Candidate Care: A Competitive Advantage

Treating job applicants well creates ambassadors for companies' images and brands, even if they don't get hired.
Apr 01, 2005


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A decade ago, management gurus, the business media, and business schools chastised corporate executives and boards of directors for their cavalier attitudes and, in some cases, complete lack of attention toward succession planning. Today, those same executives and boards should direct their attention to candidate care—an even more pervasive and serious issue—to avoid another managerial faux pas. This article will illustrate the importance of making candidate care a part of corporate strategy—not only to attract and retain top talent, but also to augment corporate image, branding, and marketing efforts.

Serious Business Candidate care is the process by which a company staffs a position, from the announcement of a job opening to the results new hires deliver throughout the years of their employment. Multiply by several hundred, or several thousand over time, the expense and effort that goes into finding, retaining, training, and maintaining that one hire, and the potential impact of candidate care becomes clear.

Too often, candidate care is overlooked by a board's agenda. But, securing the flow of intellectual capital should be one of the company's highest priorities. Today's environment is defined by global markets, restructurings, mergers and acquisitions, quantum changes in productivity, mobile talent, and changing political climates—all of which has created an unprecedented thirst for intellectual capital. The demand for talent will become even more intense and will continue unabated into the foreseeable future. That is why candidate care must become a mandatory and ongoing segment of the strategic planning process, at the very highest levels of pharma companies and their boards.

Just as a company's raw material supply is an integral part of the strategic planning process, so, too, are the supply of human raw material and the sources of leadership. But, whereas there are usually substitutes for scarce raw materials, there is no substitute for intellectual capital and leadership.

If a company is slow to recognize the strategic value of candidate care, its competition will do the job for them; they seek the same skills and the same leadership qualities in many of the same people. Considering that the supply of intellectual capital is finite at any given time and in any geographic area, inattentiveness to candidate care will place companies at a distinct disadvantage.

Create Ambassadors "Individuals being recruited into an organization, whether successful or not, become ambassadors for that company for a period of time," says William S. Poole, past president of Novo Nordisk (US) and of Biovail US. "As every sales person will tell you, all it takes is one unhappy customer to undo the good of having 100 happy customers. To this point, I believe it is essential for the hiring company to move quickly, methodically, and on time throughout the hiring process. Having candidates hanging in limbo or being kept in the dark about decisions, meeting times, or feedback for weeks, or perhaps months, after first being contacted is simply inexcusable and just not good business."

Pharma companies interview many people but hire only a few. "Companies turn down 98 percent of the people who apply," says Lou Manzi, vice president of human resources at GlaxoSmithKline.


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Manzi emphasizes the consequences of the "tell ten people of a bad experience rule." It's what happens when someone has a bad experience; they tell ten people and then those ten people tell ten more people, and so on. Thus, many people are negatively affected by one person's bad experience. Companies can avoid having to fix their images if they would take better care of them in the first place.