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Poor first impressions hitting UK employers hard

Simon Winfield

Poor first impressions are costing UK business hard-to-find talent, as 48 percent of job applicants surveyed by Hays, the leading recruiting expert, say they have been deterred from pursuing a role due to a negative first impression of the organisation.

The Hays What Workers Want 2018 report, examines the steps a candidate takes from initial job search through to acceptance of a new role and joining an organisation, and is based on a survey of over 14,600 professionals and employers. The research found that while 65 percent of employers think they provide a good or excellent overall applicant experience, only 55 percent of applicants agree.

Employers should closely consider the first impression a potential employee has of their organisation, as 64 percent of applicants have been deterred by an unwelcoming internal office environment and 44 percent were also put off by unwelcoming staff. Almost a third (30 percent) were put off by the office exterior or location.

Beyond these first impressions, one of the main deterrents for applicants was a bad experience at interview, as 59 percent of applicants say they have been put off further pursuing a role for this reason. The majority (84 percent) of applicants surveyed say they have had a negative experience at a job interview, with the main complaints being unprepared interviewers (39 percent), and poor communication or a lack of clarity on the steps involved (38 percent). 62 percent of applicants also say they want to meet their direct reports during the interview, but only 13 percent of employers offer this.

A poorly managed applicant experience can create staff retention problems, as almost half (49 percent) of employees have left at least one new job within the first 12 months because it didn’t meet expectations set during the application process. The key reasons cited by respondents for leaving within the first year were misleading job adverts (42 percent), training not provided as expected (42 percent), mismatched management expectations (34 percent) and cultural fit (33 percent).

Delays throughout the recruitment process are also an issue for many applicants. Over half (57 percent) say they are only willing to wait one week after submitting their application before looking elsewhere, and a similar number (58 percent) are prepared to wait only 1-3 days after an interview for an offer before considering or accepting another opportunity. A quarter (25 percent) had accepted a job verbally, but because of a long wait for a formal written offer, had accepted another job in the meantime.

Simon Winfield, Managing Director, Hays UK & Ireland, commented on the findings: “In today’s intensely competitive market, the challenge isn’t just finding prospective candidates, it’s keeping them engaged throughout the entire application process to the point of hire and beyond. Our findings show that many organisations are letting future talent slip through their fingers as applicants experience frustrations and delays throughout the process, or leave the role early in their employment.

Unwelcoming first impressions, misleading job adverts and badly structured interviews are all key contributors to a poor applicant experience, ultimately making it harder for employers to recruit and retain talent. Organisations need to scrutinise their applicant journey and invest both time and resources into addressing the issues potential employees experience when applying for roles. This means looking at every stage from careers websites and job adverts to interview structures and the on-boarding experience, and ensuring processes are efficient, transparent, welcoming and personalised to the individual.  Applicants are telling us that first impressions really matter, so employers must audit, assess and refine the applicant journey to consistently present their organisation in the best possible light to prospective candidates.”

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