Rethinking Rejection, a Hootsuite Case Study - HR Open Source

If you’ve ever worked in HR or recruiting, you’ve likely heard the term “candidate experience,” or CX for shorthand. Think of CX as an organization’s job application process from the perspective of a job-seeker

HR jargon aside, candidate experience is really a barometer of an organization’s empathy. A job search can be a very emotional experience. How companies support and engage those interested in working for them and the care of the stakeholders throughout their hiring process says a lot about their character.

This case study is part of our open-source HR initiative.

Considering Candidate Experience

Candidate Experience has risen to the top of many company’s talent priorities—even for organizations that aren’t as concerned with showing empathy as we try to be at Hootsuite. And for good reason: the rise of online transparency through social media and companies like Glassdoor make it easy to amplify negative interview experiences across various channels can shape your reputation as an employer.

This new reality is causing many talent teams to re-examine their processes for opportunities to enhance CX. Smart organizations are continually revising candidate experience, always looking for new ways to proactively inform, communication, follow-up, and refine their process.

We’ve recently audited our own CX at Hootsuite, and are beginning to make some changes in our process we think will better serve and support those interested in working with us. This is an iterative process, so we’ll continually look to refine and adjust our recruiting process with CX in mind. Our number one objective is to provide anyone, no matter their job offer outcome, an amazing candidate experience at each touch point.

Goals and Expected Outcomes

  • Develop a better understanding of a candidate’s experience in our interview process
  • Help applicants find and engage our social recruiting channels, and better understand our culture
  • Proactively inform applicants about our interview process and timeline
  • Make our job descriptions more compelling, reflective of our culture, informative, and mobile-friendly
  • Offer resources and support to applicants who were not hired but took the time to apply

How We Did It

We broke this particular case study into four parts based on our current focus and changes we’ve recently made.

  1. Re-Imagining the job description

  2. Re-designing our application response

  3. Re-thinking our rejection template

  4. Expanding our candidate experience survey

We’ll share the drivers of each of the changes, as well as the templates, in the following sections.

Part 1: Re-Imagining the Job Description

Job descriptions are one of the least evolved tools we use in recruiting. They’re typically a static laundry list of (at times unreasonable) responsibilities and qualifications. They’re often written from an employer’s point of view, and rarely help a prospect really understand how being in that role will benefit them or what success will look like.

We’re working to re-imagine job descriptions at Hootsuite. It’s going to be an iterative effort (aren’t all things?), but we recently launched v1 (screen shot below) and have migrated all of our current job postings over to this format.

The goal was to create something more visual/branded (header) and dynamic (hyperlinks), but also to reframe the content to speak directly to the reader (you), rather than the traditional framing around the org (we). We also wanted to be tighter and more efficient with our copy to better support a mobile viewing experience.

Version One also needed to be compliant with our recruiting software (iCIMS), so visuals are somewhat limited in this first version – but still add a bit of life to the text.

We plan on experimenting with new ways to embed multimedia content that conveys what it’s like to do that job in future versions. We’ve got some way to go here but progress to date has been great internally and externally.

Check out our new job description template

Part 2: Redesigning the Application Response

The process of applying to a job can be frustrating. You come across that amazing job, spend hour(s) getting your resume and application together, jump through whatever hoops the company puts in front of you, submit your application…and wait…and wait…and wait some more. This is the unfortunate reality for most job seekers today.

Most companies have a static email they send automatically confirming receipt of a new job application. They’re often nothing more than a “We’ve received your resume – thank you for applying” message. Admittedly, we were in that camp as well.

Building A Better Way

One of our core values of Hootsuite is to “Build A Better Way”. It’s part of our organizational DNA and applies to all areas of the business. This means we’re constantly refining and tweaking our HR and Recruiting processes to better suit our people.

As we began auditing and reviewing our CX earlier this year, we saw this as an opportunity to offer more than a receipt of application. This led us to completely redesign our application auto-response email.

Behind The Redesign

We wanted to set that stage for applicants to have a better idea of what to expect when applying at Hootsuite by proactively addressing FAQ’s about the process. You can view the full email below. Some of the drivers that went into it include:

  • Visuals – Most recruiting emails are text-only. We wanted to add some life with a branded header and whatever our ATS technology would let us do.
  • Interview Process – This was the key driver of the redesign. We wanted to remove some of the typical application mystery and bring transparency to things like applicant volume, review approach, interview process, and timeframe.
  • Timing – Set expectations for when applicants will hear back.
  • Personality & Tone – Add personality and warmth to to our applicant communications. Hashtags and GIF’s may not be right for all companies, but they fit Hootsuite’s culture and recruiting communication style.
  • Culture & Connection – Culture is an important part of any organization’s hiring and review process. We wanted to make it easy for applicants to connect with all of our social recruiting and culture channels.
  • Access – We built and shared a Twitter list for our recruiting team in an effort to make our recruiting team more accessible and easier to engage. We also wanted to use this email as an opportunity to remind applicants of our bi-monthly #HootJobs recruiter chat.

You can check out the full application auto-response below. If you’d like to see one of these in your inbox, check out

Check out our application autoresponse

Part 3: Rethinking Rejection

You’ve checked your inbox each hour for the past several days waiting from a response on that dream job you applied to. Sometimes your patience pays off with an email or call back to interview. More often than not (based on application/interview percentages), you don’t. We’ve all been there. How a company handles that delicate situation says a lot about their character.

For some applicants, that email never comes (the unfortunate ‘black hole’). Your enthusiastic application is greeted with silence and you’re left to wonder if your resume was even seen. For others, you receive a standard rejection template that conveys a message you will not be considered for the job. The latter is preferable of course, as it offers a sense of closure to applicants, but could organizations do more to help job seekers beyond their application?

What if companies offered more than closure?

We recently tackled this question at Hootsuite. Several months ago we redesigned our application response to proactively address questions job seekers often have around things like: resume review process, feedback timing, and interview process. This project got us wondering how we might re-think the process of notifying candidates that weren’t selected for a job.

Let’s look at the numbers. We receive over 500 applications each week. That is a lot of candidate experience we have an opportunity to impact in a better way. We are dedicated to ensuring applicants who do not move forward get as much resource towards getting a positive experience as the applicants who do. We felt that an easy place to start could be to find a way to offer them more than a standard “thanks but no thanks” email.

More Than “We Regret To Inform You…”

It is our genuine intention to help job seekers outside of their application with Hootsuite. We thought we could weave in some of our learnings to share with them, so we revised our candidate emails (please note message varies slightly and becomes more customized based on stage of interview) to include what we hope will be seen as additional resources they can draw from.

This project is already being improved upon based on candidate feedback and will include a curated list of resources that cover many stages of the job search lifecycle; job search strategies, networking, company research, resume writing, LinkedIn tips, interview prep, interview feedback, and more. You can see the full email below.

In the email, we write that messages like this can be deflating and we do not want them to be. We mean it and will be updating this template with that effort in mind. In the meantime, please feel free to use or share as it suits you.

Check out our rejection template

Part 4. Expanding our Candidate Experience Survey

Earlier this year we launched a candidate experience survey to capture feedback data for all candidates who interview with our team in Vancouver. The survey was built using Google Forms and asked all candidates who interviewed with our Vancouver team respond with agree/disagree/neutral the following four questions:

  • The information I received prior to my interview was sufficient
  • The interview was well organized and efficient
  • The interviewers took time to assess my skills and experience
  • The interviewers made me feel comfortable, welcome, and answered all of my questions sufficiently

The feedback has been very insightful, and is helping us benchmark teams and target satisfaction levels. In the coming weeks, we’ll be expanding the survey to all of our global offices.


Sharing results and metrics is usually a key component of our #HootHROS case studies, but since these many of these initiatives have just been launched we don’t yet have enough meaningful results to share on their impact.

Our commitment is to ensure we follow up with the results as they progress. It will most likely take place as a follow up post shortly. We are also available on @hootsuitelife to real time connect.

What We Got Wrong

One of our other core values at Hootsuite is “Leading with Humility.” Staying true to that, we include our failures and things we would have done differently in each case study. Here are a few of our learnings from our recent CX work:

  • We should have gotten our global stakeholders involved in the candidate experience survey sooner so that we’d have a shorter pilot period and could begin collecting global benchmarking data within the first 3 months.
  • Our initial job descriptions revamp aspirations exceed the technical capabilities of our recruiting software. We lost a few cycles brainstorming on ideas that weren’t quite feasible yet.
  • We underestimated the magnitude of the work involved in updating our job descriptions. We had roughly 100 live jobs at the time we introduced the new format. Each job had to be re-done not just for format, but content. That involved a lot of work with the hiring teams and we mis-estimated the time that would take us.
  • The curated job search resources on the decline email are fairly North American-centric. We wanted to include more global content, but found EMEA and APAC content tended to be country-specific. We’ll continue to look as we revise the email and get feedback from applicants on how we can make the resources more valuable for them.

Key Takeaways for HR

These were some of our key takeaways from our Candidate Experience revamp efforts.

  • Survey your applicants. It’s hard to adjust your CX strategy if you don’t really know what you’re delivering to your applicants. Google Forms is an easy (and free) way to get that feedback, which will help inform what you’re doing well and where you need to get better.

  • Set expectations. Even if you’re a small company using an email alias to submit resumes, you can customize your email responses to proactively inform your applicants about what to expect in the process.

  • Close the loop. The reality of job search means the vast majority of applicants will not be selected. Don’t leave your applicants hanging and wondering where they stand. Let them know if they won’t move forward in a timely manner so they can move on.

  • Always be iterating. It’s important to continually tweak and refine your CX. Even if you’re not surveying applicants, finds ways to create feedback loops so you gather insight on your process and can make adjustments over time.

Technologies Used

iCIMS, Google Forms