As she boldly states to other hiring managers, “you should always expect a thank-you email, and you should never make an offer to someone who neglected to send one.”
The simple rule of thank you notes
Liebman recommends this method as a trick to finding the best candidates to advance to the final stages of the interview process. She explained her make-or-break hiring rule as a way of gauging a prospective hire’s level of interest in the job, as a candidate who fails to send a thank you email likely doesn’t want the job and will end up either rejecting or ignoring the offer from the company. Additionally, Liebman says the initiative taken by candidates who write thank you emails separates them as the “good eggs” with the desired qualities of eagerness, resourcefulness, and good manners from the field of potential candidates.
While not a surefire guarantee that someone will be the perfect hire, Liebman believes that “using the thank-you email as a barrier to entry has proved beneficial" in her hiring experiences.
The arguments against thank you emails as a deciding factor
The opinion piece sparked much discussion and debate amongst readers who criticized Liebman’s barometer of receiving thank you letters as the final deciding factor for whether or not a job offer is extended to a job candidate.
The conversations that followed from both job seekers and job recruiters alike criticized Liebman’s controversial stance by discussing the realities of the job-hunting and recruitment processes, both of which can be stressful and demanding for both sides.
Job candidates brought to light how the lack of timely updates (and even instances of ghosting) from employers can taint their opinion of an organization. Seeing as it takes much time and effort for job applicants to go through multiple interviews, complete skills-testing exercises, and gathering reference checks, enduring a lack of timely communication from a potential employer signals a lack of respect for the candidate’s time and efforts in applying.
Recruiters argued that using thank you notes as an unspoken requirement to getting the job is a short-minded practice of gatekeeping which both discriminates against candidates and hinders a company’s potential. For candidates from generational, cultural, and social backgrounds where thank you notes are not commonplace in job search training, this arbitrary litmus test unreasonably disqualifies them from consideration. It’s an irrelevant hoop for all parties to jump through as it has nothing to do with the candidate’s set of skills and knowledge that they have already demonstrated or their ability to excel in the role.
HR professionals also warn against relying on thank you emails because in doing so, the biased results will skew towards people who act and think like your company's decision makers, thereby decreasing innovation and diversity in the workplace.
The simple rule of appreciating your job candidates
As much as the job interview process is an opportunity for candidates to make a lasting impression on a company, it is also the company’s responsibility to leave a lasting mark on potential candidates and hires.
HR has the unique challenge of working within today’s candidate-driven job market and maintaining a positive brand and reputation for their company. Knowing this, recruitment needs to keep up with the times by adopting a recruitment strategy of appreciating their job candidates.
What hiring teams should reconsider is the troublesome direction of establishing “barriers to entry” to eliminate candidates. Recruitment is not about creating barriers, but about creating opportunities for new talent to collaborate with your team to create results for both your organization and for their own professional development. For successful recruiting, it is key for employers to cultivate a welcoming, diverse, and inclusive environment for your current and future people. That said, hiring managers would do well to pay more mind towards reasons to hire instead of looking for reasons to not hire a candidate.
To flip Liebman’s simple rule for hiring around, employers are the ones who should take the initiative in expressing their gratitude to job candidates for their participation in the interview experience. Instead of putting the communication onus solely on the interviewee, those involved in the hiring process should send follow-ups to applicants to let them know of the status of their application, to interviewees being considered for the role to inform them of next steps, as well as to candidates who have not been selected to move forward to thank them for giving their valuable time and efforts.
This hiring practice of maintaining regular communications that is informative, genuine, and personalized, whether done manually or automated through your HRIS software, will serve your organization well in securing quality talent for your team. Your intent in hiring is to find employees that will be creating value for your company, so it is important for all of your candidates to feel valued during the process.
Now, if you do receive a thank you email from a job candidate during the interview process, see it not as a measurement of your candidate’s worthiness of working for you, but as an indicator that your company must be doing something right in your current hiring practices to warrant a thoughtful gesture from them. When it comes to finding the best fit for your organization, let the candidate’s qualifications, skills, knowledge, and cultural fit be the ultimate judge.