Corporate Eye

Companies, Candidates, and . . . Cookies


In a New York Times piece titled Be Nice to Job Seekers. (They’re Shoppers, Too.), consultant Jon Picoult shares this anecdote:

I recently heard a story about a manager from Nabisco who was attending a human-resources industry conference. When he declared that his company responded to every résumé it received – solicited and unsolicited – he was met with incredulous stares from his peers.

“Why respond to every résumé when that’s clearly not necessary?” someone asked.

The Nabisco manager smiled and replied, “Because – everyone eats cookies.”

Picoult makes so many good points in the column that I hope everyone will take the time to read it.  In the meantime, I’ll recap some highlights:

  • Most job candidates (not just the unqualified) are treated poorly by most companies (not just the inept).  Calls are seldom returned, messages rarely answered, statuses never communicated, et cetera.
  • After receiving this type of treatment, even those who are hired will have a negative feeling about the company-and no amount of jolly onboarding will completely mend that.  As for those whose applications were never even acknowledged, or who actually interviewed and then never heard another word . . . they are bound to have a poor impression of the employer brand.  And that impression will transfer to the company and its products or services.
  • The typical explanation for discourteous treatment of candidates is that HR staff just doesn’t have time to do better.  But Picoult observes that “with most job applications now submitted or recorded electronically, companies can and should be more communicative using automated means.”

This last point contains a key insight concerning the corporate Careers site:  Creating a state-of-the-art website designed to impress job candidates is pointless if a company then fails to reinforce its positive message with courteous, timely treatment.  It’s also pointless to invest in automated application processes, but never bother to establish procedures for managing applicant communications.

A 2008 Gallup survey showed that 70% of job seekers had a frustrating experience while applying for a job, and half of that group said their experiences made them reconsider working for the company.  Today, as Picoult points out, the high volume of job applicants created by current unemployment levels is making that situation even worse.  (But on the flip side, a lot of managers and executives are now job-hunting, so they get to experience this treatment from the candidate side.)

A step worth taking:  Check to see if your Career site makes promises about candidate communications.

  • If so, find out whether those promises are being kept.
  • If not–reconsider.  Is there a company policy about candidate communications?  There ought to be.  And it ought to be articulated on the Career site.

Thanks to NASA’s new Spitzer Space Telescope and NASA/JPL-Caltech/T. Pyle (SSC) for the conceptual image of “a growing black hole, called a quasar, at the center of a faraway galaxy.”  (Some job candidates believe the objects falling into a black hole are, in fact, resumes . . . )

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Cynthia Giles has followed a serpentine career path from academia to publishing to marketing and design to information technology and corporate communications. There’s plenty of detail about this journey at, but briefly--the common theme has been ideas, and how to present them effectively. Along the way, she became an accidental expert on data warehousing and business intelligence, and for the past ten years she has combined corporate contracting with an independent consulting practice that focuses on marketing strategy for smaller businesses and non-profits. Having spent quite a bit of time looking for work, and anywhere from two weeks to two years inside a wide variety of American companies—she has given much thought to what works (and what doesn’t) when it comes to creating a great employment fit.