Après Interview: When Employers Don’t Get Back to Candidates

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You’re busy and you simply don’t have time to let every candidate know when they didn’t make the cut.

And you’re certainly not alone. Recruiters and hiring managers at nearly every organization advertising an open position is overwhelmed these days.

But if you find a few moments, peruse any job website or bulletin board focusing on jobs and one of the most frequently asked questions – and probably the greatest source of anger, discouragement and confusion in searching for a job – is why organizations don’t communicate with candidates following the interview.

Just take a look at www.reddit.com/r/jobs. Posts from frustrated job applicants include titles such as:

I’m getting really tired of employers saying they’re going to call you and then not

Waiting on formal job offer/start date after informal offer.”

After final interview – was supposed to hear a decision yesterday and didn’t. When do I reach out?

(rant) Please don’t set up a phone interview if you’re not going to call.

Such angst is understandable. They’ve spent countless hours fine-tuning a resume, tweaking it so their applicable skills are accentuated. They’ve had a friend further scrutinize it with a fresh pair of eyes to make sure every “I” is dotted, every “t” crossed, and spellcheck didn’t miss something. He or she probably sweated bullets preparing for one or more interviews that could enable him or her to land that dream job – fresh challenges, a salary he or she may really need, a career with a future, and insurance coverage that his or her family may have been desperately looking forward to.

The interview goes well. So does the next one, and the one with the big boss. “We’ll be in touch,” he or she is told as you firmly shake hands and they head home, head held high and a smile on their face.

And then they wait.

And wait.

And wait some more, hoping to get good news. Heck, any news!

They check their email every few minutes. And make sure their phone’s battery hasn’t died and their ringer is turned up.

And they hear nothing.

Nothing.

The sad truth is that only the candidate who is offered the job actually hears back. The others are left in limbo.

Typically, recruiters and hiring managers say they’re too busy to let candidates know they didn’t get the job. And no one enjoys being the bearer of bad news.

Yet, letting candidates down can be done quite simply.

You can write a simple email that states your organization has decided to hire a candidate whose qualifications more closely match your needs. You don’t go into detail as to what the candidate lacked; this also allows you to use the same email for multiple candidates. Don’t give advice as what they can do better; but do let each candidate know they didn’t get the job, and do it in a timely manner.

Even classier: Have postcards printed that gently delivers the bad news. It’s more personal than an email and, since space on a postcard is limited, the message won’t and can’t be too long. Extra points for you and your company if you address and sign them by hand.

If you’re really comfortable doing so and have time, call the candidates and tell them what’s up. This very direct method requires skill in delivering an uncomfortable message and, again, you would want to be tactful and avoid reasons, subjective judgments, and other conversation that could be misconstrued.

Will it take some time to contact the candidates? Sure. But in this age where anyone with an internet connection and accounts on Facebook, LinkedIn, or countless job sites can besmirch you and your organization’s reputation when they feel they’ve been ignored or insulted, it may pay great dividends to invest some time into contacting the runners-up. Consider at least contacting candidates who made it to the final round(s).

Tom Petty’s song “The Waiting” hits the nail on the head: “The waiting is the hardest part.” Put yourself in the candidates’ shoes: Wouldn’t you feel better – and wouldn’t you have more respect for a company – if you weren’t left in the dark about whether or not you got the gig? Some candidates may think he or she got the job and not continue looking, wasting precious time. Let him or her go and move forward with their job search!

HireRight created a “Candidate Resentment Calculator” to determine how much a negative candidate experience may hurt a brand’s reputation and potential revenue. It noted that:

Resentment manifests in a variety of ways:

  • Sharing negative experiences over multiple social channels
  • Communicating those experiences with an inner circle
  • Spending consumer dollars at a competing business in both the short and long term

Take a few moments to take this informative survey. The results may surprise you. And for an in-depth exploration of Candidate Resentment and its repercussions, tune in to HireRight’s On-Demand webinar, “Beyond Talent, What Else Are You Losing during the Recruitment Process,” conducted by talent management strategist, consultant, and trainer, Elaine Orler.

Again, a candidate who never hears back, particularly when he or she is told “We’ll be in touch,” may make your company famous – and not in a good way. Let him or her know what’s up, even if it takes a little time. In the long run, spending those few minutes on something else may cost you: As Warren Buffett said, “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it.”

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Lewis Lustman

Lewis Lustman is a content marketer who enjoys developing materials that engage, inform, challenge, and hopefully entertain my audience. Lewis is a formal journalist for Los Angeles Magazine and the Los Angeles Times, and has worked for a number of leading advertising, marketing, technology, and PR firms over the years. Interested in a topic that he hasn't yet tackled? Drop him a line in the comments section!

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The HireRight Blog is provided for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be comprehensive, and is not a substitute for and should not be construed as legal advice. HireRight does not warrant any statements in the HireRight Blog. Any statutes or laws cited herein should be read in their entirety. You should direct to your own experienced legal counsel questions involving your organization’s compliance with or interpretation or application of laws or regulations and any additional legal requirements that may apply.