It is a well-known saying in customer service circles that if someone has a good experience, they might tell one or two people, but if they have a bad experience, they will tell nine or 10. In recruitment, this wisdom is just as important. Treat someone badly in the hiring process and not only will you put them off wanting to work for you, they may shy away from buying your products or services.
"When I was HR director at Deutsche Bank, I used to say to the recruiting team: 'The people you will see might not be good enough for us, but they might be our customers one day'," says Stephen Brooks, partner at PA Consulting. "When applying for a job, people remember what recruiters say to them."
So what can organisations do to make themselves attractive, not just as employers but to potential customers?
An obvious first step is to treat potential employees with the courtesy and respect an organisation should already be giving to its customers: easy moves such as making sure applicants are not kept waiting for a reply or that staff are helpful when they come in for interview or assessment.
Recruiters also need to be aware of the emotional investment candidates make, particularly when it is a job they really want. An automated e-mail response may save money, but will not be as well received as a short phone call with some feedback.
"Candidates take umbrage at receiving an instant electronic rejection, so we are building in 48-hour delays," explains Robert Peasnell, managing director of recruitment advertising consultancy, Barkers London.
"It is also good manners to provide candidates with constructive feedback if they are unsuitable for the job; after all, they could be perfect for the role one day, and you don't want to lose them as a customer now, or in the future," he adds.
It is equally crucial that an organisation lives up to the expectations of candidates and customers.
"Everyone thinks John Lewis and Waitrose are honest brands and that you can trust us," says Andy Street, director of personnel at John Lewis Partnership. "So we have to make sure that we do what we say we will, whether that is to call you back in three weeks or to stick with the pay rate we said at the beginning. It might not sound radical, but it is difficult to do time and time again."
Companies with a reputation for recruiting and retaining the best staff often have a strong brand presence. B