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Some of the best advice I received when I moved into a senior leadership role was be kind to those on their way up, because you will meet them on your way down. Other advice includes remember where you came from and that no one got to where they are without hard work, good relationships and usually a bit of luck. We also remember those who helped us, and, perhaps more so, those who don’t.

Which is why it consistently dumbfounds me when I hear recruitment horror stories – tales of how people are treated when they are going through the job interview process. From a lack of communication to being asked silly questions, all the way to being ghosted entirely, its obvious that hiring managers and executives are still unaware of how important their brand reputation is when it comes to attracting talent – and it starts at the recruitment process.

In a recent experience I heard for a senior leadership role, the candidate came in with a glowing reputation, mentioned by the hiring committee. The candidate was told they were the at the top of the list and a meeting with the president followed. That was it – communication over. Making matters worse was the candidate had to inquire for an update, only to be told by mass e-mail the position was filled. The candidate reached out to the vice-president on the hiring committee for feedback and was told a call would set up, which never happened even after repeated attempts to advise on availability.

Needless to say, this was a story told to me and others with anger, not disappointment, in the candidate’s voice. Candidates no longer feel the need to “keep it professional” if it is not reciprocated. They will talk and the talk will spread and it will affect the reputation of the leader and the company. Being vague about names and other details, is no longer the practice.

The recruitment process is no different than the exit process – treat people well no matter the outcome. Below are a few areas to keep in mind that could easily enhance the reputation of a company and leaders involved, especially at the early stages.

Demonstrate values: Job postings and interviews are all full of values – what the company deems important and will hold itself to. When candidates are not treated with respect, dignity and everything else the company talks about in its values speech, it shows the values are just spoken about, not demonstrated, which is the most important part.

The job may not be all that great: There seems to be a reluctance for companies to personally tell shortlisted candidates they are not getting the job. I’m not sure why because chances are if the company doesn’t want that person, the person may not want to work there anyway. Candidates may be disappointed, but they all get over it, and tend to land somewhere else. Don’t shy away and send an e-mail (or be told you did not have time to call because there was a company executive reception, as I was once told). Take the high road and call – the candidate may not be as disappointed as you think.

Communication – the biggest problem with the easiest solution: Why is it that recruitment teams feel the need to ghost shortlisted candidates, ones they have interviewed (more than once) and even checked references, is beyond my understanding. If the process is delayed, tell the candidates. If you are waiting for a job offer to be accepted, tell the candidates the process is still ongoing. Don’t just stop communicating with them all together. If the candidate has to inquire about where the process is at because they have not heard anything, the experience has gone from good to bad, quickly. A good recruitment experience is where the company has honoured their commitment to keep the chain of communication going, regardless of hiring them or not.

Remember, no matter how big or small your city or industry, reputation is critical and your paths will likely cross again. Early in my career I was treated poorly by a person at a communications firm I wanted to work at, only for that person, to approach me 10 years later asking for my business. I do not need to tell you how that ended.

Eileen Dooley is a talent and leadership development specialist, and a leadership coach, based in Calgary

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