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Notifying Candidates They Didn’t Get the Job with a Courtesy Email

Here’s a question that sometimes comes up in HR — should human resources departments be notifying candidates that didn’t get the job?

In our experience as a temporary staffing services provider, yes, they should. But the question becomes more complicated when you look at the pros and cons of investing in a courtesy email for your hire strategy.

A Courtesy to Job Seekers

In general, a quick e-mail or other notification is a courtesy to the people who have put in time researching and responding to a job posting. In some cases, job applicants have to go through many difficult procedures to be considered for a role. Many feel that they deserve at least a courtesy notification that the company decided to look elsewhere.

Allowing for Follow-Up Opportunities

If you notice, many of these notifications to losing job candidates include general statements such as “if we find a fit in the future, we will contact you…” There’s a reason why this is done. Just like the job seeker, the company often goes to great lengths to research potential job applicants. For example, if the job has been narrowed down to 10 or 20 people, human resources may have scheduled additional interviews, checked references, or spent time on the phone talking to these job candidates to screen them for a job. If you don’t notify these people, you’re essentially throwing all that work away, because they’re not likely to want to work with you again down the road. By notifying these individuals, the company can keep a database on hand. That way, if they need additional hires in the future, they don’t have to start from scratch. 

Time and Money

Many HR professionals will argue that they don’t have the time to notify all job candidates. Without a database intake resource, there’s no way to keep all of the account files together and mass e-mail people about whether they got the job or not. That’s why many companies invest in business intelligence resources that will put together automated mailing lists. That way, they can notify people without putting in a huge amount of time.

Being Transparent

How do you solve this problem? One way is to take a specific two-stage approach to the issue.

In the first stage, you have to deal with the massive intake of applications that you’ll get from an initial job. This can be as easy as stating in the job ad “if we like what we see, we will get back to you (within x days). If we don’t get back to you, you were not considered or chosen.” This may seem a little harsh, but it addresses the courtesy email issue up front.

At the second stage, the applicant pool is smaller, and the company has done research on applicants. So it does make sense to notify each of these people individually if they were not chosen for the job.

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