In a recent blog, Penelope Trunk, author of Brazen Careerist, called upon insight from a friend in human resources to explain why candidates often don’t hear from the company after an interview. Her unnamed source did a great job of getting at the heart of the matter: most recruiters want to avoid conflict. And nothing says “conflict” like telling someone they’re not going to get a job.
But let’s put the shoe on the other foot. Have you ever been on a date chatting and laughing it up, thinking you hit it off, but then he or she never returns your call? How often have great dates ended with the promise, “I’ll call you,” but they never do? Do you remember how that non-response response feels?
Trunk’s source says company recruiters often string candidates along because the interviewer doesn’t have to absorb the opportunity cost. As he puts it “…If you interview with me, what are the consequences for me treating you poorly? Not any really. You as the candidate don’t want to burn a bridge lest [my company] should happen to call you in the future, so it’s not like you are going to take me to task.“ This seems pretty callous. Great companies don’t allow this type of behavior. Great companies are great because they treat customers, employees, and candidates alike: professionally, and with respect.
Nobody wants to be the bearer of bad news, but it’s important to remember that interviewees are people, not faceless data points; treat them the way you yourself would like to be treated. Here are three simple, pain-free ways to communicate with candidates:
Don’t give mixed signals. If you know the candidate isn’t a good fit five minutes into the interview, don’t wrap things up by saying: “If you are the candidate selected for this position…” When a candidate really wants to work for your company, they’re going to interpret that phrase as a good indicator that you’re interested in them. Instead, during the interview say, “The candidate selected for the position…”
Communicate next steps. If you don’t, you could develop a bad case of “carpal pinky syndrome” (a chronic pinky distress condition recruiters develop from repeatedly hitting their delete key, clearing out emails from anxious candidates who don’t know they didn’t make the cut). When candidates know that they’ll hear from you one way or the other within two weeks, it will save them from restlessly waiting for a call three or four weeks later. Then, make sure you follow-up within the timeframe you outlined. This will also put you well on your way to “carpal pinky” recovery.
No need to make it personal. I know following up with every interviewee individually can be next to impossible for many companies, but it doesn’t take much effort to send out a form rejection email. Once I received a rejection flyer that looked like it was mass-produced on an old-fashioned printing press. Did the quality of the flyer make me laugh? Yes. Was I disappointed to receive it? Yes. Was I glad the company made even this lame effort to notify me instead of never hearing from the company again? ABSOLUTELY.
As Trunk puts it: “The people who get back to you and tell you flat out “no,” or, better yet, are transparent enough to tell you “no” right there in the interview, are the people who are the best to work for.” So the next time you’re tempted to take the easy way out and avoid telling a job candidate they’re not a good fit, remember that’s not the way great companies behave. Notifying candidates that they didn’t get the job early and clearly is not just the reputable thing to do, it’s the right thing.
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).