The Candidate Experience

I recently spotted an interesting opportunity to do some work with a company who are looking to do things differently, looking to grow greater value between the organisation and its customers. They are a company I expect many of you will know well, I am currently a customer of theirs, and I know a good number of you are too. Applications to help with this work were invited, and I duly sent mine in on June 20th, a day before the deadline.

Here’s what happened next:

Application acknowledged via a standard email. That’s good, I now know contact has been made.

The following week I noticed the deadline had been extended. Ideally I think it would be better if applicants could be told this rather than stumble upon the information themselves, but I freely admit I’m a bit fussy.

The week after that I noticed the deadline had been extended again. Ideally I think it would be better if applicants could be told this rather than stumble upon the information themselves, but I freely admit I’m a bit fussy.

The week after….yep, it happened again.

On July 17th I was invited for a telephone interview to take place on July 25th. The interview went well and the next day I was contacted and asked to go for a face to face meeting. I agreed to come in on August 1st as I was about to disappear off on holiday after that. I didn’t want to keep them or me waiting.

I was asked to fill in one of those online personality assessment thingies before I attended (shudder), and I had to chase up the link to complete this, which was finally sent to me at 4.15pm the day before the meeting. I duly completed it. Good job my personality can cope with tight deadlines huh.

The interview seemed to go well, although there was a rather odd moment when I was asked to describe how I would help to influence and deliver some upcoming change in the organisation and its relationship with customers and others, whilst at the same time ‘guaranteeing’ no negative publicity. I talked about the need for a genuinely consultative approach in times of change and I also made it clear I did not believe anyone could ‘guarantee’ no negative publicity. I went as far to suggest that anyone who said they could, either didn’t understand the complexities of the situation, or was offering false reassurances in order to increase their chances of securing the role.

Once the interview concluded, I also completed a critical reasoning test while I was there. I confirmed as I was going to be on holiday for the next ten days I’d be difficult to get hold of, but to call me if anything urgent needed dealing with. I also asked that the test results please be sent through to me along with the completed personality assessment. I was told this would happen. When I got back to the office later that day I sent a thank you email.

We had a fantastic family holiday and on my return I headed straight off to Chicago to speak at a conference, and to have fun, and to learn stuff. Mission accomplished, I came back from Chicago. The end of August arrived, and having heard nothing, I put in a call. The person I needed to speak to was away from their desk. ‘They’ll call you back’. This didn’t happen so a few days later I called again and the conversation started ‘I was due to call you today…’. The tone as much as the words, plus the preceding delays told me everything I needed to know. Maybe it was my response to the no negative publicity question that tipped the scales? I thanked the person for the opportunity, and reminded them to please send me the test results and assessment info. They said they would, and nothing arrived.

Coincidentally I subsequently met up with the person managing the overall process and reminded them to please send through the test results and assessment information. Once again I was told this would be done. Once again, nothing arrived.

After yet another chase up I finally got the assessment back on September 25th. At the time of writing, I haven’t studied it in detail yet but it probably says I’m too pushy! And I got 90% in the test. Whoop de doo.

It’s not the overall timescale of the process I mind so much (though things did drag on rather a lot), it’s the constant slippage and forever having to chase stuff up that bugs me. This happens to have been a big piece of work with a budget approved and signed off, but to me it shouldn’t really matter whether you’re recruiting for permanent posts, interims, projects, consultants, senior, junior, whatever. What I think is important is for recruiters to read stories like this and ask if they are OK with their part in helping to craft the way their brand is perceived?


Since publishing this post I’ve had some really interesting reactions and responses via Twitter. Here are a few comments that stood out for me. I think they add value to the original post, I hope you do too.

Julia Waddell commented: There may be no perfect candidate experience out there, but that one REALLY falls short of the mark.

Simon Heath added: If you want the best people working with you your process better work.

Charu Malhotra said: I’m not surprised, but can’t fathom that even if the person doesn’t care about their #EmployerBrand, what about their personal one?


People get in touch with London Underground for a whole bunch of reasons. To book tickets, check for lost property, get travel information, and no doubt a few people complain about the service too. Not me. Back at the start of 2011 I contacted London Underground to ask if I could busk on the tube. Why? Honestly – at that time it just felt like a fun thing to do. London Underground wrote back, thanked me for my interest and said they were not conducting auditions at the moment. They may run more auditions again in 2013 and if so, they would contact me again at that time. I carried on with life – and forgot about busking on the tube.

Earlier this year I got an email from London Underground asking me to apply for a busking audition. First things first, hats off to London Underground for recording my interest (over two years ago) and for getting back to me. I applied and got through the paper sift, and today is the day of my live audition. At every step of the way I’ve been kept informed, my expectations clearly managed. I am a candidate, and so far I am having a good candidate experience. All buyers and recruiters please note: if London Underground can do it – you can do it too.

I’m pleased London Underground got back in touch. As I continue to explore the pathways of creativity I know more and more that music touches many people in many different ways. I’m sure that each and every one of you can call to mind a library of music and songs to describe various points on your life journey. And I read more and more about actively encouraging workplace choirs, getting people together to sing can be a fun, powerful experience.

How am I approaching the audition? Loads of people apply for these licences, so interest in the scheme is big, and being a slightly nervous type, I’m nervous. And I’m also excited. People tell me they like to see me smile, and that is the thing uppermost in my mind right now. The photo on today’s post was taken by Callum Saunders and it proves to me I can play and smile at the same time. The next time someone comes up to you at work with a crazy idea, hold fire on your judgment a while. Let the idea unfold, give it some time and space, and maybe even smile and help your colleague to make it happen. I’ll let you know how I get on. Meantime, keep smiling folks – and have a great day.