Avoid using “do not reply”

Today I spoke with a colleague who was puzzled. He’d applied for a position posted on LinkedIn from a very reputable, established organization. He thought he perfectly met all the criteria so was quite surprised that, after waiting almost two months for a reply, today he received a two-line rejection email. 

The sting intensified when he realized it was sent with an anonymous “donotreply” return address, and without a name or contact for him to ask “why?”. To not even get an interview was no less than shocking but then to receive such an impersonal and chicken response was insulting. 

My colleague used to think highly of this organization but now, given the way he feels he was treated, he thinks poorly of them … and is telling everyone.

Listen up, hiring managers.

It’s perfectly within your rights to screen out candidates. In fact, that’s what you’re hired to do. However, if you fall into a couple communication traps, you do yourself and your organization a disservice. 

These few tips will ensure you serve your organization well, position it as an employer of choice, and portray yourself as a professional and compassionate leader. To do otherwise risks the opposite.

TIPS to avoid communication pitfalls when screening candidates:

1) Screen and respond quickly. Don’t take two months to reply to candidates. That shouts of bureaucracy (is that really how you want to position your organization?);

2) Be a person, not a faceless identity. When you do respond, don’t do it anonymously. Reply with a contact person and title. I know you’re busy and swamped, yada yada. We all are. Have the courtesy of putting a face to your email, as you’ve asked your candidates to do.

3) Be prepared to explain your decision. Any candidates, whether internal or external, are completely within their rights to ask WHY they were screened out. If you can’t do that, it suggests that your screening process isn’t transparent and your decision unjustifiable. They may be neither of those, but without a response, that void is quickly filled with doubt and speculation. 

4) Use this as a learning experience (for both of you). When you allow for dialogue, you allow for growth. Speaking directly to candidates not only helps them prepare for their next hiring opportunity, it helps you understand how you are presenting your organization to the world. This information will in turn, help you attract and retain talent. And that helps everyone.

In short, when you’re requiring candidates to spend a lot of time submitting proposals (especially if for management and high-level positions), extend to them the courtesy of a personal response. That’s asking no more from you than you asked of them.

Communicate like a leader. Sign your name. Allow for dialogue and learning. And who knows? You might be the one who learns the most from the feedback you receive.

©2021 Marion Grobb Finkelstein

Until next time, here’s to …
Better communication, Better business, Better life,
Marion Grobb Finkelstein
Keynote Speaker / Corporate Trainer / Author
Sign up for  “Marion’s Communication Tips” at www.MarionSpeaks.com

Post your comments and reactions below. There are no right or wrong responses, just honest, respectful ones. I’d love to hear your opinion. What about this article resonated with YOU?

Marion Grobb Finkelstein

Marion Grobb Finkelstein helps leaders use their natural communication strengths to build resilient teams that talk.


  • Jacquie Parker says:

    I work in HR at a Canadian university and we have a sophisticated ATS system and hundreds of applicants for a variety of jobs everyday. We simply do not have enough manpower to provide a personallized response to all candidates. This is where the system goes to work. However, we do encourage our departmental hiring managers to follow up with applicants, and some do, but I don’t think many of them follow through with this. I think they feel that their only obligation is to those that they interviewed. I agree with this article, but there are obstacles with larger organizations.

    • Jacquie, thank you for your prompt and honest feedback. I def understand your perspective and acknowledge the struggle of workload. Please let me clarify that I wasn’t suggesting personalized emails and feedback be sent to every candidate. What I’m suggesting is that whoever it is responding on behalf of the organization not hide behind the wall of anonymity making it impossible for anyone to reply at all. You’re right, the system is broken if this is happening. So let’s fix the system.
      PS: thank you and thanks to all your HR colleagues. As a former Director of Communication for many national organizations, I leaned into the expertise of my HR colleagues often. All of you make a difference in people’s lives in many ways.

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