Emotional contracts in the hiring process
Something that our HR leaders need to start thinking about, is the emotional contract between the candidate and the hiring company as part of any hiring process.
I have no statistics to back this, yet, but years of experience indicate that the companies who protect this emotional contract, increase their ratio of employment offers to acceptances. I suspect they also secure more engaged employees from the outset which in turn must improve their ratios of retention during the critical on-boarding and probation periods.
I will share some examples of what I mean in my reference to the "emotional contract".
Candidate A is going through the hiring process. The hiring manager provides detailed and balanced feedback after each interview stage, and does so within a working day of each interview. At all times the candidate knows what the hiring process will contain and what timeframes will apply. The candidate has multiple chances to explore the pros and cons of this potential role and employer. Salary and package expectations of both parties have been discussed from the outset. An employment offer is made by the promised timeframe and is in line with exactly the terms discussed throughout the process.
The candidate feels valued, respected for their time, and admires the efficiency of the hiring process. Both parties have been impressed by the professionalism of the other. There are no surprises or protracted negotiations – both parties feel like a win-win situation has been achieved. The emotional contract is strong.
Candidate B is going through the hiring process. The hiring manager provides limited or no feedback, leaving the recruiting partner to “fudge” feedback in order to keep the candidate engaged and committed. The candidate waits patiently at first and then with any or all of concern, annoyance, anger, and indifference. The interview schedule if it exists, doesn’t run to plan. The candidate is jumping through hoops to show interest, but it’s a one way love affair – the candidate answers a bunch of detailed questions about themselves but gets minimal chance to ask probing questions of the company interviewers. The candidate invariably likens the hiring chaos to the decision making (or lack of) culture in the company. The high performance candidate may even withdraw from the application process – after all when their skills and experience are in demand, why waste time with a prospective employer who cannot be bothered to play their part in the courtship.
If it comes to a time where the candidate has remained persistently in the process and receives a job offer; there’s a high chance that they’ll try their luck with negotiations on salary, and may even use the offer as a counter to their existing or other potential employers – after all they have no emotional contract to the company who hasn’t shown them efficiency, respect or professionalism, so they have no emotional obligation to accept employment there. Worse still, the candidate may accept the offer but then be easily lured away by another company with whom they've got a stronger emotional contract.
I know of literally hundreds of examples ranging from these extremes and everything in between. I’d love to hear of any analysis you might have done on this topic and to hear what improvements you and your company are working on to strengthen these paperless contracts. Aside from the immediate impact on the success of any hire, what damage does a poor emotional contract do to your own professional reputation and company brand?