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At the beginning of the week when I spoke to Claire, she was excited. She had just been interviewed for her dream job. The interviewer was fully engaged with her, her experience and what she had to offer the organisation. When would you be able to start he asked? We’ll get back to you in a couple of days he concluded with a smile. She walked away, beaming and dreaming of what it would be like to work in the organisation.

I was deeply saddened when she called me in tears a few days later. She had received a bland, computerised message informing her that her application was not being taken forward. Thank you for your interest in our organisation the message seemed to merrily state, but she was left feeling devastated and confused. She’d had a great interview, they liked her and she’d left with the impression that the job was her. The problem wasn’t just that she had not been offered the position. It was that after having taken the time to prepare, taking time off work, travelling to the offices and spending time going through the interview process, she’d received a standard message, with no explanation. Worst of all it came from a NO REPLY email address which like a locked door without a key took away her option of asking for feedback.

It didn’t make her feel any better when a few days later, she received another standard message asking her for feedback on the process and additionally encouraging her to apply for future positions. Clicking on the feedback button took her to a set of metrics based questions, without any room for open feedback. She was almost in tears as she exclaimed in exasperation that regardless of the brand name of the organisation, she didn’t want to have anything further to do with them as much as a customer as an employee. Just as she told me what had happened and how it made her feel, I suspect that over time she will tell a significant number of her friends and families who will pass the message on with a potential negative impact to the organisation’s brand reputation.

I suspect that if I spoke to someone in the organisation, they would say that it’s down to the computer. I’ve worked on enough HR Systems and Change projects to know that computers work on the basis of how they are set up and how processes are defined.

A few basic steps as a starter, that could have made a world of difference to Claire and other applicants in her position:

– Rather than a NO REPLY email address, have the system set up so that responses can be sent to a recruitment email address

–      Review the message sent to applicants when you decide not to take them through to the next stage, thinking of how it may come across to the human at the other end – most especially if they’ve already met you.

– Consider calling candidates that have been interviewed or at least invite them to request feedback.

Ultimately, rather than having a rejection process; have a process that conveys a message that says thank you, we appreciate you and your interest in working with us, it’s not for now, but who knows what the future may bring.  The candidate that you don’t need today, may turn into the person that you are desperate for at some future date. Try and ensure that they also want you.

Susan Popoola

Human Value Optimisation Specialist

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