– J. Paul Getty

If you’re losing great candidates to your competition (or struggling to even get them into your pipeline), it’s time to take a good look at how you’re treating your candidates. It’s easy to assume it was all about the money (if they offered her more than you did), but it’s rarely that simple.

Most employers know the cost of a bad hire, but few know the cost of a bad hiring process. Do you? As the talent shortage rears its ugly head, the companies that do will win the race.

I’ve been helping companies attract and retain top talent since 1997, and I’m afraid the same top candidate complaints repeat themselves over and over again. When it’s a buyer’s market (when the market is flush with candidates), employers can get away with it. That time is not right now.

Industries like health care and technology are already feeling the talent pinch. Your candidates, on the other hand, are feeling the opportunity boom. Their expectations are up. Their patience is down. If you want more than a passing glance at your industry’s top performers, you’ll need to take a critical look at how you’re treating prospective and active candidates. Then fix it. The best candidates won’t put up with the hiring nonsense anymore.

Here are the top 10 candidate complaints:

1. Your online application process is painful.

In fact, it’s so painful that your best candidates are walking away before you even know they’re interested. Asking people to fill out multiple forms, do assessments and/or agree to a background check before they even speak with you is a surefire way to chase the best ones away. They won’t put up with it anymore. Instead, if they’re interested in your company and job, they’ll hit their network and try to find someone on the inside to make a referral. Furthermore, using a job posting to cull the herd will not get you the best and brightest. Instead, it will chase away the best and frustrate the rest.

2. Your compensation stinks.

You may not be checking with your competitors, but your candidates are. “Compensation matters most when making a final job decision,” according to the LinkedIn 2015 Global Talent Trends report. LinkedIn surveyed more than 20,000 professionals worldwide, and 49 percent said money matters most. Better professional development came in second at 33 percent and better work/life balance came in third at 29 percent. Savvy job seekers know that the best time to get top pay is before you take the job. If you have not done a salary review since the recession, now’s the time. Low salary and benefits are still the No. 2 reason people reject offers, according to a 2015 global study by Philadelphia-based Management Recruiters International. Money is not the only thing on your candidate’s list, but it’s an important one.

3. Your hiring process is awful.

Do you even have one? Mixed messages from recruiters and hiring managers, job postings that don’t match the job and illegal or offensive interview questions are among the biggest complaints.

4. You didn’t follow up.

At all. So they took another offer. The English proverb still stands: “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.” Eighty-six percent of candidates feel that companies have been unresponsive. If you fail to stay in touch, they’ll go to the company that does.

One candidate shared this story with me: “I had a great interview. They said I was a top contender, and they were my top pick … until they went silent on me. I called and e-mailed, and heard nothing back from either the recruiter or the hiring manager. So, I assumed they picked someone else and I took another job. Imagine my surprise when the recruiter called me three weeks later to say ‘We’d like to make you an offer.’ When I told him I took another job, he had the audacity to get mad at me and say ‘Why didn’t you tell me that? I would have gotten you an offer here much faster.’ I laughed out loud!”

Even if you have nothing to report except “We really like you, but we’ve got one more candidate to meet,” you still need to make that call. Or, drop a quick e-mail. Candidates understand that you are insanely busy. They do not understand why you didn’t take 5 minutes to drop a note saying “we still like you.” If you don’t do it, somebody else will.

I know how hard this is, but you’ve got to find a way. Following up pays off. As a recruiter, I spent many late nights making quick phone calls and sending e-mail updates to candidates to “keep them warm.” It paid off: 89 percent of my candidates accepted their job offers. This is in sharp contrast to a recent MRI study that showed a current trend of only a 58 percent acceptance rate.

5. You took too long to make me an offer.

Thirty-eight percent of companies take three to four weeks; 25 percent take five to six weeks. Candidates are willing to wait … but only if you talk to them in the meantime.

6. Your process was all about you.

Interviewing is a lot like dating. If you expect your candidates to talk about the tough stuff (how much money they want to make, what their biggest failures have been), you need to be willing to do the same. Smart, highly coveted candidates will ask you questions like “What’s your compensation for this position?” and “Why’d the last two people in this position quit?” and “What are some of the biggest challenges I will face in this position?” Crossing your arms and refusing to talk about the tough stuff will only serve to drive good candidates away.

LinkedIn recently surveyed more than 20,000 professionals in 29 countries to better understand their attitudes and behaviors at each stage of the job search. They found that candidates expect to learn about these six things in the initial conversation:

• Role and responsibilities.

• Why you’re reaching out.

• Estimated salary range.

• Role of seniority.

• Company culture.

• Company mission.

7. Your interviewing skills are rotten (or nonexistent).

Some of you have trained your recruiters to interview well, but few of you have spent any time training your hiring managers. The LinkedIn global trends report clearly shows why:

• 77 percent say the interview experience is extremely important in their final decision.

• 83 percent of talent say a negative interview experience will change their mind about a role.

• 87 percent say a positive interview experience can turn them around (change their mind about a role or company they once doubted).

• 53 percent say the most important interview is with their prospective manager.

8. Your “no feedback” policy isn’t working.

Afraid of lawsuits, many companies have moved to a strict policy of giving bare-bones feedback … or nothing at all. That sounds like a smart idea, until you realize how it’s hurting you. I’ve already highlighted that “going dark” (no follow-up) is driving candidates elsewhere. It turns out that failing to give any feedback to applicants or candidates can hurt your bottom line in lost sales. A recent study by CareerBuilder shows that 69 percent of job seekers will be less likely to buy from a company they had a bad experience with during the interview process. It gets worse:

• 65 percent of job seekers say they are less likely to buy from a company they didn’t hear back from after an interview.

• 58 percent of job seekers say they are less likely to buy from a company they didn’t hear back from after submitting an application.

• 45 percent of job seekers say they are less likely to buy from a company they received a low-offer letter from.

The key takeaway? Let them down gently. Find a way to give constructive feedback that will not get you sued.

9. Your reputation stinks!

“The people you do not hire have just as much influence on your company’s reputation and talent brand as those who do join your team,” according to LinkedIn. You’re checking candidates out online and through your network. They’re checking you out, too; 50 percent go first to friends and colleagues to discover new opportunities. What are they hearing about you? It’s easier than ever for unhappy employees to talk about you on sites like Glassdoor and Facebook. From toxic bosses to unrealistic expectations to layoffs that are cold and brutal … they’re talking about them all, and your candidates are hearing about it.

Know what your reputation is. Fix the things you can, and be ready to hit the challenges head-on during a hiring process. For example, if you have a reputation as a company that’s constantly changing, ignoring it won’t help. Embrace it in the hiring process: “Yes, we are constantly moving. We’re competing globally in the high-tech space, and while it’s very exciting, it’s also challenging. Our culture is not for everyone. We attract innovators, and people with an entrepreneurial spirit who love changing priorities and shifting goals. If that excites you, you’ve come to the right place. If that scares you, we’re probably not the right place for you.”

If your reputation is for something more sinister (like high turnover, and/or cold and brutal layoffs), figure out how to fix it.

10. Your recruiters don't understand the job.

I hear this consistenly from passive candidates: "If a recruiter can't tell me about the job, or give me a reason to get excited about it in the first few minutes, I'm done. It's extremely irritating to have a recruiter start to grill me, but not be able (or willing) to tell me anything of value about the position." If you want to use recruiters, you have got to spend the time to help them understand the job. Otherwise you'll continue to miss out on top talent and, quite frankly, get less attention from the recruiters (they get frustrated, too).

No company sets out to treat prospective employees badly, but failing to address these complaints will cost you much more than empty seats. Great recruiting takes time, attention, training and, yes, a financial investment. I would never suggest that you eliminate online applications, assessments and background checks. However, I do suggest that you focus on hooking the candidates first, then asking them to jump through your process hoops. LinkedIn makes five great suggestions:

1. Prioritize the channels where talent goes to discover opportunities.

2. Include the most impactful information in your initial message to candidates.

3. Partner with hiring managers and leadership to create a great interview experience.

4. Keep in touch consistently with candidates after the interview experience.

5. Focus on which factors matter most to talent when considering making a job offer.


Catherine Byers Breet launched ARBEZ in 2006, and has helped more than 50,000 job seekers do what they love for a living: arbez.com.