media to search engine optimization, employers promote their brands and jobs and attract the candidates (with the exception of little to no mobile – the fastest growing way to access the Internet globally — although thankfully that’s changing). For larger companies with dozens to hundreds to thousands of open jobs, this means an exponential return of unqualified candidates applying for those jobs.

Because of the sheer volume of applicants, when it comes the listening part of talent attraction, employers aren’t so good. How can they be? Automating acknowledgements and more are readily available in most applicant tracking systems today. But automating isn’t listening, it’s just responding.

Then consider the disparity discovered between many job descriptions, the actual jobs in real-time, and many other workplace inconsistencies experienced every day. The work and workplace are oversold and the onboarding realities buried beneath the business rubble of daily disengagement quakes. Both positive and negative post-hire recruiting process recommendations from new employees can go largely unheard.

And that’s if they’re hired. If they’re not, and most aren’t, even considering the growing trend of contingent labor and project-based work, employers aren’t listening much at all to their candidates left to grumble in dark pipelines that lead to dark databases — of which many share readily in various online networks and forums. These are among a series of missed opportunities throughout the recruiting process to improve candidate relations and your employer brand.

It’s not all like that, however, and there are those organizations making concerted efforts to improving their overall candidate experience and making it a positive one for all. Take, for example, the companies who’ve participated in the Candidate Experience Awards the past two years.

The CandE Awards, as they are also known, is an annual competition process where 1) Employers have the opportunity to benchmark their candidate experience against that of other companies, and 2) Employers have the opportunity to participate in a third-party survey of their employment candidates to see what their candidates really think of their process.

These CandE participants have put their collective brand egos aside to benchmark their recruiting and hiring processes against competitors as well as many other companies in various industries throughout the U.S. and the U.K. (and soon to be benchmarked in many other global markets).

According to the 2012 Candidate Experience Awards report:

  • Just one-third of participating employers said they asked candidates for feedback if they were not advanced to the final evaluation phase, suggesting there are still meaningful opportunities to better understand their processes and the impact that they have on the candidate experience.
  • The vast majority (90.5 percent) of candidates said they were not asked to provide any feedback once notified they were no longer being considered.
  • More than half of candidates surveyed indicated they are likely or very likely to tell their inner circle of friends about their experiences, whether it is positive (73.5 percent) or negative (60.7 percent).

Missed opportunities to improve the candidate experience can occur at any of these points in the recruiting process:

  • The Career Site
  • The Partner Site Job Listings
  • Search Optimized Job Listings
  • Social Media Promotions
  • Social/Professional Networking Referrals
  • The Applicant Tracking System Acknowledgements
  • The Recruiter and Hiring Manager Acknowledgements
  • The Phone Screens
  • The Assessments
  • The Video Interviews
  • The Background Screens
  • The Live Interviews
  • The Negotiation Process
  • The Reference Checking
  • The Final Offer
  • The Onboarding

During a Zen moment I shared with Gerry Crispin and Elaine Orler recently on TalentCulture’s #TChat Radio, the co-founders of the Candidate Experience Awards, I asked the question, “Does the candidate experience ever end?”

The short answer, “No, it doesn’t.”

In fact, one of the biggest ongoing missed opportunities is for employers and all those involved in recruiting and hiring, sourcing externally as well as internally, to keep it all real through as much of the “sales” process as possible, and that means once they’re onboard as well.

Don’t oversell and let the candidates talk candidly with their future colleagues, supervisors and executives. Don’t just let them read about your organization online in the form of Yelp-like reviews that may give them a skewed perspective you’re not willing to clear up for them. They’re your customers and if you want to keep them, then you serve and service them just as you want them to do for you.

Let me repeat that – they’re your customers, and like your paying customers that keep your business afloat and hopefully growing and thriving, you want all your best talent – FT FT, PT, temp and contract – to grow and thrive.

If we’re emotionally committed to the work we do, to those we do it with, to those we report to and to the “mothership” that wants it all to perform optimally, if not magically, then we will. Up to four times as much discretionary effort as those who aren’t emotionally committed according to industry research from Gallup and other sources.

This doesn’t mean you don’t market and sell your candidates, but if you’re having two-way conversations throughout the process, listening to them as much as you want them to listen to you, responding to as many as possible in the varying stages beyond one automated e-mail, many of those not hired but potentially future qualified will come back again and again, maybe as an applicant, or maybe as a paying customer. Understand where you can improve the candidate experience and improve it.

Mothership magic doesn’t miss opportunities, it makes them.

On behalf of the CandEs and the CandE Council Branding and Awareness Committee, I urge you to apply for the 2013 CandE Awards today. It’s confidential and it’s free. The deadline for this year is June 28, 2013.