A reader writes:
I have a question about replying to job applicants who I have no intention of interviewing.
Every time we post a job online, we get dozens of applications, and of course, only a few of them are people I want to call in for an interview. What’s the protocol for replying to the rest? In the past, we’ve always tended to just ignore them, but it seems like it would be more polite to send a note saying “thanks for applying….” — but then, I don’t know how to finish that sentence. We haven’t filled the position or found a better candidate yet, I just know it’s not going to be them! What’s the appropriate thing to say?
Also, what about the “applications” that are very clearly sent in without thought or effort or even recognition of what job they’re applying for? I’m talking about the ones with no cover letter (when our job post explicitly states you must include one) or the ones addressed “Dear Hiring Manager” with no customization or mention of the company name. Frankly, I delete those out of my inbox without hesitation right now — is there any value in holding on to them and sending the standard “no thanks” reply I mention above?
It’s definitely easier if you can write, “Thank you, but we’ve filled the position.” But if you haven’t yet, there’s no need to wait until you do. Here are a couple of different ways that you can word a rejection notice to people when you can’t attribute the rejection to not having an opening anymore:
1. “Thank you for your interest in working with us. We’ve had a tremendous response to our posting and are in the difficult position of having to reject many people like you who undoubtedly have much to offer. However, we very much appreciate your interest and wish you the best of luck in your search.”
2. “Thank you for applying for a position with XYZ Company. Although we won’t be able to move your application forward (or “advance you to an interview,” or however you want to word it), we really appreciate your interest in working with us and wish you the best in your search.”
As for applications that don’t display much thought or effort: I’ve certainly heard people argue that the obligation to respond to those candidates is lower, but I can’t understand why you wouldn’t do it anyway. If you’re using an automated application processing system, you can reject everyone you want to reject with one click, and if you’re doing it manually, you can do it in two seconds by pasting in a form letter and hitting “send.” In fact, it probably takes longer if you’re picking and choosing who you’ll send the notice to and who you won’t. It’s faster to put all your to-be-rejected candidates in one place and then reject them all at once. You can either copy-and-paste the form response or, if you’re especially crafty, you can make the template one of your auto-signatures and then just choose the right one — an amazingly useful misuse of the signature function.
By the way, I wouldn’t hold “dear hiring manager” against anyone, particularly if they’ve written a thoughtful, persuasive cover letter. And if they haven’t, there’s your reason for not being impressed, not the salutation they used.