Ask any salesperson how important that rapport is and the smart ones will tell you it's essential. They'll also let you know that the building of that rapport starts long before the sales process itself.
It starts with your advertising, your social media presence, the face that your company displays to the world with your logos, your delivery trucks and your shopfronts. Every little interaction adds or subtracts from the accumulated rapport "balance" that your new customer walks in with next time they're looking to buy.
One way in which many people interact with your organisation is through the recruiting process.
Finding new employees can be hard work. Most managers, at one time or another, have had to deal with literally hundreds of applications for a role. Many of those applying turn out to be ridiculously unsuited to the position. You would swear that half of them haven’t even read the position description or, if they did, they ignored it and applied anyway.
This has led many recruiters to add a little tagline at the end of so many job ads: "Only shortlisted candidates will be contacted".
It doesn’t matter whether you’re a baby boomer or a millennial, being ignored sucks. Because that is what this tagline asserts. If we don’t think you’re right for this role, we’re going to ignore you. That’s as bad for your business as the salesperson who ignores a customer in the showroom who doesn’t look like the right kind of customer.
That applicant may not be the right person for the job just as that visitor to the showroom may not buy from you today, but when did it become acceptable to ignore them? In the best possible circumstances, that candidate, or that customer, will walk away with a neutral record of that interaction. However, most of the time they will simply add a few points to the debit column of that rapport balance that your sales team is going to need sometime in the future.
It doesn’t matter how awful that candidate was – you need to acknowledge them. You need to do it promptly and you need to do it carefully, tactfully and positively.
Step one is the easiest – an automatic reply. This at least lets them know that their application has arrived. Thank them for applying to work with you at your organisation.
Step two is also easy. Another automatic reply that goes out a couple or few days later, depending on the number of applications you’ve received, that lets all candidates know that you’re reviewing them all. You might also indicate, at this point, that given the quality/quantity of applications, not everyone will make it to interview. Thank them again for wanting to be part of your team.
Once you have identified those applicants who are definitely not going to be interviewed, step three kicks in and another automatic email goes out to them explaining how and why they won’t be coming in. Sure, there are some applicants who know they were reaching a bit for this role but there are others who seriously thought they were perfect for the job. Treat them gently because there’s a chance that they may be great for a lesser role down the track. If so, you don’t want to push them away too brusquely.
Many organisations already have some canned text for this, and that’s certainly better than nothing, but try and tailor the email to this particular role if you can. Also, most online job portals now feature this sort of email automation functionality for free.
By this stage, you should have a reasonably strong field to consider for interview and it’s then up to you to decide how you want to communicate with them. Whether it’s email, letter, phone or carrier pigeon the same mantra should apply. Do it promptly and do it carefully, tactfully and positively.
Yes, it’s true that sometimes this can backfire on you. I had a candidate once who, after receiving my “Stage Two” email, sent me a blistering two-page reply that questioned my ancestry, my parents’ marital status and my ability to tie my own shoelaces. But this was once out of literally thousands of replies over a couple of decades of recruiting for all sorts of employers great and small.
It’s also true that it’s often so much easier to do nothing. But think back to the last time you applied for a role or, if like me you have teenage kids, you might notice the disappointment they experience when they apply for a job at their favourite store and they hear absolutely nothing.
The investment you make in a few seconds per candidate is worthwhile. It’s good for your organisation because it adds to long term rapport, it’s good for the candidates as it helps validate their choice in your organisation and it’s, ultimately, good for you because it’s simply the right thing to do!