A reader writes:
After reading the column about hiring salespeople, I wondered about one aspect of email — return receipts.
I don’t generally ask for a return receipt, but I had one boss who liked them. One HR manager I had used them on the policy-related emails. I’ve also dealt with a lot of academics who seem to request return receipts automatically, perhaps because they want to know if students have gotten the message (or not).
How do hiring managers feel about email follow-ups and thank yous that request a return receipt? Do they want to show they’ve read an email even if they don’t respond? Are they willing to deal with one return receipt on a follow-up, but don’t want to see one on a thank you after an interview? Or are receipt requests from applicants just verboten in the hiring process?
I wouldn’t use return receipts in the hiring process (or ever, really). They’re vaguely rude and demanding — they imply that you don’t trust the person to follow up with you appropriately, and that you’re looking for “proof” that the message was received and read. Alternately, they can also come across as a little desperate — like you need to know the instant I read your email because you’re doing nothing but focusing on this job.
Plus, while some people have their mail programs set up to send receipts automatically when requested, not everyone does — and for people who don’t, you’d be requiring them to manually okay the sending of the receipt, and that’s annoying.
Also, return receipts can be wrong. For instance, I have my email set up to automatically move any incoming emails that contain resumes into a special folder. Because they’re being instantly moved out of my in-box, some mail programs will send receipt-requesting senders a message that I deleted their email. I didn’t; it was just instantly moved somewhere else. But then I get emails saying, “I got an email saying you deleted my email within seconds of receiving it.” I then have to respond to that, which is annoying … and it also leaves me thinking, “Why the hell are you monitoring how I handle my mail, and — even weirder — confronting me about it?”
Trust that your emails are being received and don’t insist on proof.