It’s time for a job applicants’ Bill of Rights

“Dear Applicant, we regret to inform you….”

I’m a professional. I have a name. But like new college graduates and those long in the job market, I have found that employers show little respect for the qualifications of “applicants” and the effort demanded of them.

What happened to simple business etiquette? Am I wrong to assume that potential employees should be treated with dignity and respect?

No. Communicating with applicants by name and informing them of their status in the process should be the minimum standard. How hard can it be to input an applicant’s data and respond with a “Dear Mr. Libman”?

With today’s technology, no one can argue that attaching a name to an address is too hard. At the same time, potential damage to the organization’s reputation justifies effort. How a company handles the job application process speaks loudly about what it would be like to work there. Why employers do not understand that crucial leadership point confounds me.

My experience is common. As our economic downturn enters its fourth year, employers should consider the huge toll it takes each day on those applying for jobs. Some employers do respect applicants. Unfortunately, they are the exceptions.

These scenarios will sound familiar to many who have endured demoralizing responses from potential employers: “Sorry, we never received your cover letter and résumé. Our servers were down that day, and can you please resend it?” You resend, wait and hear nothing.

Universities can be the worst offenders. They use outdated software and send responses that say, “If you do not hear anything else from us, you should assume that you have not been selected to advance in the search process.” Is that the best you can do? Why human resources departments cannot answer phones or return messages about the status of a search makes no sense to me.

I can see how my tale can appear as ranting. The larger point is that poor treatment of job applicants is a metaphor for the issue of poor management. If an organization behaves this way with some of the most critical decisions an organization can make—the hiring of key leadership—then how will it approach things that are perceived as less important?

Lack of respect for anyone is an unwanted element in any brand. Is the value of management understood? Are patrons and the public whom we ask to support us treated with the same high-handed manner that we treat our potential leaders?

Here’s a starting point for what I propose as an Applicants’ Bill of Rights:

• Every person who applies for a job should be notified that his or her résumé has been received and what the search process will be.
• Candidates not advancing to the interview stage should be informed of that fact via a letter or email.
• Candidates not advancing beyond an initial phone or personal interview should be informed by call and told why they are not advancing. The process of seeking new work when one is unemployed is challenging.

Is it really asking too much for a prospective employer to be a bit more sensitive and not respond with “Dear Applicant”?

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