A promising young graduate has just gone through three grueling rounds of interviews for a job she's dying to get. Each day, she checks her inbox with anxious anticipation, hopeful the company lands on her as their next hire.

One day, her bright optimism turns into crushing disappointment. After not hearing back for weeks, she calls the company out of frustration, only to discover the position she applied for was filled a few days after she completed the interview process. 

There are various reasons a company may not follow up with an applicant they don't hire, ranging from overwhelmed hiring managers, to a desire for a clean break, to legal fears, i.e., poorly written rejection letters that end up in lawsuits.

In a historically tight labor market, many companies are scrambling to find new ways to do things.

Recently, I heard about a great strategy that's worth "stealing." Like many companies, Grovider, a small management consulting firm in Philadelphia, has three rounds of interviews. But once a candidate is selected, Grovider sends everyone who completed the process an email informing them the position has been filled.

Then, to temper the disappointment, the company provides candidates who completed the process but didn't land the job with a $25 Amazon gift card, along with the following note: 

We thank you for taking the time to apply for this position. As an expression of gratitude, we would like to offer you this small gift. We wish you only the best in your future endeavors.

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But wait. Let's get real. Does a $25 Amazon card really make up for the time lost and disappointment from not getting the job?

On the surface, you might not think so. But Grovider says they regularly get responses from non-hirees to thank them for their thoughtfulness and genuine interest, confirming that they've never received a gift card from a potential employer.

So, why does Grovider do it?

"People spend time in the interview process and their time costs," Grovider co-founder Candace Kenyatta told me. "They take on the costs of finding time for multiple interviews, completing exercises, stressing about what they might be asked. We want to acknowledge that reality and say thanks to those who invest their time in us."

"We don't have nearly enough money as a small business to do it on a grand scale, but the amount I think is less important than the acknowledgement."

But there's also more to this story.

In October 2016, Kenyatta's husband and co-founder, Everett Kenyatta, lost his mother after a long battle with leukemia. At the time, Everett was serving as his mother's primary caretaker while building his department as a director at an IT firm. The couple were also taking care of a newborn son.

"I needed time to take care of my family and ultimately, myself," Everett Kenyatta told me. "My employer talked about working with me, but in the end, did not. In November 2016, one month after my mother's death, my employment was terminated. I applied for more than 100 jobs over the next two months. Simultaneously, I worked on the business plan for what is now Grovider."

The act of searching for a job is a grueling full-time undertaking," says Everett. "Our decision to thank those who take the time to undertake the entire process with us is based on our understanding of the taxing nature of the process and a recognition of the humanity of those who are undertaking it." 

As it turns out, substantively thanking prospects also breeds long-term goodwill and differentiates Grovider as an employer. For example, in 2021 Grovider made a key hire from a candidate who originally applied for a position in 2019.

And yes, that candidate was a former Amazon gift card recipient.

The lesson for companies everywhere

Many employers today view the hiring process as having a single goal: to find the right candidate for a single position. Because of this focus, hiring managers can easily lose sight of the human side of what each candidate goes through during the interview process. But in addition to treating interview candidates well being the right thing to do, it also provide companies with a great opportunity.

    A $25 gift card is a relatively low business cost, but it's one that can pay rich dividends in promoting good will of your company. By leaving candidates with a sweet taste in their mouths, you not only send a message that your company is one the candidate should want to work with (now or in the future), but you turn those candidates into advocates, greatly increasing the chance that they:

    • Spread the word about your hiring process, increasing the candidate pool for future positions
    • Come back to apply again, for another position which may prove to be a better fit
    • Provide you with future business, either by becoming a customer or client themselves, or leading their future companies, business partners, or others in their network to reach out

    All of this only helps your company to play the long game.

    Remember, people do business with people, not companies. So, in a world of communication ruled by ghosting, automated messages, and legal speak, don't view the post-interview process as a nuisance. See it as an opportunity.

    "Our brand isn't just about our clients--it's about every person with whom we engage," Candace Kenyatta says. "We want the experience with Grovider to be a meaningful one no matter why someone is engaging with us."

    And that's what I call great business.