Always Respond to Your Applicants

“Hey! Thanks for applying to this amazing job at <Arbitrary Organisation>! We’re really glad you took the time to put together your application…”

Nice, a response confirming my application is great, always good to see an organisation thinking about it’s applican-

“… If you don’t hear from us, then unfortunately you haven’t been successful.”

Wait, what?

Seriously? You can’t take the time to send even a template response informing a candidate you’ve not accepted their application?

But Ieuan, we have too many applicants!

Bullshit (excuse my Klatchian).

It takes less than a minute to send an email saying “Hey, thanks for applying, unfortunately we don’t feel you meet what we’re looking for right now”. By choosing not to commit to doing this, you’re saying that your candidates aren’t worth 60 seconds of your time.

If you truly have hundreds of applicants for a role, if you aren’t using some sort of tool to sift applications and manage application state then that is definitely your fault, and something you should be sorting immediately. If you are, then it’s a pretty simple extension to fire a rejection email to the candidate on them being moved into a particular state.

This isn’t about it being too difficult. Everything takes time. It’s about deciding what’s important to spend that time on.

First Impressions Are Important

Your application process is literally the very first dialogue a prospective employee has with your organisation. It tells the candidate:

  • What to expect from you
  • Implicitly, what to expect from working with you
  • How much you care about their application.

Applying for jobs - particularly jobs that excite you - is scary. Nobody likes being rejected, and the wait for a response feels interminable. Imagine you went to the doctor to have some blood tests and they said “Thanks for your blood sample; we’ll let you know if you have a serious life-threatening illness. If you don’t hear from us then everything is fine.” Nobody would call this a good experience, so why is it acceptable in other, equally avoidable circumstances?

If I apply for a role and I see this response, it does two things:

  • My cultural expectations are now quite low - you’re going to have to prove to me that you have a good culture of respecting employees, that isn’t represented by your application process, if I’m going to accept any offer. Congratulations on instantly starting on the back foot!
  • I’m way more likely to keep looking and applying for other jobs at the same time, because I have no idea when you’ve reviewed my application. I’m sure as hell not going to wait 3 weeks to be sure you don’t want to progress my application.

Benefits of always responding

  • It shouldn’t be something to shout about, but it is. In your job description/careers page/application received response, make a point of noting that you always respond. This is a big morale boost for applicants, and makes for a much happier and relaxed recruitment process. Happier applicants = more likely to accept an offer.
  • The best candidates have choices - this is really important. The people you really want to hire are largely the people a lot of other companies want to hire. Remember: job applications are as much about convincing them to join you as it is them convincing you to hire them
  • Quite simply, it’s about respect. Commitment to respond sets cultural expectations of respect and prompt communication in your organisation. Starting as you mean to go on makes it much easier to instil a good culture of communication in all new hires.

In short: Always respond to all applications, whether it’s a quick templated response or detailed feedback. It’s the least you can do, and the benefits are worth the extra minute of your day.