I find the job search process to be convoluted and frustrating. That said, I remain steadfast in my conviction that seemingly minor changes throughout the process can make a big difference—especially when it comes to how employers communicate with applicants from the outset.
I offer six specific suggestions on how employers can communicate with prospects early on in the process, which at least for me would reduce anxiety.
1.Be clear about the application deadline in the announcement. A specific date is wonderful. I’ve also seen language along the lines of “applications received by (insert date here)” will be considered first, which is less clear than “the deadline is” yet nonetheless offers the applicant an incentive to submit their materials sooner without closing the door entirely on responding after the soft deadline.
2.List the specific materials to be included (i.e., resume, cover letter, names and contact information for three references). Be clear about the formatting of each document (e.g. attached to the body of the email message, saved in Microsoft Word). In one instance I was asked to combine several documents into one PDF document to apply for a position.
3.Specify what the applicant MUST have by way of experience, skills, education, competencies, or personal attributes. In other words, let the applicant know that if they don’t have an MBA (for example) their submission will not be considered. I’d rather know up front what’s necessary as opposed to nice to have so I can spend my time seeking positions that might be a fit (while avoiding those that clearly are not based on my background).
4.Once an application is submitted, please confirm that it has been received.
5.State the hiring timeframe (e.g., “the start date for the position is April 15”).
6.Indicate how candidates will know where they stand in the hiring process. For example, “we will be in touch by (date) if we’re interested in speaking with you further about the position.” Even more direct is “thanks for applying for the position. We’ve decided to move ahead with other candidates. We’ll keep your resume on file and be in touch should appropriate opportunities with our organization become available.”
There’s still the sting associated with receiving a “thank you, but we’re not interested” note, yet knowing is better than not knowing as you avoid investing energy (and time) wondering if you’re still a candidate for that job you applied for three months ago.