Why Candidates Shouldn’t See HR as a Black Hole

HR’s supposed to both represent management and advocate for employees. Internally, we mentor, nurture, discipline and create a culture. But how do we look to the outside world? How do our actions reflect the company we work for? For many – if not most – applicants we’re the only interface they’ll ever have with our organization. When they’re trying to get in, we’re clearly the ones in charge.

But, as I read recently, “just because you’re in the driver’s seat, doesn’t mean you have to run people over.”

This really happened to me: I was at a party, standing in a group and chatting away, when a woman broke into the circle and said, “Hey, you interviewed me last year and never had the courtesy to send a rejection letter. I never heard back from you. Do you know how badly that made me feel?” All eyes turned to me. I didn’t recognize the young woman at all, and stammered something stupid, and tried to slip away.

I pride myself on acknowledging applicants and always getting back to them, especially those who came in for an interview. I don’t know how this woman slipped through, but she did get me thinking.

Today, it’s an acceptable practice to skip even acknowledging applications. We forget that each application represents a real person with a real ego who wants to hear something – anything – to let them know they haven’t fallen into a black hole. A simple e-mail receipt can make all the difference not just about how they feel personally, but about how they feel about your company.

When they talk to colleagues, what would you rather they say, “I applied for that job and they never called back. Typical.” Or, “At least I know someone actually looked at my application.” Go skim the Dice Discussions to see how many times we “losers in HR” get bashed for ignoring the first wave of candidates. Wouldn’t it help your recruiting if people piped in to say your company was the exception to that rule?

I know, we’re busy. We’re sorting through resumes and handling a dozen other chores through the day. Eight hour days? Ha. Try 10 if you’re lucky. But from the candidate’s point of view, the measure of a good company — to say nothing of a good HR department —  is how it treats them even before they come in for an interview.  Want a “yes” when you make that offer? Show good manners from the start. Besides, that rejected applicant might have a superstar sister or brother or spouse applying for another opening. You bet they share stories.

We keep telling professionals they have to make themselves stand out. We keep telling ourselves we can’t find the sophisticated talent we need. If we want to stand out, we have to showcase our company’s culture from the first contact. And that starts with the application when it comes in the door.

Graphic: Ute Kraus via Wikimedia

Image Credit: Shutterstock.com

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