Treat Job Applicants With Courtesy – It’s Free PR!

Job Interview

It never ceases to amaze me how many businesses and organisations seem to see public relations as remote from other business functions. It’s wheeled out on special occasions instead of being woven into every aspect of a business.

Effective PR is as much about the way a receptionist answers the ‘phone as it is about fancy campaigns or media coverage. Recruitment etiquette is the latest example of businesses and organisations forgetting that PR isn’t just for shouting about an award win or attracting new customers.

In just 24 hours I heard of two people badly let down when applying for jobs. In both cases the organisations that treated them poorly have spent thousands of pounds on marketing and public relations. But when common courtesy goes out of the window so does the money you’ve invested in PR and your reputation could be tarnished.

In one case a young woman was pleased to be invited for an interview. She attended the interview and has heard nothing since – not an email or ‘phone call to explain why she didn’t get the job. I heard the story second hand so how many more people know about her poor treatment?

The other example happened to someone who is a talented and experienced marketing professional. When a job came up with an organisation she knows well – she’s actually a valued customer – she applied. She felt confident she’d be called for an interview. However, the interviews are scheduled and she has heard nothing. The irony is that the role was in the marketing and public relations team!

So how do you ensure that recruitment and PR are synchronised?

1. Treat applicants as you’d like to be treated

Prospective employers are impressed with an applicant who goes that extra mile so why shouldn’t the reverse be true? Sarah Stimson runs the Taylor Bennett Foundation PR internship and tells her interns about the importance of politeness. One employer rang Sarah to say that one of her interns stood out in a job interview because he was the only graduate who had written to thank him afterwards for his time.

Equally a prospective employer who follows up after an interview, thanks an applicant and gives constructive feedback will be remembered and talked about. If you’re impolite and don’t contact an applicant they will still remember you and talk about you – but for all the wrong reasons. Expensive PR and marketing will be a complete waste if a disgruntled applicant posts their bad experience with your business on social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook.

2. Invest in some admin support – it brings PR value

How many businesses say that they don’t have the resources to reply to all applicants? Yet, those same businesses will have budgets for advertising, marketing and PR. If you have 800 applicants for a job and they each receive a personalised thank you email they’ll do your PR for you. Invest in some additional administrative support – using your marketing or PR budget if necessary – if you don’t have the staff or time to do it. Ask yourself, can I afford not to make this investment?

3. Manage expectations

In these tough times job seekers may be applying for scores of jobs and knock backs are demoralising. Graduates have to apply for unpaid internships and placements to get the necessary work experience for their CVs. Make sure that the recruitment information on your website is up to date with the latest information about vacancies.

Some big names in competitive sectors can be the worst offenders here. For example Penguin Books offer work placements but it’s only after you’ve submitted an online application, attaching your CV and covering letter, that you’re told they’re not accepting anyone at present!

If you really can’t reply to all applicants, if you don’t take speculative CVs or offer work experience then make that clear on your careers or recruitment page. If you offer work experience or internships but applications are closed then your website should say so otherwise people are wasting their time.

Yes, it’s a buyers’ market and hundreds of people will apply for each vacancy. However, it doesn’t excuse rudeness and just think of the positive PR from treating job seekers well. I’m sure that there are lots of other examples, good and bad, out there.

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Carol Arthur is senior account director at Northern Lights PR. A trained journalist with wide-ranging experience in business, education and consumer markets, Carol has worked in or headed up the PR departments of two colleges - the North Eastern Co-operative Society and Northumbria Tourist Board. A graduate of Common Purpose, Carol is currently regional chair of the CIPR, the industry’s professional body. She is a member of the PR degree employer advisory panel at Leeds Metropolitan University. Carol is an active supporter of local charities and the community helping with fund-raising and PR activities.