Do companies really have to make us feel bad with their random rejections?

We all had that feeling: After a job application, emotions rising as you start reading that email starting with “unfortunately”. You can never even know if a real person saw your resume for “average 5 seconds”. Your self-confidence starts to sink. If you have no community / role model / a family member that experienced something similar before you, it takes a long time to figure out why.

Do companies really have to make job applicants feel like this? I argue no, and I’ve a solid model to do otherwise.

When I first heard of “candidate experience net promoter score”, I was surprised but glad that someone could think of measuring “how job candidates liked or didn’t like their experience with your hiring process, how they felt they were treated, and what they’ll tell others about their experience, your process, and your company. In other words, it’s how your candidates rate their experience with your company.”

Now I’ll share my honest learnings about how we attempted to create a fair and better experience for our bootcamp participants at Patika.

Between 500-2,000 applicants apply for our free, company-sponsored education programs (bootcamps) that we open around 10 times every month. We admit only 30 people to each class – so, we shoot a rejection email to more than 94% of applicants. After doing this for a few months, people started to share their frustration. Especially when you consider that these people are applying to find a job at the sponsoring company at the end and they are living maybe one of the most vulnerable periods of their lives, it is tough! This is the same thing happened to us when we were looking for a job. My team didn’t want others to experience the same.  

So, a question came to our mind:

What if we allow people select themselves instead of us selecting them?

We called it “the preparation (prep) program”. Now, we tell people “collect 100 points on (our free, online coding education platform) as you learn, and we will admit you to our bootcamp prep program". The bootcamp prep is a cohort experience of around 300-400 people in each cohort. We support them to build their skills more on our courses, send them weekly challenges, practice interviews with each other, get and receive peer feedback on their resumes, and receive help from each other the cohort-specific Discord servers. Those who keep progressing and contributing to the community are invited to our bootcamps. So, it became a self-selective process.

We still have so much to iterate to make this model a success, but the first outcomes are promising:

  • We started the first prep program in September 2021. We opened the 4th one in January 2022. In total 1,112 people joined it.
  • Out of 1,112, 319 (28%) qualified for and joined a bootcamp - a much higher ratio than we anticipated. Since the most recent cohort is still ongoing, these numbers will increase even more. Bootcamp placement rate was 42% from the first cohort!
  • The prep students showed much better performance in the bootcamp compared to their peers that were accepted without a prep: Actually, in two of our bootcamps, 100% of people that the sponsoring company hired were from the prep program!
  • Graduates of a cohort program started to work as volunteer teaching assistants in the next one to support each other.
  • The program went viral on LinkedIn: People started to take the screenshot of their prep program invitation emails and share them on LinkedIn! We were not expecting this at all :)
  • Thanks to this viral effect, our weekly active users on increased around twofold! (of course, there are so many other things that we did, but we believe the program was a contributor).
  • We had a prep student that was just rejected by a company. After the program, he joined the bootcamp that was sponsored by that same company and received a job offer :))) – (I secretly enjoy this story so much!)

We hope to evolve this program to a degree that we don’t have to reject anyone with random hiring criteria anymore. Instead, everyone will have a leveling field to showcase their skills. 100% merit-based admission or hiring – sounds so exciting!

So, I urge companies to consider this: Create your own skills development pathways / certification programs / learning programs/ challenges that are open to your applicants. Give them a chance to prove themselves. I know this is not easy to do it yourself – but there are other training providers that can help you (let me know if you want to talk with Patika about how we help our partners on this). Once a candidate has a true chance, you’ll be able to meet those who really want to work with you and can commit to learning the skills you need. Isn’t it much better than an imprecise resume screening both for you and the candidate?

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