Recruitment: design for the disappointed

3 minute read

Want a better job candidate experience? Then follow Delta Air Lines and apply deliberate recruitment design processes focused on those who will fail to get the role

Sian Harrington


“As talent acquisition professionals we are sometimes angels of disappointment,” says Jennifer Carpenter, vice president – global talent acquisition at US transport giant Delta Air Lines. In other words, in 99% of the time recruiters are bearers of bad news for job applicants.

At Delta, some 1 million people apply for less than 10,000 jobs each year so that is a lot of disappointed people. And these candidates will be customers, or would-be customers, of the airline. As Carpenter says: “Research shows 60% don’t want to do business with you anymore if you disappoint them in the recruitment experience.”

She believes that technology is an enabler to recruiters engaging better with candidates. “Let the bots do the dull, dangerous and dirty work and we can focus on the human.”

Here are Carpenter’s lessons for creating a good candidate experience through the use of technology:

  1. Focus on where you can make the most impact

    What does first day look like for the candidate and how can you be sure the offer is compelling? Start where it has most impact for the candidate rather than just putting the organisation’s needs first. This is a big shift in thinking. Rally support internally. Delta created an innovation lab to expose leaders across all levels to the candidate experience. They could listen to candidates saying what the process had felt like, and experience what it is like to answer a question on an iPad or talk with chatbots
  2. Behind every resume is a person with a story to tell

    This is a core recruiting principle at Delta and technology is helping it to discover these stories. Last year 300,000 people applied in a few months for flight attendant roles. Less than one-half of 1% of these candidates get hired. Working with digital recruiting company HireVue, which uses video interviews with pre-set questions, Delta gave candidates a chance to tell their own stories through questions such as: 'give an example of when you helped someone'
  3. Believe in conversation starters not deal breakers

    We tend to put up roadblocks that dissuade curious candidates. When Delta recruiters tried their own online application process it took an hour to get through. Recruiters tend to keep adding and adding to the process and it’s not an engaging experience. There are also a good number of applicants who don’t have computers at home and the company was asking them to apply online. “They were going to the library, submitting and sitting back, waiting,” says Carpenter. By using technology where candidates can use their phone and know clearly what the process is (see below), time is added back into the bank
  4. An informed candidate is the best candidate

    Ensure it is clear what candidates can expect in the role and also how the process will unfold. Candidates receive realistic job previews, in human language with details of the next steps. When Delta started using HireVue, flight attendants received communication saying they would receive an invitation shortly. This generated many calls as people had different ideas about what ‘shortly’ meant. Give definitive times
  5. Transparency creates trust

    Let candidates know as fast as possible what the outcome is. Typically, candidates will have irons in a number of fires. Empower them with information – for, example telling them they don’t stand such a great chance here – so they can spend their time more wisely. It is easier sometimes to think waiting and holding a glimmer of hope is nicer but it is not kind
  6. To move forward you need to give back

    For companies to move forward we need great talent so we need to be intentional in how we give back. One way we give hope back is through an assessment with feedback for flight attendant roles so they step away a little wiser than when they entered the process. We plan to pepper the process with learning opportunities – curating classes and courses that might help bridge the gap, help them interview a bit better and help with their job search. This allows us to offer more grace and kindness
  7. Reduce anxiety

    Put yourself on the other side. Delta lets candidates re-record their HireVue videos, for example. About 60% candidates are now re-recording, roughly about five times each. This has helped Delta increase its net promoter score seven points, with a rating of 95% now. “You can see people on Glassdoor saying, 'the dog barked and I was able to record again'. It reduces anxiety and ultimately what we are all striving to do is to help them be the best they can be,” says Carpenter.
Published 24 October 2018
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