Survey Shows Companies Don't Always Put Their Best Foot Forward When Interviewing

Candidate interviewing

August 28, 2012

Job hunting can be stressful, even under the best circumstances. According to a new report, potential employers are doing little to alleviate that stress. In fact, more often than not, they may make matters worse.

Staffing industry consulting firm CareerXroads has published its annual report evaluating the hiring and recruiting experience of Fortune's Top 100 companies, including Google, Whole Foods and Zappos. According to Recruiting Trends, researchers Mark Mehler and Gerry Crispin created a fake applicant to conduct their evaluations. This year's fictitious character: Charles Brown, recently the marketing manager for a major corporation's Great Pumpkin division. Past identities have included the likes of: Chris Kringle, Ted E. Baer, Jack Coostow and Vinnie Boombotz.

Once Charles Brown's fake resume was complete, Mehler and Crispin submitted it to companies through their websites and analyzed the application process as a real candidate would experience it. The results were discouraging. According to Life Inc., the duo muddled through needlessly complicated applications, irrelevant questions, and little or poorly executed follow-up.

"Too many companies continue to treat job seekers like yesterday's stale bread," wrote Mehler and Crispin in their report. "They are secretive with information, indifferent to candidates' needs."

Among Mehler's and Crispin's findings, as reported by Life Inc.: Nearly half of online applications take up to 20 minutes, though 8 percent take up to an hour; 6 percent of companies ask for a Social Security number even though it has "no bearing on someone's qualifications;" 13 percent don't let job seekers even apply direcly from a job description; and fewer than 30 percent of companies ask screening questions that are specific to the job for which candidates are applying. The results mark an improvement over past reports, but CareerXroads calls these changes "small and incremental."

"This failing is difficult to understand, largely because of how easy it would be to change," reads the report. "Companies simply have to approach the individuals who want to work for them with the same respect that they treat their customers. Until they do that, they will miss opportunities to improve their workforce and reputation in the job market."

Life Inc. did note, however, that some employers managed to fare well. For example, outdoor goods retailer REI calls job seekers to acknowledge receiving their applications. It also lists an email address and phone number in the footer of all career-related pages so that job seekers can get help should they need it.

"We want the candidate experience to be representative of how we treat our customers, and we put a huge emphasis on customers," REI recruiting supervisor Lisa Arbacauskas told Life Inc.

Other improvements year-over-year include more companies acknowledging receipt of an application and more interactive hiring processes, including job description videos and live chats.

Compiled by Aimee Hosler


"Even 'Best' Companies Fall Short of Making Job Seekers Welcome,", August 28, 2012, Michelle V. Rafter

"Reviewing the Candidate's Experience,", August 2012, Gerry Crispin and Mark Mehler

"What is It Really Like to Look For a Job in 2012? CareerXroads Annual Mystery Job Seeker Report,", August 28, 2012

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