How to respond to unsuccessful applicants


In today’s job market, the sheer volume of applicants for a single position can overwhelm an HR department. But for many unsuccessful applicants, the lengthy process of applying deserves a bit of quid pro quo.

After all, they’ve put the effort into meeting the criteria and possibly even fronted for a face-to-face interview. Yet often they wait in vain for acknowledgement or, rarer still, some constructive criticism that might help them in their next attempt.

The topic came under discussion recently among AHRI’s LinkedIn group members and revealed a disparity of opinion among the 74 HR professionals who engaged in the discussion regarding notification protocols, or the lack thereof, for candidates whose job applications had been rejected.

Right of reply

About half of those engaged in the conversation agreed that the type of notification depended on which stage of the recruitment process the candidate reached.

An email was considered appropriate for those who didn’t progress to the interview stage, while a phone call was required for those who’d had face-to-face contact.

Others argued the merits of whether a simple notification should suffice at any stage of the application process or if it were necessary, indeed common courtesy, to provide additional tailored feedback, especially if requested by the applicant.

Numbers game

When HR departments are inundated by applications it can be an operational challenge to respond appropriately to everyone.

The LinkedIn group concurred, expressing regret that while formal contact (though not necessarily feedback) via email or phone was the preferred method of rejection, it was sometimes impractical to provide that to all candidates. And where multiple positions were available, there were often far too many people to respond to personally.

There was, however, general consensus that a lack of feedback was potentially damaging to the employer’s image, raising questions about the role of corporate responsibility in the process.

Agreeing to disagree

Participants in AHRI’s LinkedIn Group hold disparate views on notification protocols:

“I believe it is okay in many instances to send a generic ‘Thanks, but no thanks’ letter. However, when you have asked people to spend a lot of time on addressing selection criteria (and applicants can spend days on this), it would be nice to include a way for them to seek feedback on their application if they wish. Next time their hard work could lead to a better outcome.

As HR professionals, we have a duty to help jobseekers in this regard if at all possible. These people really want to work or they wouldn’t put the effort in, and these are the people we want in our labour market. Perhaps we should look at this as our corporate social responsibility.” – Pamela Basden

“I’ve never seen it as HR’s job to make every applicant ‘feel good’ and give them encouragement. It’s a big world out there and in the job space it’s survival of the fittest. If you don’t have the goods, you won’t get a call, and you need to pick yourself up, dust yourself off and move on.

When an applicant myself, I don’t expect anything from a company unless I have progressed past the application stage. Even then, I would only really begrudge them if I had been for an interview and heard no further, which would be poor form.

I don’t understand what positives can be taken out of a bulk email telling you you’re unsuccessful. Surely if you don’t hear back after several weeks, you can deduce this yourself.” – Matthew Francis

“On my advertisements I always write that only shortlisted candidates will be contacted. If someone presents for an interview and is not successful, I like to try and give them feedback, especially if they ask.

It’s not always possible to give feedback to everyone who’s applied. However, if someone takes the time to call about their application and they haven’t been shortlisted, I’m more than happy to let them know the reasons why.” – Kay Willmore

 Comments have been edited for publishing.

 

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Julia Crane
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Julia Crane

The problem with giving too much feedback is that it can be used against the company in a dispute. I would love to give feedback if an applicant phones to ask about their rejection or non progression to the next stage. But it needs to be done very delicately and you certainly need to be up-to-date with all laws and regulations. I also keep in mind what I personaly would expect from an employer [if I were the applicant] and give the appropriate responses that way. Due to our companaies size I am able to run an advert and still… Read more »

Anita Lee
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Anita Lee

Given todays technology, not responding at all is a poor excuse. It is common courtesy, or actually, uncommon these days. It gives an applicant closure and for the amount of time you probably spend responding to phone calls enquiring as to whether there is a short list yet or not, is it really THAT hard? It does do the company image damage not to reply. Really, aren’t these job seekers our external clients?

Ameena
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Ameena

A reply needs to be sent to those who have gone past the application stage. If a person comes for an assessment or an interview and is rejected, it is courtesy to send them a reply via email at least. It does effect the company’s image if they do not respond after interviewing or assessing someone. Also, sometimes if a candidate inquires after an interview , company’s have a tendency to respond by saying ” if you have not heard from us it means you’re unsuccessful” . This is not a professional way of responding. A company should send out… Read more »

Tracey Furno
Guest
Tracey Furno

I think the response to this issue changes depending on the economic climate. When labour supply greatly exceeds demand, it can be challenging to respond to each applicant versus when there are only a few applicants for some positions, particularly highly skilled or niche ones. Everyone is right, but perhaps a more focused, personal approach should be used for highly skilled employees. They may not be suitable for this particular position, but from their resume, you can see that they do hold a lot of potential value. Putting them in a ‘follow up’ pile for a quick phone call after… Read more »

Heike
Guest
Heike

As a HR professional, I will respond to every initial application, it is time consuming but I feel it provides a somewhat personal acknowledgement in what I find these days as a very impersonal process. Now as a job seeker, a mature job seeker, I am disgusted by the treatment I have received by both potential employers and recruiters. I have attended interviews without any feedback on the outcome. With one organisation that advertised privately, I attended two interviews, on both occasions the interviewer left me waiting in reception 1/2 hour beyond the appointment time, I had positive feedback at… Read more »

1 2 3 4
More on HRM

How to respond to unsuccessful applicants


In today’s job market, the sheer volume of applicants for a single position can overwhelm an HR department. But for many unsuccessful applicants, the lengthy process of applying deserves a bit of quid pro quo.

After all, they’ve put the effort into meeting the criteria and possibly even fronted for a face-to-face interview. Yet often they wait in vain for acknowledgement or, rarer still, some constructive criticism that might help them in their next attempt.

The topic came under discussion recently among AHRI’s LinkedIn group members and revealed a disparity of opinion among the 74 HR professionals who engaged in the discussion regarding notification protocols, or the lack thereof, for candidates whose job applications had been rejected.

Right of reply

About half of those engaged in the conversation agreed that the type of notification depended on which stage of the recruitment process the candidate reached.

An email was considered appropriate for those who didn’t progress to the interview stage, while a phone call was required for those who’d had face-to-face contact.

Others argued the merits of whether a simple notification should suffice at any stage of the application process or if it were necessary, indeed common courtesy, to provide additional tailored feedback, especially if requested by the applicant.

Numbers game

When HR departments are inundated by applications it can be an operational challenge to respond appropriately to everyone.

The LinkedIn group concurred, expressing regret that while formal contact (though not necessarily feedback) via email or phone was the preferred method of rejection, it was sometimes impractical to provide that to all candidates. And where multiple positions were available, there were often far too many people to respond to personally.

There was, however, general consensus that a lack of feedback was potentially damaging to the employer’s image, raising questions about the role of corporate responsibility in the process.

Agreeing to disagree

Participants in AHRI’s LinkedIn Group hold disparate views on notification protocols:

“I believe it is okay in many instances to send a generic ‘Thanks, but no thanks’ letter. However, when you have asked people to spend a lot of time on addressing selection criteria (and applicants can spend days on this), it would be nice to include a way for them to seek feedback on their application if they wish. Next time their hard work could lead to a better outcome.

As HR professionals, we have a duty to help jobseekers in this regard if at all possible. These people really want to work or they wouldn’t put the effort in, and these are the people we want in our labour market. Perhaps we should look at this as our corporate social responsibility.” – Pamela Basden

“I’ve never seen it as HR’s job to make every applicant ‘feel good’ and give them encouragement. It’s a big world out there and in the job space it’s survival of the fittest. If you don’t have the goods, you won’t get a call, and you need to pick yourself up, dust yourself off and move on.

When an applicant myself, I don’t expect anything from a company unless I have progressed past the application stage. Even then, I would only really begrudge them if I had been for an interview and heard no further, which would be poor form.

I don’t understand what positives can be taken out of a bulk email telling you you’re unsuccessful. Surely if you don’t hear back after several weeks, you can deduce this yourself.” – Matthew Francis

“On my advertisements I always write that only shortlisted candidates will be contacted. If someone presents for an interview and is not successful, I like to try and give them feedback, especially if they ask.

It’s not always possible to give feedback to everyone who’s applied. However, if someone takes the time to call about their application and they haven’t been shortlisted, I’m more than happy to let them know the reasons why.” – Kay Willmore

 Comments have been edited for publishing.

 

26
Leave a reply

avatar
100000
  Subscribe to receive comments  
Notify me of
Julia Crane
Guest
Julia Crane

The problem with giving too much feedback is that it can be used against the company in a dispute. I would love to give feedback if an applicant phones to ask about their rejection or non progression to the next stage. But it needs to be done very delicately and you certainly need to be up-to-date with all laws and regulations. I also keep in mind what I personaly would expect from an employer [if I were the applicant] and give the appropriate responses that way. Due to our companaies size I am able to run an advert and still… Read more »

Anita Lee
Guest
Anita Lee

Given todays technology, not responding at all is a poor excuse. It is common courtesy, or actually, uncommon these days. It gives an applicant closure and for the amount of time you probably spend responding to phone calls enquiring as to whether there is a short list yet or not, is it really THAT hard? It does do the company image damage not to reply. Really, aren’t these job seekers our external clients?

Ameena
Guest
Ameena

A reply needs to be sent to those who have gone past the application stage. If a person comes for an assessment or an interview and is rejected, it is courtesy to send them a reply via email at least. It does effect the company’s image if they do not respond after interviewing or assessing someone. Also, sometimes if a candidate inquires after an interview , company’s have a tendency to respond by saying ” if you have not heard from us it means you’re unsuccessful” . This is not a professional way of responding. A company should send out… Read more »

Tracey Furno
Guest
Tracey Furno

I think the response to this issue changes depending on the economic climate. When labour supply greatly exceeds demand, it can be challenging to respond to each applicant versus when there are only a few applicants for some positions, particularly highly skilled or niche ones. Everyone is right, but perhaps a more focused, personal approach should be used for highly skilled employees. They may not be suitable for this particular position, but from their resume, you can see that they do hold a lot of potential value. Putting them in a ‘follow up’ pile for a quick phone call after… Read more »

Heike
Guest
Heike

As a HR professional, I will respond to every initial application, it is time consuming but I feel it provides a somewhat personal acknowledgement in what I find these days as a very impersonal process. Now as a job seeker, a mature job seeker, I am disgusted by the treatment I have received by both potential employers and recruiters. I have attended interviews without any feedback on the outcome. With one organisation that advertised privately, I attended two interviews, on both occasions the interviewer left me waiting in reception 1/2 hour beyond the appointment time, I had positive feedback at… Read more »

1 2 3 4
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