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Travel SNAFUs: The Dumbest Way to Lose Your Top Candidates

Written by Brandon Wong on April 20

When I first joined Pana, one of our founders showed me this video, “Dumb Ways to Die.”

I thought of that video today because there similarly seem to be ‘smart’—or at least, legitimate—reasons for losing a candidate, and then there seem to be dumb reasons.

Legitimate reasons include: they went to Google or Facebook instead for higher pay. There wasn’t a mutual values-fit. The candidate’s aspirations didn’t align well with the role. The timing was off.

Amongst less legitimate reasons, I immediately thought of this story from a recruiter friend of ours:

“I invited the candidate to do an onsite interview, and he never booked a flight out because I asked him to front the money. I later found out he accepted a competitive offer” (true story).

I suppose another dumb way would be if you completely forgot to follow-up with a candidate for months and months after her screening call, and she went elsewhere as a result.

Interestingly, though, even this lack of responsiveness is less bad than the candidate travel story. Why?

Because the candidate you’re flying out is likely worth 100x than the candidate you just screened.

For two reasons:

  1. You only fly out candidates to do a final round of onsite interviews once they’re at the bottom of the recruiting funnel. In short, you’ve not only invested significant time to identify, screen, qualify, interview, and nurture a relationship with these candidates, but you’ve also likely done that dozens of times over to disqualify the other 90% that don’t make it to the onsite interview.
  2. Because these candidates require travel for an onsite, presumably there was a reason that you couldn’t source the talent locally. These candidates could be folks like a C-suite level executive that you identified through a national search, or a specialized technical engineering role that you could only find by going out-of-state.

In a nutshell, you have this perfect intersection of candidates with the most valuable and rarest skillsets, and those that you have invested the most time to identify, qualify, and sell.

What could possibly go wrong?

Well, the second that candidate walks through your door, they’re in your hands. You can “wow” them with your office space. You can show them your culture firsthand. You can dive deep in each of your conversations together, and get every hiring manager 100% prepped to nail their interview.

But before they even enter your office, they’ve already formulated an impression of your company:

How you handled their travel can express a lot to candidates about your company.

Let me give a few examples (again, all true stories):

“My recruiter booked me on a redeye flight without asking me. It was an immediate red flag.”

“I hated that I had to front hundreds of dollars for travel, especially coming straight out of college. If my parents didn’t help spot me, I don’t know what I would have done.”

“Once I got multiple final round interviews, I paid attention to how each company booked my travel. If they didn’t take care of me as a candidate, why would they once I was an employee? ”

Beyond making the right first impression, nailing candidate travel is important because when things go wrong in travel, it can go really wrong.

Almost every recruiter we’ve spoken with has at least one story where a travel SNAFU singlehandedly derailed the entire candidate experience.

One of the more comical tales that we’ve heard is candidate who booked his flights and hotels for the wrong date. He arrived literally a week early. Needless to say, his recruiting coordinator was not a happy camper as she frantically scrambled around the office to re-schedule everything.

Other stories had more serious implications. We heard from one candidate, for example, whose flight got cancelled last-minute. Because he didn’t have instructions from his recruiter on what to do (i.e. whether he had permission to re-book another flight immediately), he ended up missing the onsite completely. He had to Skype in for interviews instead from the airport, and in his view, this defeated the entire purpose of getting an in-person connection and feel for the company.

So, are these travel SNAFUs preventable?

Yes. 100%.

To help, we’re putting together a short manifesto to nailing candidate travel.

None of this is rocket science, but our hope is that it’ll help you achieve a SNAFU-free experience for all of your most high-value candidates. We’ll shoot this out over the People First newsletter in May if you'd like to be the first to read it.

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