Recruiting: A Plea for Courtesy

George Costanza was the world's worst employee by almost every measure -- but even he deserved courtesy when interviewing for a new position

Having been on both sides of the interviewing desk many times over the years, I can appreciate the stress the recruiting process creates for both parties – the over-worked-and-under-appreciated recruiter  and the on-pins-and-needles-am-I-going-to-get-this-job candidate.  I’m moved today, though, to advocate for the candidate’s interests in one regard: common courtesy.

Dilemma #1: Volume, volume, volume

It has long been true that on-line job postings have made it too easy for applicants to click a button and bury a recruiter in a blizzard of resumes – many of which might not be even vaguely qualified.   But it is also true that virtually every job board allows the recruiter to set up an automatic reply to acknowledge resumes received.

Resolution: By setting up an auto reply,  the candidate will know his resume didn’t disappear into the black void of cyberspace without even getting to the employer.

Dilemma #2:  “But they didn’t even bother to write a cover letter”

True story: I posted an opening recently for a professional sales position that stated “cover letter required.” Exactly two out of 84 applicants submitted cover letters.

Resolution: I’m with the recruiters on this one.  In a perfect world, I’d love to see recruiters getting back to candidates with a “thanks-but-no-thanks” e-mail when their applications are reviewed and passed over.  I reality, though, if job seekers don’t even follow clear instructions, I can’t argue that they warrant further courtesy after the initial “we’ve received your resume” system-generated e-mail.

Dilemma #3:” I hate making the ‘we enjoyed getting to know you – but we’re moving on with other candidates’ call”

I don’t know anyone who relishes sharing bad news.  Nevertheless, I find it embarrassing as an HR professional when a recruiter can’t muster the courtesy to e-mail – much less call – a candidate who’s often taken the day off from their current job to interview with your company.  This is made even worse if you’ve put them through a series of grueling interviews.  I know that everyone’s busy … but I can’t find any excuse for failing to get back to someone who’s been in your office.

Resolution: Do the right thing.  If they’ve interviewed with you, they deserve  an e-mail letting them know their status.  Better: a phone call.

Dilemma #4: Making an offer … or not

There was a famous “Seinfeld” episode where George Costanza quit his job on the basis of what he thought was a job offer from a competitor.  The executive said to him, “You do know, of course …” after making what sounded like an implied job offer, and never quite finished the sentence.  George later found out that the rest of the sentence was, “…  our entire senior management team is under indictment and we’re barred from hiring anyone.”

I actually had something similar happen to me several years ago.  After being flown in for a series of “final interviews,” I seemed to “hit it off” well with the CEO, who was a very affable fellow.  As we shook hands and parted, he said to me, “If you liked us as much as we liked you …” He never finished the sentence – and I never heard from the company again (in any form, verbal or written).

Resolution: It seems ridiculous to even write this, but … don’t make it sound like you’ve made an offer, if you haven’t.

Who’s Really Involved: The Whole Family

The business case for handling all candidates with grace, dignity, and professionalism is clear: it reflects on the company, it builds good will, the candidate could become a future customer, etc.  My strongest case, though, is a “personal” one.

If your family is anything like mine, when someone is out of work or looking for a better job … everyone knows they are going for the interview … everyone is praying, hoping, wishing for them … everyone is waiting for the results.  Telling everyone you didn’t get the job is bad enough.  Telling them that you don’t know — that the company thought so little of you that they didn’t even bother getting back to you — is far more embarrassing – and, to bring things full circle, damages the reputation of the company in the community (or at least in the family circle).

With the greatest encouragement, I can only say: “Make the call or send the e-mail.  Either way, get back to the candidate … please.”  You’ll feel better … so will they — and their whole family, too.

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One response to “Recruiting: A Plea for Courtesy

  1. Michael, these comments and resolutions ring true on both side of the fence. One of the greatest frustrations to the candidates in the ‘big black hole’ into which we send our applications and resumes. We rarely hear back on whether we are being considered or shoved aside. For me, I can take either news – but would love to know why.

    About cover letters, when they are required candidates should provide them. There are two issues with this – one is that not all job web sites make it clear on “how” to include a cover letter and the application gets sent before the candidate has a chance to create a cover letter. Secondly, there are many articles that debate the value of the cover letter for the candidate – many “experts” say the recruiters and HR personnel rarely read the letters so why bother sending them.

    As a candidate and hiring manager – my advice is to always send a cover letter that is concise and interesting to demonstration your communication skills and experience in the type of position for which you are applying.

    Thanks for the post. Happy Holidays!

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