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Friday, March 16, 2007

Responding to an Applicant

Hello, I am new to this board but love your site. My question is:

An applicant applied for a job that we had posted and we did not screen her in for an interview because we know that she was fired from her previous position for lack of attendance due to a drinking and drug problem. (I am from a very small town and news travels fast) I sent her a letter stating that we did not screen her in for an interview but thank you for your interest with the organization. (Policy rules to inform everyone) She has now called me and wants to know why she didn’t get screened in for an interview. I have never had this happen in all my years of working in HR. Weird.

Normally this is way easier to respond as they were clearly not qualified for the job.

What do I say and how do I say it.


HR Manager

Dear HR Manager,

Is there a reason you have to respond? Yes, I admit, that is my wimpy side coming through. (As a child I assumed that adults were never scared or nervous and they never did anything they didn't want to. I thought my mom liked doing dishes. Boy, life has been a rude awakening!) Sorry, I tend to be too stream-of-conscious.

I don't have a good answer for you. But I'm going to bump this to my online HR pals and see if we can get them to come over and give you a great answer. Kris, Deb, Lisa, Patrick or anybody else?

My desire would be to say, "We know you were fired for x,y, and z at your last job. This is why we didn't interview you," but I suspect that is not a good answer. I hope everyone responds. And I hope you still like my blog, even after I gave you a non-answer.


Duffy said...

I'm no lawyer but

"We know you were fired for x,y, and z at your last job. This is why we didn't interview you,"

would likely put you on the wrong end of a lawsuit.

Evil HR Lady said...

And that is precisely why I said it is a bad answer. Although it would be somewhat satisfying.

deb said...

most of the time, when i hear from a fellow employee that a candidate has had problems in their previous employment, there are problems with their application/resume as well. so they aren't someone i would bring in anyway. (which makes it all nice and easy.)

i honestly can't say i've had a situation where small town "gossip" precluded me from screening someone. but, hypothetically speaking?

i'd look at her application/resume and those of the people i'd screened. if there are actual qualifications that differ, i'd say that. "i'm sorry, but your qualifications didn't match those of this position". or maybe, "while we appreciate your interest, we had applicants whose background better matched the qualifications we were looking for".....or maybe work history, because if this really is her pattern then there are probably other jobs where the same thing has happened....but check it out first, because she may ask, "like what qualifications?"

if the qualifications and work history are there and the rumor mill is what kept you from screening her, i'd screen her. ask the question about attendance at that time, check her references. things may turn out exactly as you expect them to. in which case, you'll have test scores or her actually telling you about attendance or references to fall back on.

then again, she may surprise you. i've had candidates who came in with lousy work histories and told me right up front, "i was young and stupid, i made a mistake, i was partying too much, but these are the steps i've taken to get it together". i brought them on board on a provisional basis and they worked out great!

really, the best advice i can give you is not to base employment decisions on heresay. that way, you can be honest with applicants throughout the process. i like it much better that way myself.

that's the best i've got today. maybe the others have some better suggestions!

good luck! and let us know what happens!

all the best!

Lisa said...

How about along the lines of . . .we were fortunate to have good candidates to consider and when screening experience and skills with the job requirements, we chose to interview those mostr closely met the total qualifications for the position. Thank you for your interest in our company!

I am curious to see other takes on this! Have a nice weekend!

class factotum said...

I'm impressed you even responded initially. I spent a few months looking for a job after being part of a huge downsizing and most companies don't respond to general resume submissions. Some didn't even tell me to go to hell after they had flown me 1,000 miles to interview me in person. I just assumed they 1) didn't like me or 2) had found someone they liked better.

I really didn't think I had anything to gain by pressing for details. At best, I thought I would get something like, "We appreciate your interest in our company and we'll keep your resume on file." One company told me up front (in some written documentation) "We do not discuss our hiring decisions with applicants."

I don't think you have an obligation to answer her or tell her anything. But if you do, I would keep it as general and as bland as possible.

Ibn Tumart said...

The company was stupid to mandate sending her the letter in the first place, but my (non-legal) opinion is that responding to the woman's query would just make a bad situation worse.

Still, I have to wonder why the company didn't bother following up on the rumors rather than simply assume them to be so? Actually *checking the references* would have had a chance of turning up the attendance problems.

Ibn Tumart said...

This is meant for Duffy:

I don't see what grounds the woman would have for a lawsuit against HR Manager or her company.

Did you have some sort of defamation suit in mind? If so, why would the woman sue HR Manager or her company rather than the company putting out rumors of her drinking problem and shoddy attendance?

Or was there another cause of action you had in mind?

Evil HR Lady said...

I love my readers!

Patrick Williams said...

And late to the party, as usual, here comes the Guerilla.... Your safest bet is to not respond - but safe just aint our style! Candor and transparency are critical in the recruitment process. IF she's really not qualified, that's one thing, but if she's being denied just on the basis of rumor and reputation, perhaps you should invest in a formal interview to remove all the doubt and risk?

Kimberley said...

I think that you could send a form-letter style response that says something like "thank you for your recent inquiry about _________ position. At this time the position has been filled. Due to company policy we are unable to discuss blah, blah, blah..."

I once got a P.F.O. postcard after an interview and on it all that was written was the word "Sorry".

Wally Bock said...

If the HR person posting the question worked for me I'd want to know why the woman was rejected on the basis of something the HR person "just knew." "Just knew," especially in small towns, can easily turn out to be "just wrong." It's also not defensible, which is why you're afraid to write the letter.

Evil HR Lady said...

The original question asker sent me this e-mail:

Good Afternoon, sorry for the delay computer was down.....I tried to respond but can't seem to be able to reply on post comment.

If you could pass this along, here is what I wanted to post. Thanks again!

Hi everyone. Thanks for all your comments they were all very helpful. The way we found out about this person's past working performance was that one
our directors spoke to the director from which the applicant worked at and "unofficially" was informed of her past history. Word of mouth you could say. I used Lisa's version of responding to her and I got a hang up.oh well...

carol said...

I could use some help
I would like to apply for a position wiht a competing company in our area. However my boss knows everyone an everything and i'm terrified he'll find out and i'll be fired. What steps can i take to keep confidential the application

Evil HR Lady said...

You can ask the new company to keep it confidential, but there are no guarentees that they will.

Most managers don't freak out too much if they find out an employee has been interviewing. Is it liable to cause you problems?

Karen Mattonen said...

A day late, hopefully not a dollar short. I came accross this today, and thought wow, it seems quite challenging for me to understand that many are not familiar with the simple UGESP Hiring Standards.

Simply, if the individual meets the minimum objective qualifications for the interview, then one MUST interview that person.

Her history demonstrates that she has not only the experience to perform the duties and responsibilities for the position, has the required knowledge which meets the public and POSTED requriments of the Company (and hopefully the company had POSTED this job internally and externally, and had a record of these said requirements)

Not interviewing this individual because one is relying on GOSSIP and hearsay is going to put one in line for a potential discrimination, and defamation lawsuit.

What does one say? How about --
Hey, I must have misplaced your resume, I am so sorry, when can you interview, tomorrow at 8 AM Sounds good for you?

Seriously - discovery can hurt in a lawsuit - destroy electronic documents, data and notes to try to save yourself.. and you WILL be AUTOMATICALLY found guilty based upon the new laws that came about early last year. Ah, disc and tape recovery, and discovery lot simpler than many have thought to be.

Personally, it is time to recognize that relying on INFORMAL information for hiring purposes, instead of focusing on the Most important aspect.. Minimum OBJECTIVE -- (not subjective) -- Qualifications is the ONLY way that H.R should go

Karen Mattonen