Fair or not, the problem is this: Recruiters and applicants are not speaking the same language.
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Recruiters are bombarded with resumes to such an extent that they can hardly breathe; 1300-1500 hundred resumes a month is considered a light load. There isn't time to tell every candidate, many of whom had good intentions but did not read the job description closely enough, that they didn't get the job.
Applicants can easily spend 3-5 hours trying to navigate an application system, only to never hear back from the recruiter at all. Given the number of fly-by-night job websites that share vacancy announcements, applicants may begin to feel that maybe the whole process is just a way to gather private information, like social security numbers and verifications included for I-9 applications. Maybe there isn't really a job even available. Then, when all they get is a no-reply email – or more commonly, nothing at all – those negative feelings continue. So applicants strike that recruiter off of their list.
The solution: Hire a "denial diplomat" whose whole job is to bridge the gap between the recruiter's overload and the applicant's skepticism.
Communication with applicants is invaluable. People will take rejection, but they need to know something. Even going out on a Saturday night and attempting to meet someone new brings rejection – but it is a response, and it is accepted pretty quickly because it is made clear. That, in the recruiting office, is the sole duty of the denial diplomat, or DD.
Recruiting agencies have to watch the bottom line, so hiring a denial diplomat may look like a luxury. However, the position is entry-level, it can be given to an intern, it can be part time, or it can even be outsourced through sites like FlexJobs or Upwork, thereby keeping the cost of a DD reasonable and within the company's budget.
Once the decision to hire a denial diplomat – specifically someone with strong writing skills – is made, the workflow is easy. Recruiters send a batch of denials to the DD. Denials can take the shape of a simple electronic form from the recruiter: candidate email address, first name, position sought, and a comment about the strengths of that candidate, as well as any glaring weakness. The rest can be a form letter. The DD sends the letter (not the form, but an actual letter) complimenting that candidate on their strengths or offering gentle suggestions for improvement and informing the candidate that they did not get the job.
The DD signs it and sends. Any recruiting manager can check the DD output file by request, since each DD would BCC themselves into the letter. Once the DD has done this several times, they will have a number of "adaptable templates" to use in future denial correspondence, thereby speeding up the denial process.
4. Response Management
Undoubtedly, the DD will get responses to their letter, but that is better than not replying to candidates (or not allowing candidates to reply). If a legal issue comes up (a threat or complaint), the DD can send that to the originating recruiter, who should be more knowledgeable about the legal specifics. Otherwise, the DD can either send one more placating email, or simply delete the hostile response. Any recruiting manager can request access to the DD file to determine that denials are being sent as an evaluation measure of the newly hired DD.
Overall, a denial diplomat – one who can write with both compassion and firmness – can save both the reputation and the time of a harried recruiting agency. What's more, the DD can foster more loyalty from candidates. Even if they don't get the job, candidates feel valued when they receive responses. A DD position will open the door to further recruiter training and advancement for that candidate, and a bond of respectful communication between the agency and its candidates will ensure the highest quality candidates will come back and try again.
All because someone took time to tell them "no" – gently.
Dr. Thomas Eaton serves as a project coordinator and lead writing associate for Empathinc: A Public Writing Center.