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No "Thank You" - A Response to Recruiters' Insistence on Thank You Emails

Our world is certainly in need of more kindness. As violence makes headlines all too often of gun-related exchanges happening in public places, at schools, and places of worship, it is evident that we could all use more grace, benefit of the doubt, and acts of kindness. This includes the fast-paced, ever-changing job market.

I recently read an article by Jessica Lieberman for Business Insider in which she explains her reasoning for hiring based on a simple factor: The candidate sending a thank you email after the interview. Now, Lieberman’s story went viral after she published it, causing her to write a follow-up to clarify her points. This “response” of mine is in no way an attack on her, or anyone who agrees with her, but I would love to point out some broader issues with the job market that keep me from agreeing with her point of view.

First, I am consistently astonished at the attitudes of most employers, still. Evidence has long been out about how pay tendencies reflect on the different genders, races, and age groups. Black women are still paid significantly less than their white counterparts despite having degrees, certifications, and experience. Many employers still refuse to do annual performance reviews and offer raises to employees. Employees of well-established, ubiquitous companies such as McDonald’s, Facebook, and Google have staged walk-outs or other forms of non-violent protest because their executives have attempted to cover up incidents of sexual misconduct by protecting the abusers.

Yet, most hiring managers will insist that a candidate should be grateful for the opportunity to even speak to them, let alone showcase their skills in hopes of being hired. Waiting behind that cast-iron gate of the HR screening process are still major issues with employee rights and workplace culture that are just too commonplace to overlook. While employment is certainly a choice, and earning an income is a privilege, I think employers are being intellectually dishonest in thinking a candidate owes them a debt for having been interviewed. Evidence shows that most workplaces still have a lot of catching up to do in order to make their environments more safe, welcoming, and productive for all. I’d like to see that happen first, and then I can be more grateful.

Next, and Lieberman points this out in her follow-up, employers don’t necessarily have the best track record regarding communication with candidates. Before the interview can take place, a candidate’s materials (résumé, cover letter, transcripts, work samples, and the like) go through an electronic screening process where most don’t even make it to the desk of an actual human. Based on keywords and phrases used, a candidate’s file might make it to the hiring manager or not, and a lot of the factors that determine this are still based on chance. A qualified candidate could easily be overlooked by simple luck of an algorithm. If a candidate’s file does reach a human, the communication is often minimal and vague.

There might be an email to acknowledge receipt (sent by an automated system) and then sometimes a human will follow up to state that the application has been received and is being reviewed. But after that, the next form of communication either comes as a rejection email, sent anywhere from one day to one year after the candidate has applied, or a follow up on next steps in the process. I have personally completed work samples on demand, scrambled to get recommendation letters submitted, and completed lengthy questionnaires all during this phase of the process, and in many cases never even heard a response. One manager was supposed to, “call me right back” in November, and I’m still waiting on the call. Am I supposed to be “thankful” for that?

So, in short, while I agree that we need more civility and kindness in our world, and that the professional world could certainly benefit from it, I have to insist that hiring managers, recruiters, and HR personnel get real with their expectations. Instead of positioning yourselves as reigning monarchs atop thrones, perhaps try to be more relatable with the pool of job hopefuls out there who simply want to use their talents in exchange for a livable wage. There should be mutual gratitude in this exchange, where the employee has the tools and environment with which to perform their job well, and employers can be happy they took the time to get to know someone who was an excellent fit for their needs.

Antoinette is a consultant, author, yogini, and host of The Midday Reset Podcast. When she is not advising clients, authoring books, or recording episodes for her podcast, she is enjoying life with her husband and two children. Find her on Instagram @msantoinettechanel.