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How You Treat Prospective Employees Can Hurt, Help Your Reputation
By Adrien Seybert
A few years ago, I had a brief fleeting moment of clarity in the early hours of a Sunday morning when I felt that all was perfect in the universe. The skies had opened up, revealing a brilliant yellow sun, and an advertisement for the perfect job seemed to have arrived from the heavens.
But my life, probably like yours, rarely plays out like a romantic comedy. This was no exception. Naturally, I immediately applied to said job opening with a compelling and enthusiastic cover letter. At the time, I was full of great expectations, which can sometimes turn into tomorrow's bitter resentments.
One day later. No response from prospective employer. Not even a form letter e-response that you get from even the gigantic multi-national companies. No thanks for my interest. Nothing. A few days later, I followed up with an even more compelling letter. No response. Days went by. No response.
I couldn't figure it out. My background should have at least intrigued them enough to respond in some way. It was a communications job with an organization devoted to championing the cause of the unemployed.
Six months passed, and I applied for another job within the organization. Still no response. Seriously? How hard could it be to put an auto-responder on the email address? It had been suggested to me that maybe they had already made their decision, probably going with someone's friend or relative but wanted to give the impression that they were actually opening up the hiring process to the general public.
I use this experience to illustrate the point that you get only one chance to make a great first impression - even when you occupy the position of power. In a challenging economy where job seekers outnumber jobs by 5 to 1, don't be lulled into a false sense of security or hubris.
Sure, you're getting 200 applicants for every open slot. That doesn't mean it's going to last forever, especially in the nonprofit sector where attracting and retaining top-tier talent for the long haul can be challenging because of financial constraints.
If you can't offer your staff industry-competitive salaries, at least show some compassion. That starts with acknowledgment of job applications.
Though your current employees can be the best purveyors of PR for your organization so too are your job candidates. Ignore them, put them through hoops like a circus animal or use them as a source of free labor, don't be surprised if your organization or a vague description thereof is the source of cynical Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn updates and/or blog postings.
Eventually, things will get better. Then, you'll have to deal with your reputation. If you acted in a humane way, you'll have an easier time attracting staff in the future. If you acted indifferently or arrogantly, don't be surprised when the pickings seem slim the next time you advertise an opening.
Furthermore, you never know where that prospective employee you couldn't be bothered to acknowledge will end up. You may have passed on the next Mark Zuckerberg, the Facebook founder who recently gave $100 million to the Newark schools. The more professional you handled a rejection, the less likely prospective employees are going to harbor resentment or have a bad image of your organization in their mind.