Candidates’ Number One Complaint about Job Hunting (You May be Surprised)

by Peg Bogema

Has there ever been a job hunter who enthusiastically embraced the process? Maybe. But I doubt it.

Job hunting is hard.

It’s especially hard for candidates who are out of work. Worse if their money is running low.

Even people who are gainfully employed find it tough. (That is probably a major reason behind the inertia some people feel when they don’t really like their current job but cannot seem to get going on finding a new one.)

You might think that rejection is the worst part of the job hunt. Or the amount of time candidates have to commit to pursuing each opportunity, what with three or four interviews being common.

But you would be wrong.

The number one complaint candidates have about job hunting is the lack of communication from the companies where they apply and interview. As much as companies complain about the occasional candidate ghosting them at some point in their process, candidates have positive horror stories about the time they invest—only to be met with a thundering silence or form-rejections.

Why should you care?

Here are a few reasons why you should try not to be THAT COMPANY that everyone is talking about (in a bad way).

First, candidates trade notes about their experiences. They are quick to vent their frustrations. One person saying something negative doesn’t carry much weight. But when dozens or hundreds of candidates are complaining, that really means something to job seekers. They will shy away from even applying if they see that you have a bad reputation when it comes to your interviewing and hiring practices.

Second, that candidate who isn’t a good fit for your company today might be a good fit in another week—or year. If a candidate has a good experience with you today, they will be glad to re-apply in the future. Or they will welcome your outreach to them—if you are the kind of company that mines your past applicants as jobs open up.

Finally, that candidate you weren’t interested in may become a potential customer at some point down the road. If your company treats candidates like customers—giving them great customer service, so to speak—those candidates will know what your company will be like as a vendor.

So what can you do?

There are two areas that companies should always be trying to strengthen and improve in their interviewing and hiring process.

They should be asking:

  • Where else along the way can we be communicating with candidates?
  • Where else along the way can we be more transparent about our process?

Communicate More Frequently

When it comes to communication, here are a few examples of things companies can do.

Acknowledge receiving the application or resume submission. This is a great place for an automated response—if nothing else. It lets candidates know that they successfully did what they were supposed to do.

Give a go/no-go at every step of the process. Candidates don’t have any idea how long your process takes. Consequently they don’t know if your process is long and they are still being considered—or if they are being ghosted.

Use communication to manage expectations. Companies can tell candidates that they will be making a decision by a specific date. For example, “We will decide who we are going to interview by next week Monday, and we’ll let you know either way.”

Reject candidates. There are different levels of personalization required for different scenarios.

  • Sometimes it’s clear that candidates have not read the job description. They are not even remotely qualified. If you have time, you can send a tailored rejection like, “This role is for a senior software engineer with 8+ years’ experience. It’s not a good fit for where you’re at in your career.” But if you don’t have time, a canned rejection is fine. It’s better than nothing. (Side note: this is a great place to have automated notices set up or template notices that you can easily copy/paste.)
  • When a candidate only had to make time for a first round interview, you can get away with a canned rejection such as, “Thank you very much for making time for an interview. We enjoyed meeting you, but we have decided not to advance your candidacy to the next round of interviews. We wish you the best of luck in your job search.” If you can write a custom rejection that tells the candidate a bit more about why they aren’t advancing, that’s great. But your main goal should be to be mercifully quick to let the candidate know that things aren’t going further.
  • If a candidate has been through multiple interviews, a tailored email or a phone call is in order. This is often the toughest communication to deliver. Candidates are disappointed—and they sometimes blurt out things that they wouldn’t normally say. Feeling uncomfortable about delivering bad news is no excuse not to deliver it in a professional manner.

Consider providing some explanation for the rejection if you can. Candidates hate being ghosted after a long interview process. Only slightly less of a peeve is being rejected after a long process with zero feedback. If you can tell a candidate that you went with someone who was more experienced or had a background that was more closely aligned, that means something to them.

Be More Transparent

Transparency starts with the job description. Too often companies have general job descriptions written by someone in HR. The job description ends up being nothing like the job they are really applying for. Software Engineer with a relevant Bachelor’s degree and 2 years of experience is a set of requirements that many, many engineers meet. Then they interview only to learn that the technical stack is Java and Spring while their background is C# and .NET.

It is fine to have general HR job descriptions, but don’t post them on your career page. Be specific about what is required and what is nice to have. Then when candidates apply, and you reject them, they will only push back if you’ve missed the fact that they actually are qualified. If you’ve said that experience with Elasticsearch (a full text search engine) is required, and you don’t see it anywhere on the resume, of course you’ll reject them. If the candidate realizes that they sent in an old version of their resume, or version A when they should have sent in version B, they can let you know.

When you are going to advance a candidate to interviewing, that’s a great place to tell them what your interviewing process looks like. If you’re going to require them to sit through three interviews or do a coding exercise or come on site for a full day, let them know up front. If they are not open to your process, then they can bail out right there—before either party has spent any time interviewing.

Make sure that the compensation dialog starts early. If the compensation is published in the job post, then you can be fairly certain that the candidate is on board with the salary. Nonetheless, it’s smart to mention the role’s salary bracket as early in the process as possible. That way if the bracket is $80K to $100K, you’re not going to conduct four long interviews with a candidate who is looking for $150K. That’s a gap that can’t be bridged.


As recruiters, we try to practice what we preach. We are often in the dark regarding how long it will take our customers to give us feedback. Even so, we update our candidates regularly—even if only to say that we asked for feedback, again, and still don’t have anything to share. We tell our candidates when we think it’s safe to give up on an opportunity.

(Yes, recruiters get ghosted by some candidates AND by some customers.)

Even when we are the bearers of bad news, our candidates are quick to thank us. Candidate after candidate mentions how nice it is to actually know where they stand in the process. And how grateful they are for the update. And that's just a small part of why Stout Systems has such great ratings and feedback from candidates.

If you're looking for work, please submit your resume or browse our job board to determine if you are a match for a job that we have available. We host free career webinars every week - visit our event calendar to RSVP!
© Copyright 1995-2022 - STOUT SYSTEMS DEVELOPMENT INC. - All Rights Reserved
envelopephone-handsetlaptop linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram