[Recruiting] How to Say “No Thanks” to Candidates – Facebook and Others

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Organizations tell you lots of about themselves from how they deal and treat applicants. The task, for candidates, is to make sure you’ve got your radar up, and don’t bliss out and fall in love to the point were you stop tracking all the things that go on in front of you.

If a company treats candidates poorly, you shouldn’t be surprised if some of that behavior carries on after people come on board. If firms go out of their way to treat candidates well, then I would be surprised if some of that positive behavior doesn’t carry over to how employees are treated as well.

We’ve all probably seen or heard about the behaviors that can be improved, and in the event someone you know has been living in a cave, here are some examples to send them:

  • No acknowledgement of application.
  • No close-out acknowledgement when a position is filled to applicants.
  • Recruiters contacting potential candidates and then failing to close out the candidate with a status update, or even a thanks – no thanks call or note when the position is filled.
  • Recruiters who miss interview appointments, or alternately leave candidates cooling their heels waiting on a habitual basis.
  • Recruiters going “radio silent” – talking up a candidate and then suspending all communication for an extended period of time.
  • Candidates being referred to interview for positions significantly different than advertised.
  • And many more.

[Updated: There’s also a great example of poor company interview etiquette from today’s New York Times by Neal Hirschfeld titled Complaint Box: The E Snub.]

These thoughts came to mind after hearing SpencerStuart’s Karen Quint speak to an association of CFOs (and their invited guests like me) last week in San Francisco. [Disclosure: SpencerStuart has previously placed me in executive HR positions, and I know and think very highly of a couple of Karen’s colleagues.] More of Karen’s presentation on an upcoming post.

Part of what Karen mentioned was the fact that many recruiters – even executive search consultants working at senior levels similar to her work doing CFO placement – don’t do a simple courtesy of following up with the candidate phone calls or e-mails they get. In what seems like a worst case, there’s someone who runs recruiting for a large asset management who is now well known for not only failing to follow-up with candidates, but failing to return almost anyone’s phone calls or e-mails unless it’s her boss: not the type of behavior that will make friends or win respect in the short or long term.

Following up for someone like Karen – who gets any number of out-of-the-blue calls and e-mails –  takes time. It’s hard to take time to reply away it’s best done in a batched manner (doing the follow-ups every 2-3 f weeks or so) but it’s the type of thing that separates good treatment of candidates (and good recruiters) from everything else. People who do follow-up, like Karen, stand head and shoulders above the crowd, and her behavior shines a bright light not just on SpencerStuart, but the client company for who she is engaged.

One example, from an application I had submitted to Facebook to see how they respond to applicants, is a good illustration of how a company can do a good job on a simple thing like an online application. The response came back 3 weeks after a flipped in a resume and cover note to an online HR posting – and it’s about a perfect as you can get.

In short, they gave me my status (not a fit for this role), thanked me for my interest, and gave me encouragement for future opportunities (“We’d like to keep in touch as Facebook continues to grow”). This is about as good as it gets – and is surprisingly uncommon.

“Thanks from Facebook!

Hi J. Mike,

Thanks for your interest in working at Facebook. We’re always on the lookout for the best talent and although we’re interested in your skills and background, it’s not quite a fit for the positions that we have open right now.

We’d like to keep in touch as Facebook continues to grow, and we’ll contact you when any relevant positions open up.

We really appreciate your interest and look forward to connecting with you in the future.


Facebook Recruiting”

What did I think that the Facebook folks did well? Here are three things:

  • Feedback on status was prompt (and by the way, so was acknowledgement on the original submission).
  • Feedback was specific: you’re not a good fit for the role based on our criteria.
  • Facebook maintained their brand by letting the applicant down gently: “thanks, and we’d love to keep you in mind for future opportunities.”

So do yourself if you’re on the hiring side of the equation: act like Facebook and Karen Quint.

And if you’re on the candidate side of the equation, watch how people treat candidates: there’s little reason to not treat candidates well and it tells you a whole lot about what to expect if you end up getting hired.

Life Back West is an occasional set of writings focused on ways people, teams and organizations can be both more effective (doing the right thing) and more efficient (doing the right thing well). More about executive, career and team / leadership coaching services can be found at the “About J. Mike Smith and Back West, Inc.” sidebar or the “Hire Me” tab above. You can also read an online interview with me at WhoHub, as well as participate in my learning community courtesy of KnowledgeCrush.

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