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Candidate Care - A Strategic Concern for Your Business

by Kim Scott

There are a large number of interpretations for the term ‘candidate care’. Organisations such as GlaxoSmithKleine invest heavily in care for job applicants, treating all candidates in the same way that they would customers [2], while others do nothing at all. The way you interpret candidate care will depend entirely on your organisation, but regardless of how simple or complex your approach, there are two key reasons for developing a strong ethos of candidate care:

Attracting new staff

Branding yourself as a great employer is a good way to ensure that you attract the best staff possible – just think of the way that Google presents itself as an employer. However more often than not, and especially in a country as small as New Zealand, candidates rely on recommendations and anecdotal evidence from friends and family when deciding which organisations to apply to [3] [4] [5]. More specifically, research has proven that knowledge workers –those highly skilled individuals that will add value to your organisation – rely most heavily on word of mouth when deciding which organisations to apply to [6]. The way you treat your candidates today will have a long-lasting impact on the type of people who will apply for future positions.

Job acceptance rates

Research has strongly suggested that the way in which candidates are treated during the recruitment process has a huge effect on whether or not they actually accept a job offer. Impressions gained from the recruitment process form a basis for the way in which candidates perceive your organisation – and, more importantly, how they judge whether or not they would like to work there [7]. Boswell et al found that 83% of their research participants agreed, or strongly agreed, that the way they were treated by an organisation during recruitment was important to their eventual acceptance decision [8]. Taylor et al. found that a factor as basic as recruiter warmth (as perceived by the candidates) had a significant positive effect of applicants’ decisions to accept a job offer [9].

Critical factors for candidate care

According to the literature, one of the key facilitators (or barriers) to a successful recruitment process seen in the literature is the recruiter(s) themselves. The most common examples of poor candidate care in recruitment research include: insincere and uninterested interviewers [10] rude or condescending recruiters, interviewers that acted uninterested, and being kept uninformed [11]. Further research has found that candidates infer more positive characteristics about an organisation when they deal with friendly recruiters, than when they deal with an unfriendly one [12]. All of these have a negative influence not only on the impressions of the organisation, but on the candidates’ employment decisions.

There are any number of ways of ensuring candidates are made to feel comfortable, wanted, and engaged by recruitment officers. Specific examples of treatment that have been reported as having a particularly positive impact include:

-        Opportunities to meet with multiple people

-        Site visit arrangements

-        Follow-up by the organisation [13]

In fact, candidate care does not have to be difficult, for example, a simple failure to provide timely feedback has been identified by researchers as a leading contributor to applicant perceptions of unfairness [14]. In a survey of university graduates throughout the US, Boswell et al. found that simply receiving frequent contact and prompt responses made a positive impression on candidates [15].

A final important thing to remember is that candidate care does not end once an applicant has been deemed unsuccessful – even poorly written letters of rejection can have a significantly negative effect on a candidate’s impressions. While some recruiters may shy away from writing detailed rejection letters, letters a lack of justification are perceived more negatively than those in which an explanation is provided [16]. This suggests that if candidates feel they can take some learning from their selection experience with your company, they will come out with a better impression of it.

In an interview with HR Management magazine (www.hrmreport.com), Lou Manzi (Vice President of Global Recruitment at GlaxoSmithKline) supported the need for recruitment policy to ensure candidate care in order to maintain a strong employer brand image. A strong believer in the importance of candidate care, Manzi stated that the GSK commitment to candidate care has strengthened its position as an employer brand, and enabled the organisation to attract the best applicants [17]. In terms of attracting and retaining the best candidates, and regardless of the market situation, candidate impressions have a long-term and far-reaching effect on your organisation [18].


[1] Safferstone, T. (2009, May 5). Is “Candidate Care” a Waste of Time in a Buyer’s Market? [Newsgroup
     message]. Retrieved from http://www.recruitingroundup.com/2009/05/ is-candidate-care-waste-of-time-in.html

[2] Ibid.

[3] Dowling, G. R. (2001). Creating Corporate Reputations: Identity, Image and Performance. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

[4] Knox, S., & Freeman, C. (2006). Measuring and managing employer brand image in the service industry. Journal of Marketing

     Management, 22, 695-716.

[5] Sutherland, M. M., Torricelli, D. G., & Karg, R. F. (2002). Employer-of-choice branding for knowledge workers. South African Journal of Business Management,­­­­ 33(4), 13-20

[6] Ibid.

[7] Gatewood, R. D., Gowan, M. A., & Lautenschlager, G. J. (1993). Corporate image, recruitment image and initial job choice, Academy of Management Journal, 36, 414-424. 

[8] Boswell, W. R., Roehling, M. V., LePine, M. A., & Moynihan, L. M. (2003). Individual job-choice decisions and the impact of job attribute and recruitment practices: A longitudinal field study. Human Resource Management, 42(1), 23.

[9]  Taylor, M. S., & Collins, C. J. (2000). Organizational recruitment: Enhancing the intersection of research and practice. In C. L. Cooper & E. A. Locke (Eds.). Industrial and organizational psychology: Linking theory with practice (pp. 304-330). Oxford, UK: Blackwell.

[10] Gilliland, S. W., & Cherry, B. (2000). Managing customers of selection. In J. F. Kehoe (Ed.), Managing selection in changing organizations (pp. 158-196). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

[11] Boswell et al., (2003).

[12] Goltz, S. M., & Giannantonio, C. M. (1995). Recruiter friendliness and attraction to the job: The mediating role of inferences about that organization. Journal of Vocational Behaviour, 46, 109-118

[13] Boswell et al., (2003).

[14] Gilliland & Cherry (2000).

[15] Boswell et al. (2003).

[16] Gilliland & Cherry (2000).


[17] Six degrees of candidate care. (2009). HR Management, (3). Retrieved from http://www.hrmreport.com/article/Six-degrees-of-candidate-care


[18] Taylor & Collins (2000).

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