How Steve Gard is revolutionising the candidate experience with The Circle Back Initiative
Have you ever waited anxiously for a response after applying for a job, but it never showed? Most of us know the feeling – but Steve Gard is shifting this reality one employer at a time. Steve created The Circle Back Initiative to improve the experience job hunters receive after submitting an application, starting with a commitment to respond to every candidate. With more than 200 companies and counting, here’s how Steve’s mission for change is building a kinder future.
Growing up with a business below his living room floorboards, it’s no surprise Steve Gard built a career on respect. Customer experience was everything to his parents and their family-owned shop, so Steve learned the importance of integrity from a young age. He says the experience taught him a valuable lesson for his professional life.
“My parents really showed me what it means to treat people well – the way you’d want to be treated. And in business, if you want people to come back and engage with you and your brand, you have to give them a great experience every time.”
It was through Steve’s deep respect for others, combined with his own experience job hunting, that The Circle Back Initiative was born. An array of employers and recruitment and staffing agencies have joined the mission for change, which aims to improve the experience candidates receive after submitting a job application. Each employer commits to respond to every applicant, challenging a common (and deeply unpopular) statement on job ads: “Only shortlisted candidates will be contacted.”
Steve kickstarted the initiative during the first few months of the COVID-19 pandemic in July 2020, and its message is now reaching more people than ever. In addition, Steve is the founder of BenchmarCX, a software platform that captures and benchmarks the candidate experience.
Whether it’s through The Circle Back Initiative or Steve’s other ventures, one of his primary goals is to set the standard for the process going forward – and he’s already seeing results.
“We know that it works. We’ve had employers saying that candidates have specifically applied to them because they’re part of the initiative, and they know they will get some return on their investment. It’s a win-win.”
An exciting future
After working in recruitment for more than 20 years, Steve knew employers needed something like The Circle Back Initiative. But it almost never came to be.
“I followed my dream of starting my own business in April 2019, but it all came crashing down as soon as COVID hit our shores. It was really difficult because I spent months building my business, but I lost everything.”
It was a lesson in resilience for Steve, who turned the setback into an exciting opportunity.
“I needed a purpose. So, I came up with the idea of The Circle Back Initiative, but I nearly didn’t do it. It was actually a bit of a risk because I was saying to colleagues in the industry, ‘This is what we should be doing.’ Some people said I shouldn’t do it because it might upset the industry. But I had one conversation with someone else who said, ‘No matter what you do in life, you’re never going to please everyone. And if you want to make change, you have to be bold.’ So, I went for it. It’s the best thing I’ve ever done.”
Now, with big names like Target and RACQ among the ranks, Steve is more excited than ever about what the future holds for The Circle Back Initiative. More than 200 employers have committed to treating every candidate with respect, and Steve says it’s only the beginning.
“My aspiration is that one day, we might not even need the initiative because it will become the norm. And if you’re not committing to responding to every applicant, then you stand out like a sore thumb. We’ve already launched in the US and the UK, and we want to go to as many countries as we can. We want this respectful approach to candidates to become embedded in recruitment globally. It’s smart for business and it’s the right thing to do.”
Find out more or get involved in The Circle Back Initiative.
About the Author
As one of our Storytellers, Eden Boyd has found her place at Employer Branding Australia. In her past life as a journalist, she covered everything from major tragedies to a lemur’s birthday bash at Australia Zoo. Eden’s love of authentic storytelling led her to EBA, where she enjoys gathering deep insights and using them to craft effective employee value propositions. When she’s not writing or interviewing, you can find her playing pub trivia, shocking people with her ability to lick her elbow, or obsessing over Taylor Swift with fellow Storyteller Amy.
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