Sunday, June 12, 2011

Prospective employers should break their silence

As newly graduated college students hit the job market, they'll find themselves eager to get their foot in the door to secure interviews for prospective jobs. They've been counseled by their college career offices and former professors to get themselves in front of as many prospective employers as possible since you never know what might result from a positive interview experience.

At the same time, recently laid off workers are vying for new jobs that they'll only be able to find by first finding someone willing to interview them for a possible position.

And with mandatory retirement ages disappearing in Canada and full-retirement calculations for Social Security in the United States being raised to 67 by 2027, more and more older workers are likely to be keeping old or vying for new jobs, as well.

There's a lot of interviewing for new employment that going on and it's unlikely that the volume of activity is going to stop anytime soon -- even if the interviews don't always lead to a job.

Too often, I've noted in the past, prospective employees are left in the dark after an interview without ever getting a letter or a call to let them know they haven't been chosen for a position. Even when they're given a standard, "We'll be in touch," too often no word follows.

PJB, a reader in Southern California, took me to task awhile back for arguing strenuously that employers owe it to prospective employees to let them know if they don't get job for which they have been invited in for an interview.

"It's always better to say nothing than to say something that might cause a problem for the company," writes PJB. "Never send a job rejection in writing which contains a rationale for the decision. Several of my HR and recruiter friends have told me this is the case."

While it might be helpful for a prospective employee to know where he or she fell short of the mark, I have no illusions that most companies will take the time to give a rationale for why they didn't make a hire. But companies should take the time to tell people they brought in for an interview whether or not they got the job.

Not doing so as a precaution against potential liability seems to fall in the category of human resource departments and their attorneys spending too much time looking at whether a behavior is legal vs. whether it is right.

If every business relationship is based on any fear of potential liability that every labor lawyer or human resources director ever had, it's hard to believe anything would ever get accomplished in business. It certainly wouldn't reflect a workplace conducive to productivity.

If they're going to take the time to call someone in for a job interview, then prospective employers should make it their business to notify all interviewees who didn't get the job. Silence accomplishes little but to initially get a prospect's hopes up and then to breed ill will when no word ever comes.

Notifying prospective employees who came in for an interview is both the right thing and the civil thing for any prospective employer to do.

Jeffrey L. Seglin, author of The Right Thing: Conscience, Profit and Personal Responsibility in Today's Business, is an associate professor at Emerson College in Boston, where he teaches writing and ethics.

Do you have ethical questions that you need answered? Send them to rightthing@comcast.net.

(c) 2011 JEFFREY L. SEGLIN. Distributed by Tribune Media Services, Inc.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It's been a long time since I had a job interview. With the job market the way it is, it isn't surprising that with all the interviewing going on, that many times the prospective employer fails to notify the job prospect of the outcome of the interview. This is an ethics column so the easy answer is, the company doing the interview owes it to the job prospect to let them know the outcome of the job interview. There is one factor touched on by Mr. Seglin, the problem of possible legal liability in an interview that the job prospect may not be aware of. This doesn't negate that the company at least should notify the prospect at least about the final decision, a "yes" or "no".

Charlie Seng
Lancaster, SC

Talking Politics Over Turkey

For those wrestling with how to have a civil discussion over a holiday meal, a discussion with HKS PolicyCast