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Turn people down without ticking them off

3 min read


Hiring managers are busy. That’s a fact. If they returned every single phone call, e-mail and letter they received from job seekers, they wouldn’t have time to do anything else. I’ve told this to every single job seeker who has ever complained to me about the imbalance in communications in the hiring process.

BUT. That doesn’t totally let hiring folks off the hook. It’s also a fact that if you brush people off, it leaves them with a bad taste in their mouth. They’ll write to newspaper columnist complaining about you, they won’t return your calls one day when you need them, or they’ll complain about you to their co-workers and friends, which could inhibit your efforts to hire someone else later on.

Luckily, there are are a few simple rules you can follow in managing your contacts with job seekers that will keep them happy without eating up all your time:

  • Automate what you can. Set up a dedicated e-mail address where you direct applicants to submit resumes via your Web site. It shouldn’t be your personal account. Then, set up an automatic response thanking them for applying and saying that you’ll be in touch if you’re interested. This is very simple, and it spares people a little anxiety about sending their resume into the void. Pain: About 15 minutes of your time. Gain: Spared from a lifetime of skipping/deleting voicemails and e-mails from people who just want to confirm that their submission went through. (Just don’t forget to check the account regularly.)
  • Match your response to the level of involvement. When you fill a position, you’re not obligated to go back to every single person who applied to let them know they didn’t make the cut. But you should deliver the news yourself to anyone that you communicated with directly. Did you exchange e-mails with someone before deciding they weren’t what you were looking for? Let them know by e-mail that they aren’t in the running anymore. Did you interview them by phone or in person? You need to call them and let them know. Following up with a formal “thanks but no thanks” letter is fine, but it doesn’t substitute for letting them know yourself. Pain: a couple of hours worth of e-mailing and calling people per job. Gain: Gobs of goodwill.
  • Keep tabs on people. If a worker’s skill set was attractive enough to warrant an interview, they’re likely a valuable asset to your professional network. Tools such as LinkedIn make it very easy to keep tabs on people’s comings and goings, and in the long run will make your sourcing more efficient. Pain: An hour to set up the account, 15 minutes a day to maintain it. Gain: More quality leads than you’ll know what to do with.

Have any tips of your own for letting people down easy? Share them, and they may be featured in SmartBrief on Workforce.