Job Etiquette Important for Both Sides

In today’s job market, it is increasingly difficult for companies to keep up with the massive influx of resumes.  Smart ones do.

I recently talked with a hiring manager of a major restaurant chain who received more than 750 resumes in the first week after posting a job opening.  Another executive told me she relied only on word-of-mouth when she posted a job internally–generating more than 100 resumes.  Similar responses are being realized whenever a job opening occurs.  The manner in which both sides handle the process can have an impact on their company and personal brands.

Today’s New York Times Preoccupations column should be required reading for everyone in recruiting and human resources jobs.  Bottom line:  Treat applicants well since they will remember your brand.

I have not been perfect in this regard, but I try to be as responsive as possible.  I learned from the best–two bosses in particular come to mind:  Bud Cairns of Eli Lilly and  Bob Lauer of Sara Lee.  Sadly, both are no longer alive, but their passion for conveying their company’s brands through the way they treat prospective employees has had a major influence on me.  They practiced a simple policy mandating that anyone contacting their companies deserved a response.  Back in my Lilly days, that was more complicated since it required individually typed letters with inside addresses and real signatures, not informal email responses.

For hiring managers:  Please respond to every resume received.  If the prospect doesn’t have a chance, a direct response will be most helpful since it allows the applicant to focus elsewhere.  If the candidate is under consideration, keep him/her in the loop regarding the decision-making process.  Long pauses typical in the hiring process at most companies are unsettling to applicants.  A simple heads up note that the process is bogged down due to travel schedules or workloads is very much appreciated.  If the hiring manager is swamped, he or she should promptly forward the resume to someone in HR who can start the process of assessing the candidate. 

For applicants:  Understand that the hiring process is not the only thing going on within the company or agency.  Even when an opening exists and everyone seems eager to fill the position, the process often takes an illogical amount of time.  Email has replaced phone calls as the preferred communications channel since it allows the hiring manager to respond in a less-pressure-filled time frame. 

Good or bad experiences?  Share them via Comments, but don’t burn bridges by mentioning names or companies.

3 comments on this post.
  1. Spencer:

    I absolutely agree. As a current job seeker, I have really been frustrated with how some companies have treated me during my job search.

    One particularly bad experience: A job posting required mailing or faxing an application packet instead of emailing. I faxed over my information and sent a follow-up email. A week later, I called the company and was told it was in the process of reviewing applications and I would be contacted shortly. Another week went by. The job posting was removed from the company’s Web site. I called again and was told the same thing as last time: applications were still being reviewed, and I should please wait to be contacted. It’s a month later, and I never even received an email letting me know the job had been filled.

    It’s never fun receiving a rejection letter or email, but it’s a much better feeling than being completely ignored after spending several hours on applications and follow-ups. Like many applicants, I understand that HR departments are often very busy these days. But if they expect their applicants to show courtesies such as following up and sending thank-yous, they should do the same by following up with each applicant – especially the ones who do more than just send them a resume.

  2. N.D.:

    HR professionals that are responsive to applicants really stand out. Regardless of whether you get the job or not, you still have a great impression of the company. I had a wonderful experience with a top PR firm in Washington, DC. While I didn’t go beyond a phone interview, I was impressed with the HR manager and how the process was handled.

    Unfortunately, I have a bad impression of HR at my current company based on my past experience going through the internal recruitment process. In terms of compensation and promotions, I have no complaints, but inquiring about new positions is always a challenge. Being brushed off by recruiters is one thing, but my most recent attempt to find a position that’s a better fit has to be the worst experience I’ve had. After interviewing for a position, neither the recruiter nor the hiring manager got back to me or responded to any of my inquiries. Of course, people are busy, but this a bad way to handle INTERNAL applicants. Needless to say, I don’t see a future at this company, although I’ve been there for several years.

  3. Daddy-O:

    This has been a frustrating experience for me as well. With electronic submissions, HR’s courtesy of responding to a “Read Reply Request” lets the applicant know their information was received — but even that doesn’t happen. At the same time, when I have received timely communication from the contact person for a position I wasn’t offered, I’ve taken the time to write an appreciation letter back to them that expresses some of the important points touched on in the above story

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