Our Voice of the Candidate Series tells the stories of real job seekers: candidates sharing their experiences to better inform all of us about the ups (and downs) of the candidate journey and what a truly great candidate experience is. 

At Prelude, we’re always thinking about candidates and trying to surface insights that recruiters can use to create a great candidate experience. Atul Jalan, a recent computer science graduate brand new to the job market agreed to sit down with me to talk about his experience as a candidate after we (spoiler alert) ended up snagging him at Prelude.

Atul has always been entrepreneurial and ambitious. He’s passionate about computer science and excelled at Northwestern University. He even fast-tracked his way through college: diving into so many courses that he ended up graduating ahead of schedule. 

A few months before graduating from Northwestern, Atul began to put some feelers out for full-time software engineering work. Not surprisingly, once he began the recruiting process he had plenty of positive responses. 

Being pursued as a candidate 

After a few weeks of sending out resumes, Atul had several interviews scheduled with large, thriving organizations as well as fast-growing startups. He investigated opportunities that arose through networking as well as applying to a wide variety of organizations where he saw roles he found compelling.

He had a little help along the way when he received an email from AngelList letting him know he was being featured on their startup job search site as a featured candidate. The talent floodgates opened and Atul had no shortage of interested employers. 

I asked Atul first about the initial contact from recruiters and organizations that he received I expected he would have seen a lot of variation without those initial communications. To my surprise, he told me none of the initial interview requests stood out to him! Talk about a missed opportunity. 

“Everyone said such similar things that it felt there was very little variation between what must have been candidate outreach templates at different companies. Introductions were followed by the two best company metrics they could share and an invitation to do an intro call. Those intro calls of course ended up being the first time I really got a good idea about what the company was like…there was definitely a chance to stand out prior.”

Though Atul largely had nothing but positive things to say about the majority of the recruitment professionals he dealt with on his career quest he also told me a few painful stories where interview automation might have made a huge difference. Once he was down the interviewing rabbit hole with several companies, certain gaps in the process were hard to ignore. 

Navigating the interview process

One large company interested in bringing Atul in for a complex on-site interview asked him to provide times he’d be available and then took over a week to get back to him. Though he understandably had empathy for what seemed to be a hard onsite to get scheduled,  he also felt like his calendar was completely “locked.” He spent the entire week waiting for their response without knowing when the request would come in, or being able to schedule with other organizations. Ultimately, it left a bad impression of the company as a whole. 

That organization was far from alone in struggling with interview logistics. Atul also saw some teams clearly grappling with being prepared and organized during the interview process. There seemed to be little structure to how or why he was being interviewed. He left meetings with a feeling of disorganization on the part of the teams he met. Interviews lacked continuity, and many interviewers asked questions that seemed repetitive or unrelated to the job.

He expected the larger companies that he interviewed at to impress him most in terms of structure and organization but was pleasantly surprised by the well-thought-out interview process at one startup. Because the process was so well-communicated from the beginning Atul felt in the know through every interview stage. 

Experiencing so many different types of interviews was also really useful to Atul. He was able to try out a variety of technical assessments as well as going through personality/motivation based interviews. Atul described being exposed to these new types of interviews as a wonderful learning experience.

Appreciation for career coaching

In contrast to the occasional negative and impersonal experiences Atul had, he also made sure to mention the many more recruiters who took the time to work with him on a more personalized basis exploring relevant roles within their organizations. 

As a job candidate seeking his first role post-degree, Atul saw many potentially appropriate roles within larger companies and described his experience with recruiters who took the time to develop a personal relationship and talk to him about his own growth and career development.

I think almost all of us who have had a job change in our lifetime know at least one, if not many more, amazing recruiters who truly care about placing the right people with the right organizations but also care about the people they work to place as well. It is not just a talent, it's a career trademark that most often reflects a truly successful talent acquisition professional. 

Recruiters aren’t just hiring for the specific roles they discuss day to day, they’re hiring and placing candidates for future roles throughout their entire career by establishing a stellar and credible personal and professional brand. 

Encountering offers and rejections

Following a variety of different interview experiences, Atul started to receive both negative and positive feedback and responses from organizations. It was an exciting and enlightening time, especially when the response in some cases seemed to be at odds with how he had perceived the opportunity.

One organization got as far as making Atul a verbal offer but then followed it with an urgent call from a recruiter asking about what ranges of salary he expected, and suggesting median ranges of salary that were below the industry average he was encountering. 

“The recruiter told me they wanted to know if I was really interested, and then we could discuss hard numbers. When I countered that I would like to know numbers up front they accused me of not wanting to work there. It was too bad because I thought the team was really cool, but that dialogue at the end with the recruiter really soured the relationship.”

Like almost every candidate, Atul received his fair share of quick rejections near the beginning and throughout his job search as well and noted these too seemed remarkably uniform and impersonal. This didn’t seem too out of place for the roles where he hadn’t invested too much time in the process. 

There were also roles where Atul had invested serious time, and the company itself had invested serious resources in his hiring process. Atul had actually been asked to fly into NYC on the prospective company’s dime for a complicated on-site interview and felt the experience had gone well. 

Atul was therefore surprised when the following Monday after the Friday onsite interview he received an email with the subject line “General Rejection.” Unfortunately for that recruiter (and Atul) the stock template they sent left much to be desired from the candidate experience perspective. 

Ending up with Prelude

At Prelude, we ourselves have a very high bar for talent and take both candidate experience and the interview process very seriously. We also know startups aren’t for everyone and that choosing a first employer right after college is a move candidates certainly want to get right.

That’s why we were so honored that Atul has ended up with us at Prelude. We’re busy building the best candidate experience platform out there and we have big plans to utilize his expertise.

We’d love to hear more stories about candidate experience. Reach out to Julia Winn if you’re willing to have a chat and share more about what made your job search unique!