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Careers: Recruiter Follow Up Should be a Two-way Street

Career experts have written countless articles encouraging, and often requiring, job seekers to send thank you notes or emails within 24-48 hours of an interview. Yet there’s no industry standard or similar expectation for hiring companies. Recruiter follow up should really be a two-way street. Not only because it’s the right thing to do, but also because it can positively or negatively impact the hiring company’s brand with potential candidates.

Career experts have written countless articles encouraging, and often requiring, job seekers to send thank you notes or emails within 24-48 hours of an interview. Yet there’s no industry standard or similar expectation for hiring companies. Recruiter follow up should really be a two-way street. Not only because it’s the right thing to do, but also because it can positively or negatively impact the hiring company’s brand with potential candidates.

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Each and every day, human resources departments at companies everywhere are inundated with hundreds and thousands of applications from eager job seekers. Most companies have thin recruiting staffs and that can make follow up very difficult when the interviewing season is in full swing. Understandably, it can take weeks, if not months, for them to follow up with applicants. Meanwhile, the applicants are left sitting on “pins and needles” anxiously waiting to hear back from a company regarding the status of their application.

When candidates apply to jobs they’re really interested in and they don’t hear back from the hiring company for weeks on end, they often worry that their resumes were lost in the mail or that a technical glitch might have kept the company from receiving their application. Or, even worse, it could give them false hope that they still have a shot at an interview even if they are already out of the running.

To help alleviate some of the stress from an already stressful job search, hiring companies both large and small should avoid the following pitfalls:

The “Black Hole.” Most companies requiring applicants to fill out an online application already send an automated confirmation email. For those who don’t, a simple form letter or email will suffice. It will take a little more time on the front end, but doing so will eliminate the perception by candidates that their application fell into a black hole, never to be see or heard from again. As a byproduct, it will also cut down on the number of phone calls by concerned applicants.

The “Don’t call us, we won’t call you.” Candidates often find themselves sitting by the phone anxiously wondering if and when the company is going to call to make them an offer. Not notifying candidates they’ve been rejected is a lot like avoiding someone you’ve been dating who you don’t want to see anymore. That’s no way to let a romantic interest or job candidate down easy. Notify all candidates of their status within 30-60 days of their final interview. Again, notification doesn’t have to be anything fancy, just a form letter will do. That way,

And if a company wants to really get fancy, they can follow Starbucks’ lead. An article that ran in the New York Times earlier this year mentioned that they not only encourage their recruiters to use phone calls and handwritten notes instead of generic form letters, but they also include a Starbucks gift card whether the person gets the job or not. Don’t get me wrong, that doesn’t take the sting away from getting rejected by a company. But at least you can drown your tears in a Quad Venti non-fat cappuccino.

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The dreaded “more qualified candidate.” For some companies, strict policies prohibit recruiters from providing feedback to candidates following interviews. For others, it’s a lack of time. As a result, candidates are often left guessing about what they were doing wrong. When possible, companies should look for an opportunity to give general constructive feedback to candidates on their interview performance beyond “unfortunately, we made an offer to a more qualified candidate.” That way, they’ll be able to improve their interviewing skills and their chances of getting an offer.

Companies not already doing so should consider adopting the basic standards set forth above. As one job-seeker said to me out of frustration after a number of companies she’d interviewed with hadn’t responded to her calls, “if a company doesn’t treat me right as an applicant, what’s to say they’d treat me better as an employee?”

Shawn Graham is an Associate Director with the MBA Career Management Center at UNC’s Kenan-Flagler Business School and author of Courting Your Career: Match Yourself with the Perfect Job (courtingyourcareer.wordpress.com).

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About the author

Shawn Graham partners with small businesses to create, implement, and manage performance-driven marketing strategies. His knowledge base includes media relations, business development, customer engagement, web marketing, and strategic planning

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