A company posts a job and receives two hundred applications. After reviewing resumes, four or five candidates are short-listed for interviews. As for candidates that do not make it past the screening stage, often it might be several weeks – or even months – after the application closing date before they are contacted through an impersonal, one line email informing them that the position has been filled. Worse yet, they do not hear anything back at all. Should companies invest more time in caring for declined candidates? True – organizations really do not owe these candidates anything; and sure, some candidates are extremely under-qualified for the job that they have applied for; and yes, it takes some time and effort (although not a whole lot) during an already busy day to respond to applicants that do not make it past the screening process. Many organizations may not view this as a valuable use of time – after all, these people will not be joining their company. It is easy enough to put oneself in the candidate’s shoes though. Most of us have probably experienced a lack of communication from a company after applying for a job. It is just good customer service to at least thank contenders for applying and let them know that another candidate was selected for the position. In addition, candidates should be encouraged to check back to the careers or employment portion of the company website (or to set-up email alerts) and apply for any future positions that may be of interest to them. They may not have made the cut with the current competition because there were so many outstanding applicants with a bit better education or experience than them. However, the next time this position or a similar job is available, the situation could differ – either the candidate pool might have changed or maybe the prospective employee has gained some additional skills or experience that will now move him/her into a short-listed position. These are the little things that may entice a candidate to reapply the next time that a job vacancy is advertised.

Customer service is becoming more important all the time. Consumers have so many options in the marketplace that they rightfully expect to be treated well and made to feel that their business is important. The same should be true for job candidates – they should be viewed as valued customers and subsequently treated as such. Generally candidates will appreciate the acknowledgment that they receive – after all, each did take the time to apply to a position that the company had to offer. One happy customer will tell a few people about their experience, while one unhappy customer will tell several people. While this may not be exactly the same for job candidates, you get the idea – declined candidates should be given the respect of appreciated and valued customers. Chances are, although disappointed that they were not short-listed, applicants will remember the gesture of being communicated with and will continue to have a positive impression of the organization. After all, some applicants might not only be looking for a job with a particular company, but they might already be current customers of that company. Not receiving any feedback at all does not make for good human relations and may cause a candidate to take their business elsewhere.

Many companies state in their job ads that they will only contact those applicants that are chosen for an interview. This is a quick and easy way to let candidates know that they will not hear anything unless they make it to the interview stage. It is basically communicating to the candidate that the company is too busy to contact them otherwise. Even a generic, mass email to those not chosen for an interview is better than taking an approach of no communication at all. Although it is likely not feasible to email a personal response to each and every candidate not chosen for an interview, it is at least preferable that the email include the candidate’s first name. Many applicant tracking systems actually make it quite easy to send out these types of responses to applicants after a candidate has been selected and the competition has been concluded. Even better would be that the response include other beneficial information, such as a link to a site that provides resume and/or cover letter advice or some suggestions for interview tips. These types of things indicate to the candidates that the company sees them as potential employees and wants them to improve their chances of being selected for a position by providing them with helpful advice for the next time that a competition is posted by the organization.

Of course, this is not to suggest that a candidate not chosen for an interview is entitled to a long drawn-out explanation as to why he/she was not shortlisted. If candidates do inquire as to the reason(s) they were not shortlisted, they should be given a truthful explanation, ie: there were applicants with more relevant experience or better qualifications than they have. However, they should also be encouraged to apply on future positions with the company that may be of interest to them and if the company has decided to postpone filling a position, candidates should be communicated this fact as well. Otherwise, they will assume that another candidate was selected for the position.

Companies should look at communication with declined candidates as an investment in the future. Showing a little amity and consideration does not cost anything and could eventually pay big dividends for the company. Even if not selected for an interview, candidates will be interested in the status of the competition, and a quick email thanking them for applying but letting them know that another applicant has been selected will go a long way from a customer service perspective. Although some managers may initially not see it as such, this is an opportunity for HR to provide another value-add service to their clients. It is a simple way to communicate to all candidates that the organization values them as customers. What does an organization have to gain by connecting with declined candidates? I would suggest a whole lot!

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