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Should We Inform Every Job Applicant of Their Status?

April 3, 2013

Dear Tough Choices:

Your concern over people not hired is refreshing. Unemployment worldwide is very high and several hundred people may apply for any one job. Few applicants make the short list. Those that don't may get a short, terse and impersonal rejection email.

Companies can and should do better. At the very least, applicants should be notified—and within a reasonable timeframe—that they did not get the job. Here some recommendations based on my experience.

Create a 'Personalized' Form Letter

This may sound unusual, but it can be done. I have been the hiring person that sorted hundreds of candidates applying for one or two positions. Those who didn't make the first cut received a personal and encouraging email. It said basically this: "Thank you for your recent application for employment with us. There were hundreds of people who applied for this position. Your resume and qualifications were carefully reviewed and, while very good, there were others that better matched the criteria we were seeking."

Use this letter to highlight one skill the person has that your organization needs and mention it as a positive. In our firm's case, this was done to encourage the jobseeker to keep trying and watch for future job postings. We said this nicely and we meant it.

We used a computer-generated form letter, working with our IT team to create one that would work with multiple job postings. Although it with was a time-consuming project, the team was happy to work on it because… let's face it, most of us have been in a similar situation. We then made sure every unsuccessful applicant received a letter about two weeks after we received the application.

Congratulate Interviewees before the Interview

Those who make the short list are entitled to more than a follow-up e-mail or letter.

Have someone make a personal telephone call to each candidate that advances to the interview stage. Let them know what to expect as you work through each step of the selection process. In our case that was two more interviews, submission of some sample work, and references.

Assign an Internal Sponsor for Each Candidate

We also assigned an "internal sponsor" that was responsible for helping the candidate get the job.

The sponsor usually was the recruiting or hiring manager that initiated the congratulatory call and whom the candidate could call with questions at any time. Also, after each round the sponsors would contact the candidates and inform them of their status.

Most companies don't include this last step, but we found it helpful. Even if the person was not hired for the desired job, we wanted to find a position for every person that advanced to the interview phase. It really helped us build our recruiting pipeline and identify talented people that we could not let get away.

SOURCE: Alan Landers, FirstStep Training, San Diego, January 25, 2013

LEARN MORE: Please read To Help Recruit, Companies Get the 'Brand' Back Together

The information contained in this article is intended to provide useful information on the topic covered, but should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion. Also remember that state laws may differ from the federal law.