How to wreck your employer’s reputation in one easy step

June 9, 2015, 3:06 PM UTC
rejected job applications resumes
Rejected Job Resume Crumpled Up and Thrown in the Garbage
Photograph by Getty Images

Remember how frustrating it was, the last time you looked for a job, to carefully craft a resume and cover letter for each opening that seemed like a good fit, then send them along to prospective employers and hear … nothing? Maybe you even got past the phone-screening stage to an in-person interview, or more than one, that you thought went really well. And then you waited. And waited.

And heard … crickets.

Maddening, wasn’t it? For one thing, being left to twist in the wind makes it hard to know how to respond to other offers. (What if you accept a position at your second-choice XYZ Corp., and then get the nod from Ostrich Enterprises, where you really want to work?) Beyond that, letting someone know whether they got the job or not is just common courtesy, isn’t it?

Courtesy, yes, but common? Not so much. Almost all (92.5%) job candidates want companies to let them know where they stand, even if they didn’t get the job, says LinkedIn’s Talent Trends 2015 survey of more than 20,000 professionals in 29 countries. Yet only about one in three (34%) ever hear back one way or the other.

That’s bad for business in a few different ways. “Everyone you communicate with, but then don’t hire, is not only someone you might want to hire in the future, but also a potential customer,” notes Brendan Browne, LinkedIn’s global vice president of talent acquisition. “And they talk to their friends about their experience with you. Do you really want to treat them badly?”

To illustrate his point, Browne offers this bit of math: The average big company conducts about 15,000 interviews of external candidates per year and, of those, hires 5,000 or so. Since LinkedIn’s research suggests that at least one-third of the 10,000 people you decided not to hire are offended because they never heard back from you, “the average company decreases the size of its future talent pool by 3,000 every year,” Browne says. “And that doesn’t count the damage to your employment brand from those people telling their friends — in person and, even worse, on social media — how inconsiderate you were.”

The simple fix: End the radio silence. Browne estimates that LinkedIn turns down about 20,000 job hopefuls annually, and he says each one gets either an email or a phone call saying yea or nay within 48 hours of a hiring manager’s decision. The company uses online net promoter scores to measure its reputation with recent candidates, says Browne, “and we want our score to be as high, or higher, among people we didn’t hire as among those we did.”

Hiring managers, who are usually already overloaded, may fear that getting back to every interviewee will take up inordinate amounts of time but, notes Browne, “it doesn’t need to be a long conversation. People just want to know yes or no.”

True. Just as an experiment, try this: Write a brief, general email, similar to an old-fashioned form letter, thanking the candidate for his or her time and stating that, while you’ve filled the job in question, you’d appreciate the chance to keep in touch in case similar opportunities come along later.

Then send this to each person you’ve interviewed lately, tweaked slightly to include his or her name and maybe another detail or two. With practice, you can get this down to about 10 seconds per email. Let’s say you’ve interviewed 14 people. That’s 140 seconds to make sure your employment brand, not to mention your company’s good name, keeps on shining. Hard to think of a better use for less than three minutes.

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