Ask a Recruiter: Do I Need to Thank the Applicant?

Thank Applicant

This is one in a series of Q&As with Kathleen Downs, a Robert Half Finance & Accounting vice president.  

Q.You've given job candidates advice that they should send thank-you notes after they’ve been interviewed. How important is it for a hiring manager to formally thank a candidate?

A. Sending a brief “thank you” to a candidate after an interview isn’t just important. It should become second nature. The latest data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reveal an overall U.S. unemployment rate of 5.3 percent, but the BLS also reports that the most in-demand positions have unemployment rates at roughly half the national average — or less. For accountants and auditors, for example, the rate is 2.9 percent. So it’s not surprising that, when it comes to finance and accounting roles, the best talent is at the center of a tug-of-war, coveted by competing employers. Companies no longer have to be concerned only with offering competitive salaries and benefits to woo top talent; they also have to leverage their brands. Taking the time to send a thank-you note after an interview is one way to do this.

Q. Why brands? Can you expand upon the idea of reinforcing your brand in the recruitment process, and its role in the post-interview presentation?

A. Your organization’s brand is heavily affected by the company’s reputation — for quality products and services, for customer service, and sometimes just for the way the firm treats people it comes in contact with. So be sure that people who interview with your company only have excellent things to say after they leave, regardless of whether you end up hiring them. In addition to offering the basic courtesies such as being punctual, providing clear instructions for the meeting location and offering a glass of water, sending a “thank you” to candidates post-interview doesn’t take much time — but it can significantly affect how your company is perceived.

Q. So what are the necessary elements of a “thank-you” email?

A. As it’s likely your candidates have applied for more than one position and may even have multiple offers, you should mention the basics of your meeting, including your company name and the role you discussed. Also add a recollection of a positive experience from the interview (this is where good note-taking skills come in), so candidates know your gratitude is genuine and that you’re not sending out a canned email.

Explicitly state when they’ll hear from you again, if you’re able. Candidates will be wondering when they’ll know more about the position’s status. If not, at least include something like, “We plan to make a decision soon and will let you know the outcome.”

Q. What if you’ve decided they’re not a good fit?

A. If you already know that a candidate isn’t a good fit for your organization, say so diplomatically. Thank them for their time and explain that you’ll be looking at other candidates. This is undoubtedly not the response they were hoping for, but they will appreciate you telling them upfront so they can explore other options. And they’ll appreciate the fact that you were back in touch at all. Far too many firms don’t even bother with this today.

Q. Any final thoughts? 

A. Yes. Remember that virtually everyone today, with social media, can affect the reputation of a company. So each person you come in contact with — whether it’s a customer or a job seeker — should be treated with respect. Sending a “thank you” note to candidates is part of this effort.

Kathy DownsKathleen Downs, a vice president with Robert Half Finance & Accounting, started with the company in 2000. Before that, she was CEO of a recreation/retail/education organization in Bonn, Germany. Kathleen is actively involved with a number of professional organizations within the finance and accounting field and sits on several not-for-profit boards.

Why do you think it’s important to say “thank you” to candidates after interviews? Share your thoughts in the comments below. 

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