Candidate Bill of Rights – Wrong Answer


At Recruitfest last week in Boston, one of the topics that seemed to get people really engaged was the idea of a “Candidate Bill of Rights” that would outline how candidates should be treated during the recruitment process at any given company.  This topic is a response to the general perception that most people feel mistreated and disrespected by corporate recruitment teams .  This then fuels the poor reputation of corporate HR and recruiting organizations.   I was fortunate to have been a part of the panel on this topic, but I don’t think we really got at the heart of this issue in the short hour we had for discussion.  Having had the benefit of that discussion and time to think more about it, I’d like to continue this discussion here.

I agree with the notion that most recruiting departments probably aren’t doing the greatest job in treating their applicants and candidates the way that each of them individually should be treated.  In some cases, this is due to general incompetence within the recruiting team, whether it be the recruiters or the team leadership.  As an example, any candidate who has an interview of any sort with a company should get some sort of timely feedback.  Just a simple note that says “you didn’t make the cut” would cure a lot of the angst in the market.  But, I don’t think it’s all poor recruiting teams.  Recruiting teams are under a great deal of pressure and they sometimes just lose sight of some of the important details of their work.

Side note here: Usually, the complaining comes loudest from those candidates who don’t get the job.  I think this fact needs to be remembered when we are launching a wholesale attack on recruiters.  I’m not sure all of this negative feedback is always warranted, but much of it is.  I also think that there is a serious entitlement issue going on below the surface on this topic.  Probably half of the candidates who apply for a specific job aren’t qualified for that job and know it when they apply.  Yet I would guess that they would expect to be treated the same way another qualified applicant would.  Granted, everyone should be treated with respect through the process, but not everyone is entitled to an interview, as an example.

The solution to this problem is not a “Candidate Bill of Rights.”  The discussion might be productive or at least interesting, but the notion of creating and publishing this kind of document is sort of silly when you think about it.  When you look at the United States bill of rights, we are talking about constitutionally defined and protected rights put forth by the government.  If your protected rights are violated, there will be fierce and dire consequences for the violator.  This is why, in hindsight, I think that notion of a candidate bill of rights is a little silly.  Who’s going to enforce and protect these rights?  Who does a candidate go to when their rights have been violated?  And how is the violating party held accountable?   Are you prepared to hire an unqualified candidate who’s a bad cultural fit because they are incensed that you didn’t personally respond to their application for employment?  If not, then who cares about your “Candidate Bill of Rights?”

The job market is just like any other market–it is dictated by market forces.  Candidates have the “right” to refuse an interview.  They have the right not to apply for a particular job or at a particular company.  They have the right to tell a recruiter to piss off.  They have the right to tell all of their neighbors how much the recruiting department at XYZ sucks.  They have the right to trash you on Facebook, Twitter, and elsewhere if you treat them poorly.  These are the rights that we all possess as candidates.  And, these rights don’t need to be defined.

What’s missing is a discussion about recruiter behavior and accountability.  Instead of talking about the candidate’s rights, let’s talk about something we can control, how we, as recruiters, are going to treat to people who give us the gift of their interest in our organization.  It is on this side of the equation where the progress can be made.  How are recruiters going to step up and behave differently?  How are recruiters going to treat people differently?  So, instead of a “Candidate Bill of Rights,” how about a Recruiter’s Manifesto?  A manifesto, as you well know, is simply a declaration of intentions.  By creating and publishing a manifesto, we could take a huge step towards transparency in our processes.  The manifesto would need to be real and honest.  So, it might have things like this:

  • We will acknowledge you.  It might not always be in the way you hope for, but we will make sure your communication doesn’t got into a black hole.
  • We will let you know that we received your application through an automated email.
  • I will listen to you and answer your questions to the best of my abilities.
  • We will follow up with you after interviews to let you know the decision.
  • We get over 4,000 appplications every year.  We hire 200.  While we’d love to hire every person who applies, we just don’t have enough jobs.  Despite that, we will try to make the process as positive as possible despite the fact that most people don’t make the cut.
  • I will know enough about the position and the hiring manager to help a candidate decide if they are interested in the job.

These are fictional examples, but I thought maybe they would get the wheels turning.  I think this conversation needs to turn from discussing a list of fictional “rights” that candidates possess to a more productive discussion about what recruiters are willing to commit to doing to change the experiences that people have when they apply at our companies.

What do you think?



  1. Jason,
    This is a magnificent proposal.

    In my opinion I think that there are vastly talented people out there getting burnt out by application and interview processes.
    At many organizations, non-profits and for profit alike, application processes are antiquated in the first place & are not formatted to find and produce the best applicants.

    While the “Manifesto” deals with treating every applicant with equality and dignity I cannot help but think that in this very talent-rich society it may be about time to re-think the entire application process so that companies that want the “real talent” can start to get to it without wading through all of the nonsense.

    The truth is that there have been jobs that I have wanted but have known that I was not adequately qualified for.

    The manifesto is a great idea. Now the process must be adequately fixed.

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