It’s the third and final installment of Help Wanted, in which we try to direct some helpful lessons at hiring managers and interviewers on some basic, tactful behavior that can help make the hiring process way more beneficial for candidate and employer alike.
The final topic I want to tackle is follow-up. Whether it’s upon receiving a resume or application, after an initial telephone screening, or after the final round of in-person interviews, the candidate needs to know where she stands with your organization, and she needs to know within a reasonable time frame. Let’s take a closer look.
Receiving a Resume or Application: At this stage in the game, your candidate has (probably) already done at least one but probably more of the following for you: tailored her resume specifically to fit the position for which you’re hiring; written a personalized cover letter answering any questions you asked in your job posting and addressing your specifically requested qualities; located your online job application form, navigated it (including creating yet another username and password to remember), and re-entered all of her salient work history in individual boxes, even though she’s already submitted her resume with identical information included; and filled out, by hand, a 2-6 page employment application. This is some effort to obtain your position. No one cares if it’s a form letter at this point, because we all know most jobs in urban areas are getting somewhere around 300 applicants apiece, but do take the time to a: inform candidates immediately that you’ve received their application, and b: inform them within a week or two at the most if you will or won’t proceed with them as a candidate. If you will, schedule an interview as soon as possible; within the next week of contacting them is appropriate.
After a telephone screening: This candidate obviously caught your eye enough to make it to at least your top 25 contenders from those hundreds of applications you received. First, don’t telephone interview a candidate without scheduling it first. It’s not fair to call someone who’s busy chewing on a sandwich or scolding a yapping dog or juggling a bawling kid on her hip or trying to take a nap; candidates will schedule these important unemployment activities around your call if you schedule it first, however. That said: let’s say you get through the telephone interview. You need to let them know two things at the end of the call: when you will finish screening the rest of the telephone candidates, and when they will hear from you to hear whether or not they will be meeting with you in person. A good rule of thumb is that you should be able to get through all of your telephone candidates in a week, and by the end of the second business day following that they should know either that you’re not continuing with them as a candidate, or that you’d like to schedule their in-person interview.
Following a final in-person interview: Send everyone a letter or email. Thank them for their time. Either offer them the position, or don’t, but don’t take more than a week and a half following the last time you saw them. Slice off a day from that each if you put them through any of the following hoops: urine screenings, typing tests, other skills examinations, interviews that lasted more than one hour, and traveling out of their state of residence for the interview.
As a final word of caution, try your hardest not to insult the candidates you choose not to hire. A simple positive note about pursuing a candidate whose skills, experience, or qualifications more closely align with the position is a lot better than saying, “We’re unsatisfied with your qualifications” or “We’ve chosen not to pursue you as a candidate any longer.” On the reverse side of that, don’t lay it on too thick. It’s disingenuous to praise a candidate you’re rejecting too highly.