ManPower Regional VP Anne Edmunds on Fielding Rejected Job Applicants

Times is tough and the economy still sucks. We all know this. And whether you're going into business for yourself or just trying to get back on your feet, there's a lot of rejection ahead. It's good, though, because it tests your mettle and helps you determine whether you're following your true passion or just a passing fancy. But what's bad is when you put your name in the hat for a position, hear nothing for a while and just keep waiting. You ping again, but nothing. You don't know whether they've moved on or just lost your application or what. In a way, a company who doesn't get back to an applicant it passed on and assumes they'll figure it out on their own is actually burning a bridge without really knowing it. After all, this was a company the applicant cared enough to apply to in the first place -- and they don't have the decency to send a simple rejection letter?

It happens far more often nowadays, but it doesn't have to. Not accordion to Anne Edmunds, the regional VP of ManPowerGroup Chicago. ManPower is a global staffing firm with offices all over the country and world, and Edmund "has a pulse on the Chicago job scene and works with both companies looking to hire and job seekers." So, this is something she knows a lot about. To help you know a lot more about it, too, I gave her a call.

This is a bit broad, but what should people do with applicants who haven't been chosen to be hired on somewhere? What sort of mistakes do you make and how do you think they should be corrected?

Anne Edmunds: There's a couple of things that have been going on in the employment industry and a lot of it has to do with technology. Most job applications today are applied to through technology. When people are not accepted for the role, they technology doesn't often allow for a rejection letter to go out or an employer doesn't have a lot of time to send out 600 different rejection letters. That's sort of the initial thing that happens. I also think from a candidate's perspective that you really need to be careful about applying to too many jobs. All that does is bog down the employer's database of people applying. It also negates the ability for the employer to answer everyone. So, I think there's two things going on here that are problems. For the employer, I think some of the key areas that become a problem are -- when you're down to your last three to five candidates that you're very, very excited about, I think it's extremely important that the employer has a conversation with the people that do not make it to final selection. It's important because obviously these people were very good people and if you want them to be part of another interview process or to come back to you and apply, you have a tendency to compromise your brand if you're not responsive to them.

I think that although that conversation is often tough to have with the people that don't make it. It's very important that you have that conversation and that you're as open and honest as you can be about why they didn't get the job and why you made a different selection. I think that should come in the form of a phone conversation, not a letter, because it's very important to have that personal connection. As I said it really promotes your brand image to treat people well.

So maybe this is just about managing expectations from both sides. When do you think it's unreasonable for a candidate to expect a response beyond the most basic email?

Anne Edmunds: I think it's unrealistic to expect more than that if it is a job where there are multiple openings, where they might be looking for 15 to 20 people to take a position. Managing a large selection process -- it's very, very hard for an employer to send a rejection letter to everyone who applied for those roles. No one likes to receive the candid --

"Thanks but no thanks?"

Anne Edmunds: Yeah. But it takes the candidate out of limbo. Although it's a canned letter, it's nice to get from the candidate's standpoint.

How would you suggest approaching the phone conversation?

Anne Edmunds: I think it needs some planning. "Here are the three reasons why I chose the person I did and here's why you were not chosen." I think it's also very important not to make false promises to the person. "Well, I'll keep you in mind, or maybe there's something else I can help find for you." It's very, very important to be straightforward as to what your next steps are going to be and what theirs are going to be.

We covered what to do, but what should you not do? Stuff that you've actually seen other people do?

Anne Edmunds: I think the leaving the door open, telling them that you'll help them with referrals or other people that you know -- it becomes awkward and as much as you love that candidate or you want to help them, you're putting yourself in a position that you really can't follow through on.

You mentioned how technology has sort of aggravated this situation. Do you see any technological developments coming that can help combat it?

Anne Edmunds: I think the technology is getting better and better. When you get down to your 25 or 30 candidates, there's also usually some testing involved. Procedural-based questions. They stack-rank the people based on how they answer the questions or how they test. I think that we'll take on more of the role that we used to have when we had a lot of face-to-face interviews in going through hundreds of resumes. Now, you'll know in the first few weeks whether you got the job or got the opportunity to move on in the selection process because now there's various benchmarks that a company is looking for. I think the liability lands more in the lack of conversation as opposed to no conversation at all. 

David Wolinsky is a freelance writer and a lifelong Chicagoan. In addition to currently serving as an interviewer-writer for Adult Swim, he's also a comedy-writing instructor for Second City. He was the Chicago city editor for The Onion A.V. Club where he provided in-depth daily coverage of this city's bustling arts/entertainment scene for half a decade. When not playing video games for work he's thinking of dashing out to Chicago Diner, Pizano's, or Yummy Yummy. His first career aspirations were to be a game-show host.

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