Managing the Candidate Experience when Hiring for Many Openings #thecandidate

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During the course of my last job at a grocery chain, I was heavily involved in the hiring and training of employees for two new store locations. Each store had a staff of about 100 employees. It was quite a overwhelming task to sort through hundreds of applications, schedule interviews, check references and onboard that many people in a short amount of time.

This week Blogging4Jobs is focusing on the candidate experience, so what does the candidate experience mean when dealing with hundreds of candidates in just a few weeks? In today’s post, I will look at ways to create a positive candidate experience in the midst of hiring chaos.


When I started running ads for the new stores, our system was flooded with hundreds of applications as well as calls from candidates asking about the status of their application. We had information on our website advising candidates to check status by logging in to our site because we received too large a volume of calls to respond by phone, but that did not stop people from trying to reach us.

Ask job seekers what frustrates them most about the application process, and they will tell you that it is the feeling of submitting an application into an HR black hole. That is why HR departments are inundated by phone calls. Candidates want to connect with someone, and often the application process is mysterious because companies do not provide information on the lifecycle of an application.

Give candidates a brief overview of the process. For new store openings, we put information on our careers site explaining when we would start reviewing applications for the new store and when we would start interviewing and hiring. As frustrating as candidate calls can be, give good customer service and provide the same information on the phone when candidates call. Remember that you might be the first person at the company that candidate talks to, so give a good impression. The candidate on the other end of the phone could be your future superstar employee.


The most daunting part of the hiring process for a new store is scheduling and conducting interviews. In a previous job, I was involved in cattle-call style interviews, which were largely inefficient. During these events, HR staff must interview multitudes of people who could have been screened out by a quick application review. In addition, candidates are stuck waiting for hours for an interview that may only last a few minutes.

In order to avoid the pitfalls of cattle-call interviews, I took a different approach with the store openings at my most recent job. We requested that candidates complete the application online prior to an interview being scheduled. We would then screen applications and call in our top choices for interviews. We gave them a specific time, so they did not have to wait around for hours.

We scheduled 20-40 interviews per day during our interview week. It was an exhausting process, but we had to remember to be friendly and pleasant even when it came to the final candidate of the day. In addition, we told each candidate the timeframe for hiring people and how to reach our HR office if they had questions. Again, we wanted to take the mystery out of the process by being upfront about timelines.

If you are using an applicant tracking system, do not underestimate the power of mass emails to candidates that are in process. If there are delays in the store opening, send out an email to all candidates letting them know. And always remember to follow up with the candidates you do not hire.


Attending job fairs and other hiring events is another good way to meet candidates when trying to hire a large number of employees. Send mass emails out to candidates letting them know you will be at an event or that you will be hosting your own meet & greet event. Attendance at such events gives candidates a chance to get some face time with your company—something that candidates really want.

I have attended a number of these events, and many candidates have commented, “I’m so glad you’re here. I always feel like my application goes nowhere, and I rarely get to speak to a real person.”

Don’t be jaded about the candidate experience when hiring many people 

We often forget what it feels like to be on the job seeker side. It is important to remember to give a good impression to all job seekers and plan with them in mind.

How do you manage the candidate experience when hiring a large number of people?

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Stephanie Hammerwold

Stephanie Hammerwold, is the founder and director of Pacific Reentry Career Services, a Southern California nonprofit that helps formerly incarcerated women find and maintain employment. She also blogs on a variety of HR topics as the HR Hammer. When not volunteering for her nonprofit, Stephanie has a day job in HR at a tech startup in Irvine, CA.


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