Aug 25

Nonprofit organizations should always respond to job applicants.


According to a recent survey on CareerBuilder, a whopping 75% of job applicants stated that they did not hear back regarding a position they had applied for in the past year.

This is a huge NO NO for nonprofit/not-for-profit organizations.  I have heard numerous excuses from human resource representatives as to why they are non-responsive.  None of the reasons provided justify the silent treatment.

Excuse # 1 – They are too busy.

In times of high unemployment, there will be a flood gate of applicants emailing their applications.  Many applicants have spent significant time and energy crafting a specific cover letter, supplying work samples and possibly filling out supplemental questionnaires.  It can be extremely frustrating to the applicant if he does not receive even an acknowledgement of receipt to verify that his application was not lost in the abyss of cyber space.

HR can easily set up an application email with a generic auto-response reply.

For example:  We are in receipt of your application.  Due to the number of applicants, we are unable to contact every applicant individually.  If you are among those selected for an interview, we will contact you.  Otherwise, we wish you the best in your future endeavors.

  Fundraising aggressive organizations should also include:  “On — date, we are having our annual fundraiser event at —-.  We hope to see you there.”

Excuse #2 – You were not chosen.

Most applicants would rather get a friendly, “Thanks, but no thanks” email than the alternative — silence.  If this applicant has taken the time to dry clean a suit, use gasoline for travel to/from your office, interviewed in person with you/the panel, and sent a post-interview thank you note, the bare minimum that HR should provide is a post-interview email to provide closure.

Many HR representatives will state that they feel awkward in having to tell someone that they were not selected.  All applicants realize that there are many qualified applicants applying for only one job opening.   To provide an interview applicant the cold shoulder is outright rude and unprofessional.

Excuse #3 – They are afraid of legal issues.

In today’s litigious world, many HR individuals worry that almost any excuse can be grounds for a lawsuit.  This “silence is golden” rule is an utterly horrible public relations policy for nonprofits.

First of all, I have never heard of a single employer being sued over a generic copy/paste email informing a candidate that he was not selected.  Plus, emails are free, so you cannot use the cost of postage as an excuse either.

Here is an example of a generic courtesy email to copy/paste and send to all of your interviewed candidates.  “Thank you for taking the time to interview with our panel.  With so many qualified individuals, we had a difficult task of selecting only one individual to join our team.  Unfortunately, we decided to hire another candidate.  We wish you the best in your future endeavors.”

Volunteer aggressive organizations should also include:  “Although you weren’t selected for this position, we would like to invite you join our volunteer committee.  Please contact our volunteer coordinator at —@—.com.”

The reality – By not responding, the door is closed for BOTH parties.

When it comes to public relations, a nonprofit organization should always remember and follow this cardinal rule.

  “A nonprofit never-never-never wants to burn a bridge that it might have to cross over again!!!”

The HR representative may only view their position as the individual that recruits and retains talent for the organization.  He may not realize that his job duties can affect the public relations profile of their organization.  The following are the two biggest ways that an HR representative’s behavior can detrimentally hurt an organization.

Although the HR representative quickly forgets and cannot remember the names of the applicants who received the silent treatment, those applicants will remember your organization and how your organization treated them — FOREVER.

First, many disgruntled job applicants will be less likely to reapply to your organization in the future.  Perhaps HR interviewed a candidate and felt that he was not a good fit for the position at hand, but would be better suited for another position down the line.  That applicant would be less likely to reapply if HR was already rude to them during a prior recruitment.  This can hurt the organization’s ability to recruit future talent.

Second, every single job applicant is a potential future customer and donor for your organization.

Today, the individual may be applying to your organization for an employment position.  However, tomorrow, this same individual may win the lotto, launch the next Fortune 500 company, begin working for a potential grant funding organization and/or become best friends with the head honcho at a private endowment.  While HR may view this applicant as disposable, the head of your fundraising department is going to be pulling his hair out when he discovers that HR was rude to this potential BIG donor and/or person who can whisper in the ear of a potential BIG donor.

There are over 1 million nonprofits in the United States alone.  Every year, there is an ever shrinking pool of money available to fund the operation of nonprofit organizations.  As Federal and State grants are decreasing, the act of securing individual donations becomes increasingly more important to the survival of nonprofit/not-for-profit organizations.  Therefore, a nonprofit needs to always realize that they must build rapport with every individual that comes into contact with their organization.  This is regardless of whether that individual is a job applicant, client, vendor, ex-employee, volunteer, grant committee member, etc.

If a company treated you unprofessionally, would you want to donate to the organization?  Attend its annual fundraiser?  Encourage friends/family to donate to the organization?  Follow its social media presence via Facebook/Twitter/Email Newsletter/Website?  I wouldn’t, and I doubt you would either.

In conclusion, regardless of how ‘busy’ HR is, HR needs to take a few seconds to acknowledge every single applicant with a generic confirmation email.  You never know if an applicant may be that future big donor who will provide the vital funding which saves your organization from closing its doors in the future.

© Reina Ashley Canale, Esq., My Advice Blog, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Reina Ashley Canale, Esq. with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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