Why Should I Respond to Every Unsuccessful Job Applicant?

There was a big debate on LinkedIn recently about whether or not recruiters and hiring managers should get back to every unsuccessful job applicant.

And when I and others waded in to say there was no excuse not to, that we responded to 100% of applicants, we were called out as 'liars'.


Because the Clarity team really do. And I'm going to explain why and how.


Imagine you're in the middle of a global pandemic and, after years of loyal service at your current firm, you've been made redundant. You're middle-aged and you've heard how difficult it is to get another job at your age. That there are no jobs about for someone of your skills. And you have a mortgage to pay and children to feed.

Redundancy is tough enough with the roller coaster of the change cycle including shock/denial, anger/fear before finally acceptance and commitment which can take a pretty long time. Chuck in the additional concerns around finding a job in a global pandemic and staying safe and well.

Or imagine you're a graduate who's leaving university after a year or two of upheaval, very few actual lectures and no practical experience whatsoever, being launched into a jobs market where the only vacancies seem to be in the hospitality industry.

You start your search but every application you send is met with silence.

At best, you might get one of these REAL responses, that I personally received when I tested local companies recently by emailing their recruitment email addresses.

"Due to the high volume of applications received, we are unable to respond to all applications individually. We endeavour to respond to shortlisted applications within 21 days. If you don’t hear back from us within this time, then unfortunately your application has been unsuccessful on this occasion."

"If you do not hear back from us in two weeks, please assume that you have been unsuccessful in your application, or we have nothing that suits your skills at this time."

Aside from the fact that in the current market, a 21 day response time means losing your best applicants, why wouldn't you send a response to such people. It's a decent and respectful human act.

But more than that. If you want people to have a good feeling around your business, your people, your brand, you need to reply to every applicant.

In fact, because so few businesses behave well at this stage, you'll be noticed for how respectfully and empathetically you handled that rejected application. And that leaves the applicant with a positive experience of your brand.

When that person talks about your business to their friends and family, do you want them to do this in a positive or negative way?

Because maybe that person will be great for another position in your business within a few months or years time. Or a friend of theirs is looking for work and might be a suitable fit? And if you treat an applicant poorly at this stage they will assume you are a bad company to work for, tell anyone who will listen, and no amount of good copy on your website about what an amazing employer you are will convince them otherwise.

If you send a meaningful response, even if it's a disappointing one, you'll get this sort of message back:

"Thank you for your response. I just wanted to say that I very much appreciated the videos linked in your email; they’re very helpful and insightful, and it’s refreshing to hear from somebody on the recruiting side of things who understands the stresses and challenges of finding a job in these times and can offer such good advice."

But so many of the applications are terrible and don't deserve a response!

The excuse of choice on the same LinkedIn feed and I don't buy it.

You will never be able to completely eliminate those you feel are timewasters. Sorry, but it's true.

But a well-drafted job advert placed in the right location will drastically reduce them.

So, if you're getting a lot of inappropriate applications it's time to take a look at your own processes and procedures rather than berate the applicants. They didn't apply to annoy you, they did so in good faith.

Maybe you were not clear in your language. Job titles are particularly important, for example, since they can be misleading.

If I replied to everyone, I'd get nothing else done in a day

It's 2021 and Applicant Tracking Systems are cheap and easy to use. You set up some templates, you click a button and a nice email is sent.

Failing that, if you're using MS Outlook, you can set up a Quick Step.

We use an ATS but still have some applicant traffic through my Outlook account, sometimes quite a heavy response. You can imagine that, as the MD, I have a lot of emails covering a wide array of subjects and with varying degrees of importance (to me at least).

I set up a Quick Step which enables me, once I have established an applicant is not suitable, to click ONE BUTTON which does this:

1) Marks the email as 'read'.

2) Sends a standard, pleasant 'thanks but no thanks' email. This email contains a video I recorded a year ago to explain why the application might have been declined and links to two blogs. The video lists all likely reasons why the application may have been declined and the blogs are to help the applicant to improve their CV and make the most from the job boards.

3) Deletes the email.


If, having read this, you still think it's OK not to reply, that's fine.

But others will take note and will improve their applicant experience. And if they're in your space, it can only harm your recruitment campaigns in the future.

Want more from me? Here are some of the other articles I've put together for you.

Make your job advert more appealing: https://www.clarityappointments.co.uk/view-details/36148/What-makes-your-job-advertisement-appealing-to-applicants.htm

How to advertise a job vacancy: https://www.clarityappointments.co.uk/view-details/36147/How-to-Advertise-a-Job-Vacancy.htm

My Top Tip for Hiring in 2021: https://www.clarityappointments.co.uk/view-details/36141/Top-Tip-for-Hiring-in-2021-Video.htm

Contact us now for a free, no-obligation chat. Contact Clare here.

Clare Wight is the founder and Managing Director of Clarity Appointments, an independent recruitment specialist. She served as a Regional Director for The Employment Agents Movement, supporting other independent recruiters.

She remains an active member of Recconnect (formerly Members Only), a recruitment leadership network promoting high ethical standards, collaboration, diversity, equity and inclusion.

She believes business owners are more fulfilled and higher-performing when they provide emotional and professional business support to other business owners, even those they deem to be competitors. She does this actively, whilst challenging and updating her skills and knowledge of the recruitment sector, enabling her to offer the best advice to firms looking to make their next hire.