A couple of years ago, I started teaching a part-time "Career & Employment Strategies" course at a private college. I'd always begin the course by asking my students about their past experiences looking for jobs and give them a chance to talk about the parts they liked, were confused by, or outright hated.
Some of the students were frustrated with hiring technology (Why can't I just fax them a resume?), while others were impatient with silly interview questions (Why did they ask me what kind of fruit I'd most like to be?). Sometimes they were just bitter about not getting hired (Why didn't they realize I was the best person for the job?). I could usually answer those questions and leave the students feeling a bit more enlightened as to what "the other side" was thinking.
The biggest, most consistent and most difficult to answer "Why" that I heard, however, was:
For all the times I was asked that question, I was never able to come up with a decent response because, quite frankly, I don't know.
I don't know why companies think that it is okay to demand that candidates be well informed, fill out application forms, send resumes, write cover letters, even participate in pre-screening tests or interviews, and then not even bother to tell the applicant that they weren't hired for the job.
I don't know why companies believe that leaving job seekers in limbo is a fair or decent way to treat people.
I don't know why companies can't understand that today's rejected candidate could be tomorrow's customer, the following month's social media reviewer, or next year's star employee.
I really, really don't know why companies fail to realize how little effort is required in sending out a simple (even if automated when dealing with high volumes of applications) "thank you but we've selected someone else" e-mail.
What I do know is this. Adding "only successful applicants will be contacted" to the bottom of your job posting doesn't absolve you of treating your candidates with respect and it sure as heck doesn't protect your employment brand from being labelled lazy, inconsiderate, or a waste of time.
We live in the age of Twitter, LinkedIn, Glassdoor, Indeed, Ratedly, and countless other venues that allow disappointed job seekers to vent about their experiences with your company. Word spreads fast and a lack of respect for your job applicants will discourage other candidates from applying to your firm in the future. Why risk missing out on that next star employee just because you couldn't be bothered to send out decline emails? More to the point, isn't it just the right thing to do?
Candidates are real people - not just entries in your ATS - and searching for a job can be a very stressful experience. While there are certainly lazy job seekers, most candidates make a genuine effort to learn about the company they are applying to and invest significant time following whatever application process the organization has in place. They have a keen interest in working for you, and have made a concerted effort in applying to your company. Letting them know where they stand at the end of the process really is "the least you can do".
My company sends out thousands and thousands of "thank you" messages to unsuccessful candidates on behalf of our clients every year. It's something that we build right into the process and strongly recommend that our clients use. Occasionally, we'll receive a bitter or angry response from someone who felt that they deserved the job. Those responses are vastly outnumbered by the professional, appreciative, and often pleasantly surprised replies from job seekers grateful that the company took the time to follow-up. The applicants may still be disappointed that they weren't selected, but they walk away from the process knowing that the company appreciated their efforts. Isn't that how you want your business to be perceived - as actually caring about the people who might work for you?
It's 2016. Drop the "only successful candidates will be contacted" line from your postings and start treating your job applicants with respect. It isn't difficult and, if you can't do it yourself (shameless self promotion warning), there are lots of firms that can do it for you.
Jim Lowe is the President of HireFX, supplier of powerful, proven tools to defend against hiring fails and a firm happy to help your company treat applicants with respect. You can contact HireFX via [email protected] or on the web at www.hirefx.com.
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