THE BLOG
06/01/2010 12:19 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Golden Recruiting Rules

They say you never forget your first time.

My first job requisition posting as a brand new human resources representative was back in the days when newspapers ran the listing in the Help Wanted section. From a 3 day ad, I received over 250 responses. There were the easy "no" piles: resumes with typos, resumes for positions other than the one advertised, and the occasional application from prison. Culling the "yes" pile was 1 part art and 3 parts science. Of the 250, there were 11 who were qualified based upon education and experience. I also had 30 internal applications, of whom 4 were qualified to interview.

15 candidates were brought in for first round interviews. 8 candidates were brought in for second round interviews. 3 were bro ught in for third round interviews. 1 job offer went out. When it was accepted, 14 non-select letters were sent.

The next day, I had 29 internal candidates wanting to know why they were not chosen. Two days later, I had 11 external candidates wanting to know whey they were not picked. What I thought would be so exciting and positive -- someone having a new job -- turned into a real learning experience about how to tell everyone else they were not selected. Luckily, I had a great mentor and I learned quickly what to say and what not to say. Judging from what I hear now, apparently, not all HR reps were as lucky as I.

For those rude recruiters and clueless hiring managers, here are a few of the Golden Recruiting Rules for communicating with applicants:

Thou Shall: carefully consider the position, requirements and experience prior to posting. It is irresponsible to evolve the position in the midst of the interview process because you did not take the time to plan appropriately before accepting applications.

Thou Shall: acknowledge all applications electronically, by phone or by mail. People put their hearts and souls into their resumes. Have the courtesy to let applicants know their resumes have reached you.

Thou Shall: have a realistic timeline for bringing on-board a new employee. For most candidates, tomorrow is too soon to start and 6 months is too long to wait.

Thou Shall: clearly explain the process to all candidates. People understand the concept of the selection process and know not everyone will be picked. Anxiety arises from ambiguity. Better to share the process and the timeline.

Thou Shall: set realistic expectations and avoid false flattery. Like a first date that goes well, it can be intoxicatingly exciting to speak with prospective candidates. Proceed with caution. Do not promise, or even hint that someone is at the top of the list unless you are about to hand this person a written job offer.

Thou Shall: provide honest feedback to non-selected final candidates. For those candidates not chosen, prepare in advance an appropriate response should they ask you point blank why they were not selected.

Thou Shall: give timely notice to all applicants not chosen. Once your new employee has been determined, do provide closure for the other applicants by communicating the position has been filled.

Thou Shall: treat each applicant as an individual and with respect. Especially in recessionary times, the sheer number of applications can be overwhelming. Luckily, today's technology allows for low cost, low effort electronic responses or other mailing services.

Thou Shall: keep in contact with candidates you liked. Business is built on relationships. Why start at square one when you can connect with a previous applicant who showed promise.

Thou Shall: understand that human resources is public relations. Job candidates (including their friends and their family) may be clients, customers or consumers of your organization. Treat them well to reinforce your organization's reputation.

For those job applicants still in the throes of a job search do keep in mind that recruitment is a mutual-selection process. Just as the company is looking at you, you should be evaluating the company. It should come as no surprise to you that companies who break the Golden Recruiting Rules are the same companies that do not treat their employees well. On the plus side, the economy is starting to brighten. Companies are starting to hire again. My neighbor, a bright, affable guy, after 555 days of unemployment just started his new job on Monday. No matter how many rude rejections you have suffered thr ough as of late, remember, you only need one yes. Good luck!