The hiring team never pronounced my name correctly

January 24, 2022 Updated: September 28, 2023 7 min read

Sourcing good candidates, preferably great ones, has been difficult for some time. The pandemic made a competitive job market close to impossible. In the days of The Great Resignation or The Big Quit, losing even one good candidate is a significant loss for an already overburdened TA team.

In general, candidates have more options than employers, and they’re voting with their feet if they don’t like the onboarding process. First (and second and third) impressions are vital to sourcing and retaining talent. We all know the old saying – you only get one chance to make a first impression. That’s why it’s more critical than ever to ensure that interviewers understand the pivotal role they play in a challenging talent competition.

What’s in a name?

Countless examples could be used to illustrate just how detrimental ignoring personal detail in creating the candidate experience is, but in this case, a name was enough to halt the hiring process completely.

Obviously mispronouncing a name repeatedly is, well, rude. To add to the full spectrum of oops, a company has also overlooked a potentially great candidate due to low effort, unconscious bias and discrimination. 

Author and business owner Ruchika Tulshyan has spent most of her life trying to educate almost everyone she meets about the correct pronunciation of her name. She pronounces it Roo-CHEEK-Ah which has its origins in Sanskrit.

However, the same name is pronounced differently in India. So, she finds herself not only constantly teaching others how to pronounce her name but also defending the variation from the way others think it should be pronounced.

Once, a hiring manager confessed to her that she wasn’t called back for an interview because her name was “difficult to pronounce.” This is not as uncommon as it should be.  Ruchika, like many people, tried to ignore the issue or downplay it for many years, but this became exhausting as well as created resentments and valid cases of discrimination against employers.

Ruchika’s experience simply explores a name, but the impetus is on the bigger picture: a poor candidate experience caused by negligence on the part of the hiring team. Conscious or not, this snowballed, and Ruchika was not given a fair chance.

Identity is not a “little thing”

For one hundred years, the name of one man has been synonymous with the power of communication and human connection. Dale Carnegie famously said, “A person’s name is to that person, the sweetest, and most important sound in any language.” If that’s true (and it really is), getting the details right is one of the best and easiest ways to make a candidate feel valued.

The process before the actual interview is the first critical point. If 50% of surveyed candidates declined a job because of a poor hiring experience, there’s a lot of opportunity for improvement.

Getting the candidate’s name right the first, and every, time is one of the simplest but most powerful ways to create and solidify a connection with them. If it’s the sweetest sound to them but the company representatives don’t pronounce it correctly, it pretty much conveys that they’re not important enough for the company to get it right. It sends a message right away that they’re just a commodity. It’s hard to recover from that.

Every person who comes into contact with the candidate is a representation of the experience the candidate will have as an actual employee. Ruchika Tulshyan — and candidates like her — want hiring teams to know that it doesn’t take much to learn how to pronounce names correctly. The little extra effort conveys that this is an inclusive culture where everyone is respected.

Don’t treat candidates like a latte order

The way someone is treated as a candidate tells them a lot about the company’s priorities. If they’ve had a negative hiring experience (i.e., mispronouncing their name repeatedly), what message are they getting about how you treat your actual employees? If something as simple as a name is overlooked so blatantly, how will important religious holidays be treated? Time off for their child’s school play? 

Workers have discovered that they have power they didn’t realize they possessed. They don’t want lip-service “work-life balance” anymore. They won’t settle for anything less than total well-being. “Employees want to be treated with respect, appreciated for their work, and compensated as such,” or with individual dignity

As a result, there is a dramatically increased focus on the candidate experience. Now is the time to treat the candidate as a welcome guest, like your most valued customer (which they may be), like a celebrity. Right now, businesses may need candidates more than candidates need any particular company.

Unfortunately, the traditional hiring process can, in essence, be compared to grabbing a latte. . The hiring manager “puts in an order” for a new hire, and the recruiter fills it with the perfect candidate. But that’s a description for ordering a product, not attracting a valued employee.

It’s way outdated. Businesses must view their future employees as investments in the success of their company. It’s the right thing to do, but it’s also a business imperative because candidates have a lot more options. 

Unfortunately, it’s not that uncommon. Of  job seekers responding to a survey, 50% declined a job because the candidate experience was poor.

Things can continue to go wrong after the hire. Twenty-eight percent of respondents in the same survey quit within 90 days after hire. That only needs to happen once, let alone several times, to have a significantly negative impact on the business.

That’s not just a snowball effect – it’s an avalanche. Candidates and employees alike are not shy about sharing their negative hiring experiences to discourage others from working there. PwC reports that  56% of candidates surveyed who had a bad candidate experience will discourage others from applying to that company. And an astonishing 92% of respondents overall reported they had experienced poor recruiting practices.

It’s fairly easy to lose a candidate, but it doesn’t take extraordinary measures to attract great candidates and keep them.

Hiring won’t wait

In survey after survey, candidates universally feel that the whole process takes too long. Whether due to a drawn-out application process or inefficient remote interviewing process, it’s not uncommon for candidates to wait 1-3 months or longer for responses after the interview or job offers.

In such a competitive market, why should they wait? Good candidates now have the opportunity to get hired at almost any company in the world that offers remote work.

And the worst is when no one gets back to the candidate at all. What’s the message being sent? You’re not worth the time? And what happens if that candidate becomes a great fit for an open position in the future?What would entice them to go through the process again?

Improving time-to-hire should be a top-tier focus for all hiring teams. Not only is it essential to create a positive and inclusive hiring experience, in a market like this one, but it’s also necessary to keep your candidates on the doorstep. Intelligent virtual interview platforms like Clovers provide tools like live guided questions, and the ability to record, transcribe, highlight and share key interview moments that are helping hiring teams wrangle in long hiring processes.

Focus on people

The bottom line is that 2022 and beyond is all about people — candidates, employees, customers, users, and how they’re treated. Businesses are focused on user experience on their websites, in stores, and on the phone in order to keep them as customers.

Employers are concerned about the employee experience —  what rewards to offer, how engaged employees are, how to address their total well-being, how employees view company values so they can emulate them.

It’s all the right thing to do, but the dividends are much higher than just a temporary feel-good. They are strong messages about the value system of the company that all of the marketing slogans in the world can’t change.

And it all starts with a candidate and the hiring process; it’s those “little things” that are hugely affecting, like caring enough to learn a person’s name. Get them right and you just might win the competition for talent.


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Doug Leonard

Doug is constantly working to make the hiring process more objective, insightful, and informed. As a trusted leader in the recruitment industry, Doug is always ready to guide candidates and companies to (and through) a person-first hiring experience.

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