Should You Let Your Applicants Know They Didn’t Get the Job?

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I saw an article over at Inc.’s web site today. Inc. (which of course stands for “Incorporated”) is an excellent business-oriented magazine that has been around for a number of years.

Here is a short excerpt from this article:

We’ve all hired people we just knew would be superstars… who turned out to be duds.

And we’ve all passed on people who turned out to be superstars at another company. (If you’re like me, you regret the ones you let get away more than the ones you had to let go.)

Big mistakes? Sure–but not the biggest hiring mistake. Here’s the biggest hiring mistake you can make:

Failing to follow up with and provide closure to every person who applies for a job.”

The article goes on to say that not providing closure to each of your applicants opens the door to these individuals complaining about your company and not doing business with you down the road.

And if there’s enough of these folks out there, this could have a considerable (and negative) impact.

I have a few thoughts on this.

First of all, I agree that you should let each applicant know in some way that the position was filled.

You could send the person an email. An email may come across as somewhat impersonal, but it does get a communication to the applicant so s/he knows to continue looking elsewhere.

You could send a letter on your company stationery. That may take a day or two to arrive, but this has more of a personal touch than an email.

This next option is very interesting:

You could call the person to let them know you’ve filled the position. You might say, “Fred, I really appreciate you taking the time to come in and apply for the Office Manager job. We did fill the position with someone else, but I thought you were a great candidate. If I find someone else is hiring in the area, would you like me to let them know about you?”

Of course, you’d only say this if they actually were a great candidate.

Your applicant may respond, “No, I’d prefer to make myself known to prospective employers.” Or he may say, “Yes, I would really appreciate that.”

Your applicant may ask you why they didn’t get the job. Here you want to make sure you don’t open yourself to litigation and I’d recommend you check with your attorney on what you could/should say. We also have a hiring tip provided by an attorney on this which you can read here.

I do not however, believe this “closure point” is the biggest mistake you  could make in the hiring arena. Hiring someone who covertly or overtly does a number on your business is, for me, the biggest mistake you could make.

There are unfortunately some people out there who are very destructive in their actions. Their methods may not be obvious, but the results are. They can cause real problems with your existing staff and with your customers. They can dramatically affect your bottom line.

Our employment testing service will help you weed these people out. In the meantime, those applicants who did take the time to apply should get some kind of communication to let them know the position was filled.

It’s good courtesy and good PR for your company.


As the law varies in each area, please check with an attorney to ensure you are applying these tips within the law.

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