Talent Management

5 Reasons Why Recruits Secretly Hate Their Hiring Managers

Published by in Talent Management

Man, this is awkward.

Nobody ever wants to be the one to break the bad news. But, see, the thing is, I did a survey. It was very scientific and professional, in the sense that I made a post on Facebook and had as many people share it as I could.

My very scientific questions were as follows:

  1. What are the most annoying aspects of applying for jobs?
  2. What frustrates you the most about sending job applications?
  3. What do you wish hiring managers knew?

The results were… not good. At least, not good if you think that you have a fabulous hiring system and have never questioned your applicant experience or your applicant tracking software.

Your applicant experience is terrible… here’s why

Full disclosure: the following responses come from a wide range of people, including a variety of genders, ages, and ethnicities. Some respondents are recent college graduates, while others have been in their field for a decade or more. Some have hopped between different careers and industries, while others have stayed in one field. To preserve the privacy of my respondents, I’ve identified them by first initial only.

The answers given in the eighty-odd comments I received can easily be sorted into five categories, which is what I’ve done below. These categories are organized in ascending order of “importance,” which I determined based on how numerous and how passionate the related comments were.

It’s not exactly a formal methodology, but the data I’ve found is valuable, especially compared with real stats from serious studies, as you’ll soon see. The issues expressed by the folks who responded fall in line with formal research on the subject.

But here’s the lucky part: all of these problems are completely fixable. You just need to know what you’re looking for and the best way to make the changes you need—I’ll go over a solution for each problem presented.

So why do your recruits hate you? Let’s start with reason number 5.

5. Unempathetic hiring managers

I’ll be honest: this one surprised me. I wasn’t expecting to see how much of a concern this was. Typically, the greatest fear applicants have is that a gap or inconsistency on their resume will make them look like a poor choice, in spite of a rock-solid work ethic or perfectly understandable reasons for odd work histories.

Reading the quotes really hit home, and, at the end of the day, they all come down to one thing: have some empathy. There’s no other fix for this concern than to be considerate.

What frustrates people?

“There is a huge work gap in my resume where I’ve been unemployed. The longer it takes me to get a job, the bigger this gap becomes. The bigger the gap is, the less likely someone else is to hire me. I look undesirable. You see the vicious cycle.” – R

“I hate when they say they’ll accept volunteer work but then turn around and say I don’t have enough experience. Yes, I’ve been unemployed for a while now. How do you expect me to keep current experience on my resume if you don’t consider volunteer work in that field as real or equal experience? ” – M​

“I wish that hiring managers knew that just because I went from student assistant jobs in college to working minimum wage customer service doesn’t mean something is wrong with me or my work ethic. I had student loans to start paying, I needed something.” – J

What do the stats say?

They aren’t wrong to be worried. Research shows that after eight months of unemployment, your odds of finding a job are halved.

And for those who choose under-employment over unemployment, the stats aren’t promising. A full 20% of college graduates report giving up on their chosen careers to find jobs that can help them pay off their loans.

So what can you do to fix it?

Being considerate doesn’t mean you’re required to hire every candidate you see. But it does mean that you should give some weight to interviews and cover letters, rather than hitting delete as soon as you see a gap in work history.

4. Unclear requirements

When you write your applications, they probably make perfect sense to you. You know what you’re looking for and you’ve described it in a clear, concise, even pithy sort of way.

Or have you?

Chances are, what seems clear to you isn’t nearly as obvious to an outside observer. Many applicants are frustrated by vague, obtuse, or otherwise unclear job requirements. This leaves everyone frustrated as applicants apply for jobs they don’t actually qualify for, cluttering your applicant tracking system and forcing you to process them out.

A clear job posting will nip this problem in the bud.

What frustrates people?

“Jobs where the qualifications seem dishonestly broad, i.e. master’s degree or equivalent experience. If the employer would never hire the person with the experience over the person with the master’s, then it is a waste of the applicant’s time.” – A

“Be very specific about the interview. If I have to take an exam, please tell me. If I’m meeting more than one person, tell me.” – N

“HR departments inflating requirements beyond that which the role/employer wants or needs.” – M​

What do the stats say?

According to one report, up to 75% of applicants are completely under-qualified for the positions they apply for.

And while it doesn’t help hiring managers when there are endless piles of advice for people to apply for jobs they aren’t qualified for, having an unclear job ad doesn’t do you any favors, either.

So what can you do to fix it?

I’m a writer about some fairly technical, knowledge-based subjects. I understand this feeling, believe me. Sometimes you’re so sure that you have written something that is transparent and accessible, so that anyone in the literate world could pick it up and instantly know exactly what you mean.

Unfortunately, this is rarely the actual case. The more insider knowledge and jargon a job description requires, the more incomprehensible it becomes, effectively shutting out anyone who isn’t in that specific niche of that exact field. Which is not what you want to do, as great employees can come from diverse and unexpected backgrounds.

Get an outside pair of eyes on every job posting before you make it public. And by outside, I mean someone completely separate from both the HR department and the department you’re hiring in. Run your marketing position by a tech support person, or ask someone in research and development to check over your ad for a content writer.

Also, be as painfully specific as you possibly can be. If you need five years of experience but wouldn’t want more than ten, say so. If you won’t accept any applicant without a relevant graduate degree, say so. Make your job ad so clear that it’s impossible to misunderstand, even if you feel like you’re being too obvious.

3. Endless tests

Testing, both for aptitude and for personality, is getting big in the recruiting industry. Some hiring managers consider this sort of testing to be a great way to weed out applicants who wouldn’t fit their company culture.

Too bad most applicants loathe testing. My results indicated that aptitude tests are considered annoying, but at least they’re tolerable. Personality tests on the other hand, are a big no from most applicants. They’re considered demeaning time-wasters, and that’s being nice.

What frustrates people?

“Extensive personality screening. I understand why they want to use it, but couldn’t you at least interview me first? I don’t want to spend three hours completing two 100+ question personality screenings that indicate whether or not I think stealing is bad if I’m not even in the running for the job.” – B

“Having to create a whole new profile on whatever their HR platform is, at which point you’ve got to take a ‘personality test’ or some other nonsense to make sure you are a properly loyal corporate drone and/or not a sociopath.” – M

“I had a round four interview for a help desk VP role and they gave me a network engineer assessment. I asked them if there was an error and they said no. I was mind boggled.” – R

What do the stats say?

More than half of hiring managers use personality tests to help with the screening process, so it’s no wonder so many people are frustrated with them.

It’s also hard to say how accurate the testing system really is—some tests seem more helpful than others, and no test will ever replace an in-person interview.

By the way, when I started looking for research on these tests, I turned up a lot of instructions on how to game the system. Knowing there’s a guide for every test, do you really still want to use one?

So what can you do to fix it?

You might think you’re being clever by asking potential future employees how they feel about theft and working in teams. But it’s not that clever at all. Your applicants are seeing right through you. And if they see through the veiled meaning of the question, any truly bad person is just going to lie anyway, so why bother with the test at all?

A quick word on aptitude and skill testing: make sure that the test you issue is relevant to the actual position you plan to offer. (And if that’s a different position than your candidate originally applied for, clue them in about what’s going on.) Otherwise you’ll leave your applicants confused and feeling that you’re unorganized or ignorant.

If you (or the powers that be in the pay grades above you) insist upon testing, take control of the questions themselves. Keep quizzes short, and limited to the information you truly need to know.

2. Radio silence

Everyone I heard from agreed: there is very little more frustrating in the application experience than never hearing back from a hiring manager.

Some candidates mentioned that they were never sent a rejection, even after multiple rounds of interviews. Hiring managers are busy people, but that’s just rude.

Another difficulty expressed in the survey was rejection letters arriving weeks or months after the initial application. That’s not helping anyone, either. Make sure that rejection letters are sent, and are sent in a timely, clearly worded fashion.

Being reachable by your applicants and sending out rejection letters when you decide to go in a different direction does a lot to make you seem more human, more empathetic, and to make your company look like one that really does care about people.

What frustrates people?

“If you take in a resume, have the decency to have at least an automated system to kick out an email when you pass someone over. I don’t want to chase 20+ job submissions to see if they’re going to put me into an interview hopper. A simple ‘you didn’t make the cut’ email means I can file the submission/response away and stop tracking it.” – M

“Lack of feedback. I know none of them are obligated to even say ‘no.’ Many employers simply don’t respond if they aren’t interested. However, knowing that my application/resume was at least looked at and especially why I was rejected helps.” – N

“I applied for a job a few months ago and like two months later someone from that office/HR sent me an email that just said, ‘thank you for your interest.’ Probably the most confusing thing ever. I wish they had been more on top of responding to applicants and also that their email had been more clear. I’m assuming they were rejecting me, but I was so confused.” – S

“All that work and not even a rejection letter. Even after a first interview. It hurts, man.” – S

What do the stats say?

In a CareerArc report, over 60% of job applicants never or rarely heard back from jobs they applied to. Of those who did hear back, 50% said it took a month or longer. No wonder so many people are frustrated.

Ignoring emails is seen as rude and inconsiderate in today’s online etiquette. Rude and inconsiderate are not attitudes you want to project if you’re going for a positive candidate experience.

So what can you do to fix it?

Email your candidates. That’s it. That’s all you need to do.

I can see those of you at popular companies freaking out already. You’re drowning in a sea of applications as it is, so how can anyone expect you to respond to every application? I don’t actually expect you to personally reply. Instead, set up an automatic email system through your ATS. Many applicant tracking systems offer a way to send an automated message to anyone whose application was rejected.

For applicants who make it to later stages of the hiring process, as far as a personal interview, you owe them a slightly more personal email. Even if you use a default template, take the time to send their rejection from a real, rather than automated, email account.

Here’s a quick and easy rejection template you can feel free to adopt and customize for your own hiring needs:

Dear [NAME],

Thank you for your interest in [POSITION NAME] at [COMPANY NAME]. Unfortunately, we have decided to [pursue other applicants / close this job posting / end the interview process with you] at this time.We appreciate the time and effort you invested into your application, and encourage you to reapply for other positions with us in the future.We wish you all the best in your job search.


See? Not so hard, is it?

1. Shoddy applicant tracking systems

When I conducted this survey, I expected to see problems with applicant tracking systems. In my experience, most applicants have no idea what they are or what they do: they think you’re making them enter their information twice just to torture them. I was surprised, however, at the number of people who actually knew what an ATS was, and were still frustrated and fed up with them.

I’m not even including most of the quotes I had referencing how much people loathe re-entering the information on their resumes because nearly every single respondent mentioned it. There’s a lot to be learned here for anyone who uses an ATS for their hiring process.

What frustrates people?

“I really hate places that force you to make an account just to do the application. It’s really irritating. And they always have the strangest password requirements, so if I ever want to apply for a job there again, it’s such a nightmare to remember what the account info was.” – H

“Having to upload a resume and then re-entering everything manually. Huge pet peeve, especially when I know you can use software to crawl a document for the keywords and dates you need. Also the ridiculous laborious process of filling out all those fields manually and in far greater detail than any human could possibly find useful (who cares what day I started a job?)” – H​

“The absolute most annoying thing ever is to have a fully fleshed out and formatted resume, and awful electronic submission software that forces you to retype everything in your resume. After 20 years of experience, that gets tedious and annoying. Good software can pick apart resumes and pull relevant details to deliver little to no work on an applicant’s end. Update your software if you can’t get that kind of quality.” – M

What do the stats say?

Applicant tracking software is great, but far from perfect. A 2014 study by Bersin showed that even a resume designed to be absolutely perfect fell through their ATS’s cracks, considered a mere 43% relevant by the software.

If you haven’t yet, you might want to test your ATS to make sure yours isn’t quite that bad. Luckily, I’ve written a guide on how to test your ATS like an applicant, so it shouldn’t be too difficult.

So what can you do to fix it?

As you can see, applicants are growing more and more savvy about the tricks and techniques hiring and recruiting professionals use. I’m not advising you to get rid of your ATS, of course. They’re wonderfully useful tools and, when used correctly, they can make the hiring process faster and easier for candidates and recruiters alike. But if your ATS is out of date, your applicants will suffer.

Make sure that anything you’re asking your applicants to do is something you wouldn’t mind doing yourself. If you think a test application takes too long or is too tedious, that’s a sign that you need to shorten your process or improve your ATS’s ability to scan resumes.

Well, great, now what?

Odds are that if you have any sort of applicant tracking system at all, your applicants have valid reasons to dislike it. That’s the bad news.

The good news is that you can make it better. All it takes is a little thought, a little time, and a little effort to follow the tips I gave above, and you should start seeing some serious payoff in an improved candidate experience.

Want to know more about my study? Have some questions about my findings? Drop me a line in the comments below or hit me up on Twitter @CapterraHalden.

Want to learn more about improving your candidate experience? Check out these articles to start learning more.

Looking for Talent Management software? Check out Capterra's list of the best Talent Management software solutions.

About the Author

Halden Ingwersen

Halden Ingwersen

Halden Ingwersen is a former Capterra analyst.


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