Some years ago, when I was presenting to an HR conference (you remember, when more than one person was allowed to get together in a room and listen to others) we carried out a survey among our candidates.

Now bear in mind this was at least four years ago, and the levels of automation we see today were nothing like as advanced, nor were they relied upon so much.

Nevertheless, I was very surprised that amongst highly qualified, well researched individuals, the way they were dealt with through the recruitment process was pretty appalling.

In something like 60% of cases, they never received any acknowledgement for any application. In 90% of cases the acknowledgement was not from a real human being, and in only 5% of cases were they contacted by a human being to take things further.

I find this staggering. As a recruitment consultancy we would receive at least 50 applications a week. We made it a matter of faith that every single application was responded to (okay there were a number of candidates who applied to us for the same role every day for months, after the first couple of times we did get bored) it sometimes lead to difficult conversations, and sometimes we had to explain that we simply did not recruit for people in their sector, or that their experience was not appropriate for what our clients were seeking. And sometimes they persuaded us that we were wrong, and occasionally there would be an even more difficult conversation if they felt we were being unfair.

But we felt we owed it to everybody who took the time to apply to us to explain why we could help, or why we could not. And I do find it really surprising that employers, many of whom have highly successful customer models, should not treat applicants to their organisation with at least as much importance as customers.

And you would never expect someone to ignore a customer, or send them a note to say if you haven’t heard from us within three weeks assume we haven’t got the item you are looking for. But that’s what most of you are doing to job applicants. People who might think they have found the job of their dreams and are anxiously waiting for the answer. In times of high unemployment there is nothing more dehumanising and discouraging for many people.

And with today’s level of automation I find it amazing how much employers ask applicants to do before they even get to a shortlist stage. We have heard of some absolute horror stories with applications taking two or three hours to do before moving onto the next stage.

Employers you have a duty to all of the jobseekers out there to be honest with them. You may not go on to employ them, but you should be giving them at least clear direction on whether they’re likely to be successful with you.