Negative Candidate Survey Bias and How to Eliminate It

Negative Candidate Survey Bias

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I hear it all the time: “I don’t trust candidate surveys because there will be a negative candidate survey bias.” It sounds highly perceptive at first blush. Of course there would be a negative candidate survey bias, right? Almost 100% of applicants DON’T get the job!  They’re all at least somewhat disappointed.

While it sounds astute, let me tell that the opposite is true. Here’s why.

Positive Candidate Survey Bias

Negative Candidate Survey BiasMost organizations have a virtual firewall to keep job seekers from inundating them with communications. This makes all kinds of sense on one hand. Who has enough people to field hundreds, thousands or millions of inquiries from job seekers following up on resumes? Or candidates (rightly) trying to do their best to get access to someone who can move their resume to the top of the (figurative) pile.

So most organizations, get very little feedback. But even if you aren’t sending out candidate surveys, you’re still receiving data. You WILL get feedback. And that rare feedback, without a doubt, shows either a positive candidate survey bias or a negative candidate survey bias. There is no in between.

Think about it. As a recruiting professional, you probably get informal feedback from those who just got the job. “Great interview process.” “I’m so impressed with hiring team here,” etc. Who gets hired in a new role at a new company and then proceeds to criticize the process that got them there?

I mean, if they accepted the job, chances are the process was good enough. Otherwise many probably would not have accepted. The labor market is tight.

But, what about those who declined the offer? Or those whose hiring manager never showed up for an interview and simply took their talents elsewhere? Or those who declined interviews because it took too long for anyone to reach out to them and they were hired elsewhere? Or those who couldn’t get past your complicated application process? Or those whom you never found or contacted because finding candidates in the ATS of that cool cloud-based ERP was so difficult to work with? The list goes on.

All you hear is positive feedback! Positive bias from positive new “team players” who want to make sure you know you made the right selection.

Negative Candidate Survey Bias

Well, the above sentence is only mostly true. If you don’t ask for feedback you will also get some negative candidate feedback, in addition to all that positive feedback from new employees. Every once in a while, a disgruntled job seeker or candidate will get through that  “firewall” with some critical comments about your hiring process. 

But just  imagine how egregious the situation must be for news of it to penetrate your “firewall?” Recruiting leaders frequently tell me that they only hear about bad candidate experiences when they are “CAPITAL B” Bad.

So while it may sound very astute to raise the specter of negative candidate survey bias as a reason why your organization doesn’t gather feedback from candidates, the reality is that you are swimming in positive bias. And then when you do get negative feedback, it’s a) too late to do anything about it and it’s b) so bad that it’s not really indicative of what’s really going on out there (hopefully). It’s an anomaly.

At the end of the day, if you’re not surveying every candidate, you are living in a world of bad data. 

Eliminating Candidate Survey Bias With Real Time Feedback

But here’s the good news about candidate feedback: Job seekers want to give you good data. But there is a catch. It has to happen in near real time

It has to happen in real time because they will a) have the best recollection on or around the time of engagement and b) you will have caught active candidates at a time when they are active and incented to help you out as they are being considered for a role. 

If you survey candidates too long after they’ve been rejected for a role, you run the risk of insulting them by waiting so long to ask for their feedback. It’s natural to think “so I’m not good enough for a job, but whenever you feel like it you can ask me for help?” 

They also have likely forgotten at that point. A typical career change includes dozens of applications and several interviews. So unless their experience was REALLY bad, they probably won’t recall and your data is bad anyway. Talk about negative candidate  survey bias.

Finally, there are HR applications that can gather and analyze feedback at each stage of the candidate journey, in real time, automatically. So you always know what’s working and what’s not. Candidates are engaged, feedback is specific to each transaction, the data is fresh, and it reflects the good, the bad and the mundane. That kind of relevant and robust data uncovers issues within your hiring process, pinpoints the source of issues and keeps your process effective as recruiting environments evolve.

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