Hiring etiquette: What message does your process send to job candidates?

Flickr photo by bpsusf/Creative Commons License

An article I read back in March on Boston.com entitled “Businesses behaving badly – to job seekers” has stuck with me. It detailed the shabby treatment that some hiring companies give job candidates these days. Here’s one example from the article:

The software company definitely seemed interested in hiring Tom Fleming. It set up breakfast and lunch meetings, then flew the Concord salesman to its headquarters in Virginia for interviews with a half-dozen executives, including the founder and chief executive. But after promising to get back to him in a week, the company never contacted him again.

“The VP of sales never had the courtesy to e-mail or text or pick up the phone and say, ‘We don’t think you’re the right fit,’ ’’ said Fleming, who was laid off in 2008. “After all that time, you don’t have 10 seconds? I was livid.’’

The degrading of hiring etiquette is not new. I’ve been reading articles since the early 1990s in which people complained the erosion of civility in the hiring process. But things seem to have gotten significantly worse during the recession. People on the hiring side claim they’re suffering staff cutbacks and are just too overwhelmed with job candidates to do things the “old-fashioned” way, which meant being polite to all applicants and getting back promptly with feedback and updates to people who have been brought in for interviews.

To that I say “Hogwash!”

Treating job seekers as if they don’t matter is simply bad business on many levels.

Here, as detailed in another example from the Boston.com article, is one of the problems with treating people badly:

One Southborough job seeker refused to consider a position at a chemical company because of the way he was treated. He was in the middle of an interview — the third of five that day — when he was told there was a problem at the plant and escorted out of the building. The company never called to reschedule his interviews, and when a recruiter called two months later to tell him the same job was open again, the man — who didn’t want to be identified because he is still looking for work — didn’t bother sending in his resume.

In other words, that job candidate you blew off without any caring and consideration may be exactly the person you need next month to fill an opening. Sure, some people will swallow their pride and put their name back in the hat, but some won’t.

In addition, if you think the people you’ve treated like dirt won’t tell others about how your company acted, think again. Word of mouth in which your company is labeled as the type of place where people don’t even practice common courtesy won’t win you any “Best Place to Work” awards, that’s for sure.

Usually people within a given industry tend to know something about the reputations of the companies in it, at least on a regional basis. How employees are treated matters, and how job candidates are treated matters, too. Putting policies and procedures in place that assure that job seekers – even those who don’t land a job with you – walk away with a good impression of your business is important.

This may be especially important for small businesses working in small communities, since word of how job seekers are treated by local companies can become very wide spread very quickly. The last thing any small business owner wants to do is to make enemies of local people.

The other thing to consider here is that every job candidate may also be a customer now or in the future. You just never know about these things, which is why practicing good etiquette, no matter what the situation, is always the best practice.

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