Earlier this month, Business Insider published an article that caused quite a stir on Twitter and left a lot of people scratching their heads. You probably already know the one I’m talking about. It’s the one where a hiring professional stated that if a candidate doesn’t send a thank you note after the interview, that person should not be hired. We read the article as well as the follow-up, and whatever the reasons behind this policy, it creates some unique problems that are worth addressing. This “rule of thumb” runs against some important facets of healthy hiring and it’s important to address those issues before this idea gains any traction.
- Healthy interviews are a two-way conversation.
The power dynamics in this situation should be equal. An employer has a need they want to fill, and a candidate is looking to fill a position. Both parties have a need and the potential to meet the need for the other. No party should hold more power than the other. If you have an unspoken rule requiring a thank you note, you’re indicating that candidates are in a position to grovel or subjugate themselves to get the job. Considering thank you notes to be a nice gesture is one thing. Using it as a deciding factor shifts the power scale in an unhealthy direction. Which brings us to…
- Whether true or not, requiring a thank you note in order to hire an otherwise-qualified candidate creates bad optics regarding your ego.
No matter how vehemently you insist this isn’t true, the optics this rule creates do not show you in a good light. It creates the idea that you need to be thanked in order to feel like a candidate is worthy of your attention. The imbalance makes you look like you are lording your hiring power over lowly candidates who must appease your ego in order to be considered. Not a good look!
- It perpetuates a fear-based hiring culture.
This follows directly from the first two items on this list. “One wrong move and I might lose this opportunity,” a candidate thinks when they hear this hiring policy. Liz Ryan, owner and CEO of The Human Workplace, says “No employer will ever love you more than they do at the point where they are trying to hire you.” If the line is so thin during the hiring process when a candidate is at their most valuable, what fear-based policies will become apparent once they are actually hired? How does this rule do anything to bridge the gap between employers and candidates?
- It creates the possibility of discrimination against candidates who do not have a background that allowed for job search training.
Alison Green puts this very well in her recent blog post on Ask a Manager, saying “…rejecting anyone who doesn’t send a thank you is going to keep you from hiring candidates who come from backgrounds where they didn’t learn that particular job search convention, which many, many people do not: like people from less advantaged backgrounds, or people from families where their parents weren’t office workers, or many immigrants (thank you notes aren’t a thing in many other countries).” Any process that has a disparate impact on one group over another is one to avoid at all costs.
- It assumes that your candidates have access to tools that they may not have easy access to, like computers.
In this modern world, it can be easy to forget that not everyone has access to things like computers, smart phones, or even spare change for postage. But a person’s access to these things has no bearing on whether or not they have the skills to fill a job, unless the position directly requires them. It would be tragic to pass on a qualified because they could not afford internet access when that very employment would have provided them the means necessary to afford it.
We’re not saying that thank you notes are a bad idea, or that the practice should be killed altogether. In fact, thank you notes are a good practice. But they are absolutely not a basis on which you should make the decision whether to hire someone. A hiring choice should come from conversations generated during the interview process, and from the results of due diligence measures like proper background checks. In truth, there really is no “trick” to hiring, no simple step that will tell you if you’ve made the right choice. Your best bet is to create a healthy, balanced onboarding program that fosters mutual respect and acknowledges that both employers and candidates have equal power in the interview room and out.
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