Do only 4% of unhappy job applicants complain?

One of the great benefits of being a member of Vistage is that you regularly get to hear world class speakers. Not just on HR matters but on every aspect of business.

This month’s theme was world class customer experience – and I think there was masses in there that anyone involved in recruitment could learn from. I came away with a real sense that we need to change our mindset to think of applicants as the “customers” of our recruitment process. After all, they are shopping for a job!

The really alarming part in all this is that apparently only 4% of customers who are unhappy actually complain. The other 96% never tell the supplier (or employer) how upset they are. They just go off and tell anyone else they think will give them a sympathetic hearing.

If that is repeated in recruitment then boy have we got a problem. Just imagine the damage being done to your employer brand right now. I’ve often quoted the statistic that an upset candidate tells ten others. Well apparently I am wrong. It is actually more like 25 according to the experts.

It’s advocacy you’re after – not satisfaction…

The Nirvana of both candidate experience, employer branding and employee engagement is advocacy. That means that not only are employees and candidates happy with the organisation, or indeed loyal, but rather that they’d be happy to recommend you to someone else.

Organisations that are really in to customer experience talk about “net promoter scores”. And I now think recruiters should think that way too. The thinking goes something like this:

  • There’s only one big question for candidates: On a scale of 0 to 10 how likely is it you would recommend us to somebody else?
  • 0 being the worst score and 10 the best.
  • Any candidate who gives you a score of 9 or 10 is a promoter or “advocate”.
  • You ignore those who give you a 7 or 8 as they are regarded as passive.
  • Any candidate who scores you from 0 to 6 is classed as a detractor or “critic”.
  • Your net promoter score equals the number of promoters minus the number of detractors.
  • I bet many organisations would end up with a big negative number if they did this exercise with their candidates. Certainly the internet chatter on this topic suggests that’s true.

The really frightening thing is that research suggests that only a fraction of employers are actually even collecting candidate experience data. And I wonder how many who are interpreting the data properly. A 7 or 8 out of 10 rating might seem OK until you realise it has no positive impact on your employer brand…

If only 4% of unhappy candidates tell you about their concern it means you need to scale that noise up to reflect the 96% who don’t.

Changing candidate opinion about your organisation is about going beyond the expected. People expect things like acknowledgements of applications and reject letters/emails. That just keeps them away from the black hole. It is not “best practice” it is just common courtesy. Fail those basics and all you do is create critics.

To get 9 and 10 promoter scores you have to do much more than that. You have to send applicants and candidates away with a “WOW” factor. Something they didn’t expect. A touch of kindness perhaps, or some great feedback. Or how about some advice and support that might help them succeed next time around?