What the United Airlines PR disaster can teach us about the candidate experience

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This time last week the world was busy reacting to THAT poorly judged Kendall Jenner Pepsi advert, thinking it was probably the worst PR incident of 2017. That was until the undeniable disaster of United Airlines which erupted on our social media feeds yesterday.

You’d think that they’d have learnt the lesson of negative social media exposure after kicking two girls off a plane for wearing leggings last month, but their attempt to “re-accommodate” a passenger on an overbooked flight has resulted in something far more damaging for the airline.

Images and videos quickly surfaced of the passenger being forcibly removed against his will by three Chicago Aviation security officials and dragged along the floor of the aircraft with blood splattered across his face. The images are powerful and undoubtedly upsetting, causing a huge backlash against the airline across social media.

According to an article posted by The Drum, the brands name was mentioned 762,000 times on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter yesterday, this compared to just 135,000 mentions after the leggings incident last month.  The Drum reports that this additional backlash is down to the powerful visuals being shared, and when the majority of people now have a smartphone with them at all times companies just cannot afford to make such errors in their customer experience.

So how does this tie into the candidate experience?

I’m not suggesting any companies out there are dragging their candidates out of the office kicking and screaming (I hope), but there is no denying that a negative candidate experience can have a huge impact upon your employer brand. We have seen companies come under fire from everything from their job adverts – like when Urban Caprice tweeted that they were looking for an Events Manager with OCD tendencies, to the interview itself – like when a candidate wasn’t allowed into an interview at Boots opticians for not being dressed conservatively enough even though they were in a buttoned up shirt and skirt! Anyone and everyone with access to social media has the ability to publish, so if you make an errors in the candidate experience you immediately run the risk of a social media backlash.

And it’s not just the big social media backlashes you need to worry about! General word-of-mouth or negative Glassdoor reviews can paint a negative picture of your company and scare away potential candidates. You might not be guilty of posting a politically incorrect job advert, but even things like taking too long to give feedback can have a huge impact on how your perceived in the candidate market!

We would advise you take the time to survey / collect feedback from candidates (successful and unsuccessful) as well as current employees on how they found the experience from the first application, right up to onboarding (if they got the job). It could uncover that your online application is overly long, you need to be quicker with feedback or even assign a team member to check-in on new employees in their first week! The quicker you identify any negatives, the quicker you can solve them and reduce the risk of people spreading the word about a bad experience! And remember, any negative experience has the potential to become a PR disaster, so treat your candidates with the same great service you would do your paying customers!

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