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Comment: the real cost of rejecting job applicants
Lucy Beaumont

One of the hidden challenges of retail recruitment is rejecting applicants who could be existing or future customers. But there’s a positive way to do this which benefits everyone. By Lucy Beaumont.


Comment: the real cost of rejecting job applicants

One of the hidden challenges of retail recruitment is rejecting applicants who could be existing or future customers. But there’s a positive way to do this which benefits everyone. By Lucy Beaumont.

Retail has always been an attractive sector to work in. Employers have high-street visibility and prospective employees have a fair idea about what the job is likely to involve. So it’s no surprise the recruitment website TotalJobs found that the retail sector attracts twice the national average number of job applications per role.  

As a result, retail recruiters often face the difficult task of sifting thousands of applications for a relatively small number of job vacancies. Naturally, they’ll focus on identifying the right people but many will overlook the unsuccessful candidates. Some of these people won’t even get told they didn’t get the job, whilst others will receive little more than a cursory email with no explanation of why they weren’t chosen.  

But think about this. If someone has applied to your company, they probably did so because they like and admire your brand. They may have been your customer for many years. They might even be amongst your best advocates. So what’s likely to happen if you give them an awful experience when they apply for a job? It might change their perception of your company. It could even alienate them against your brand.  

The consequences of this can go beyond simply losing the ‘lifetime value’ of that one customer. For example, if you receive 20,000 applications per year for 1,000 frontline roles, this leaves you with 19,000 people who you’ll have to reject. If you provide a negative recruitment experience for these unsuccessful candidates and each of them tells ten other people about it, your company could be alienating 190,000 current or potential customers each year. Scale that up over a decade and it becomes 1.9 million people. And let’s say each of them would have spent £100 with you in that ten-year period. You’ve just lost out on £190 million of income!  

It’s important to understand that your recruitment process is an opportunity to showcase your brand and to directly interact with applicants who may be current or potential customers. Ultimately, if you’re not going to offer them a job, you can still give them a positive brand experience. Keep them informed about the different stages of their application; give them feedback from any assessments and interviews they’ve undertaken; be polite and considerate in your communications; be respectful and sympathetic if you have to turn them down and thank them for their interest and their time.  

Our simple message is: don’t alienate your job applicants. Give them a positive experience at all stages of the recruitment process and you’ll not only find the right candidates for your roles, you’ll also help your bottom line by retaining your existing customers and hopefully winning some new ones along the way.  

Lucy Beaumont is solutions director at assessment specialist Talent Q, one of the sponsors of the Retail HR Summit 2014 which will take place on Wednesday 8 October at the Cavendish Conference Centre in London.

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