Editor's note: Inc.com columnist Alison Green answers questions about workplace and management issues--everything from how to deal with a micromanaging boss to how to talk to someone on your team about body odor.
A reader writes:
I work in a small office, and I recently hired someone for a general admin position. I'm in an industry that's really hard to break into, so I got a lot of rÃ©sumÃ©s quickly. After I reached a few hundred applicants and had found at least 15-20 I thought would be great, I took the ad offline and started getting in touch with people. I found someone amazing, and she's started and she's doing really well, so, yay.
My question is about sending out "rejection" emails to everyone else. I did send emails to anyone I had emailed or spoken with, interviewed, as well as those who had a personal connection with another staff member or friend and had come to me through them. I don't want to leave people hanging. But do I need to email everyone else? I hate sending out mass emails, but doing it individually would take forever. I know how much it sucks to be on the other end, but now that I'm thinking about it, I don't remember getting many of those emails when I was applying for jobs that didn't go anywhere. What's the proper response here?
Well, first, I'm glad you're thinking about this, and I'm glad you're emailing any candidates you had contact with. Too many employers don't bother to do even that, even when a candidate has invested hours in their hiring process--taken time off work, maybe bought a new suit, driven several hours to get there, or even paid to fly themselves in. Silence when someone has invested time in your company like that is inexcusable. It's callous and dismissive and lacks any appreciation for the fact that the candidate is anxiously waiting to hear an answer--any answer--and keeps waiting and waiting, long after a decision has been made.
So good for you for not doing that.
However, I'm going to quibble with your statement that contacting all the other applicants would take forever. Create a form letter, and copy and paste it into an email. This should take you literally about two seconds per applicant--paste and send and that's it. At two seconds per applicant, with 200 applicants, that's less than seven minutes. (And if you have an electronic applicant tracking system, it's going to be even quicker than that.) This isn't a guess about the amount of time it takes; it's what I do personally, so I'm speaking from experience when I tell how you fast it is. (I'm typical hiring for positions that get 300 applicants at a time, and every single one of those people gets an email back. It's truly not time-consuming once you have a system.)
So given how very quick and easy it is to do this, you should do it--both because it's a kind thing to do and because it will reflect well on your company. Sure, plenty of employers don't bother to...but plenty of employers also schedule phone interviews with candidates and then never call, force candidates to fill out invasive and unnecessary hour-long applications, and do all sorts of other rude things that you presumably wouldn't do. Don't compare yourself to the rude employers; compare yourself to the great ones and strive to hit that same bar.
You may think candidates don't care that much if they ever get a response to their application, but many of them do--especially the ones who took time to write a cover letter just for your opening and are still hoping they might hear from you. As the letters I get from readers make painfully clear, many of them are wondering what the silence from employers means--does it mean they're out of the running, or might they still be able to hope they'll get a call at some point? Don't leave them wondering.
It is a tough, cold job market out there. In under 10 minutes, you can warm it up slightly for your 200 candidates--200 people who offered to help your company meet its needs, some of whom are still thinking about your job posting and hoping that they'll hear from you.
Send the emails.
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