One tip for better communication between job seekers and hiring managers

Can we talk instead of bumping heads? (Photo credit: gin_able, Creative Commons/Flickr)

A few weeks ago, we released our 2012 nonprofit survey reports, culling the responses of over 1,000 U.S.-based organizations and over 3,000 active job seekers. Together, the reports help paint a picture of today’s nonprofit sector: who’s hiring and who’s looking, trends in funding and compensation practices, and what’s posing the biggest challenges to both organizations and job hunters right now, along with a lot else.

Most surveys yield some surprising results, and these were no exception. But a few statistics that received the most attention from readers were in the area of communication between organizations and job seekers regarding application submission.

Communication breakdown?

Only 14% of job seekers reported receiving either a personalized or automated acknowledgement after sending an application, but 63% of hiring managers said they send them. Seekers also said that hearing back from and general communication with employers is their number one frustration during the search process. In the same arena, 40% of hiring managers said they dislike candidates contacting them to check on their application status.

Job seekers take time applying for opportunities and want to know as much as possible about where they stand, but many understaffed organizations already strain to keep up with the array of tasks that need attention daily, in addition to hiring. In fact, 84% of staff filling human resources roles at organizations reported wearing at least one other hat at work, the majority of them also responsible for program management or support.

Communication solution

So what are applicants and hiring managers to do? Here’s one tip we love that could help bridge the gap: the autoresponder!

Here at Idealist, we use Google for our email needs, and their handy autoresponder, Canned Responses, can be found in the Labs tab in Settings. In their words, this feature allows you to “compose your reply once and save the message text with the ‘Canned Responses’ button. Later, you can open that same message and send it again and again.” You can also, “set a filter to grab one of your saved responses, create an automated reply, and hit the Send button for you.”

So whether hiring managers want to cut down the time it takes to manually send out “Thanks for your resume! We’ll get back to you soon” emails to every applicant, or set up an email address just for applications that will automatically shoot an acknowledgement message back to the sender, autoresponders are here to save everyone time and effort as well as keep potential candidates up-to-date on their status. Additionally, Constant Contact, GetResponse, and lots of other companies produce low-cost or free versions. Autoresponders have helped us streamline our HR practices and keep our applicants in the loop.

How else can anxious job seekers and busy hiring managers find more common ground? Readers, share your thoughts!

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Comments (6)


  1. Shari writes:
    August 20, 2012 at 1:31 pm

    One thing as a past job seeker and hiring manager that I’ve noticed that can be very frustrating for a job seeker, is that the hiring manager requires very tailored and detailed documents in yet never informs the applicants that the position was filled or they weren’t considered for interviews. My employees and as I remember myself, have pointed out that if a job application is done properly, this can take a job seeker 30 minutes to 1 hour. Therefore, I believe it is the responsibility of hiring managers or HR to provide the politeness of at least keeping this applicant updated on the process. Yes, I know as NGOs we are very understaffed, but also we have to remember that if we want people with the same skills as the Private Sector, we need to do our best to treat recruitment similar to that in the Private Sector.


  2. Larry Ekin writes:
    August 21, 2012 at 9:05 am

    An autoresponder response can be helpful, but, with a little bit more effort, organizations could take another step that many job seekers would appreciate. Provide some indication of your process, even if it is only something as simple as “We plan on reviewing applications by ____ and will contact qualified candidates shortly after that. If you have not heard from us in ____ weeks, you can assume that we have filled the position.” Some organizations do provide this.

    Other information that would be appreciated: Post a salary range rather than the tired “commensurate with experience,” or, “state your salary requirement.” Sometimes I am willing to be a bit flexible. Are there internal candidates? Will applications be scanned by a computer or will humans actually provide the first review? If we apply for a position, but are not selected, does that work against us if we apply to that organization another time?

    At one time, I could pick up the phone and speak with someone who could provide some feedback; or, better yet, speak with someone prior to obtain insight into the position.

    I understand that in today’s market, these practices are probably long gone. But surely we can develop better practices than simply leaving job seekers to speculate: Was it my age? Do I have too much (or too little) experience; Did I make a spelling or grammatical mistake? Did they already have someone in mind?

    Surely we can do better than today’s whirlwind guessing game.


  3. Amy writes:
    August 21, 2012 at 4:11 pm

    It’s hard for me to understand how a potential employee does not acknowledge receipt of an application nor follow up after a position is filled. It makes me wonder about the professionalism of the nonprofit sector.

    I understand a shortness in staffing but the follow-up could be divided up perhaps, in addition to an auto-responder. Especially in today’s tech savvy environment, there are opportunities to address the weak response of a nonprofit looking to hire.


  4. Ksenia writes:
    August 24, 2012 at 7:51 am

    My favorite part of the job search process is getting your first response to an application three months after applying in the form of a rejection letter. It’s a great self-esteem motivator from a company and position you have long forgotten about. It’s like, hey, we know you probably don’t remember us, but we just wanted to remind you that you suck. Happy job hunting!


  5. Yvette writes:
    August 26, 2012 at 9:59 pm

    I can understand that hiring managers/HR might be too swamped to respond to every one that applies for a position or submits a resume but I think it is beyond unprofessional and deeply discourteous when someone is asked to come in for an interview and then never hears anything at all. In the last 8 months I’ve had interviews where I was among the final two or three candidates and never heard anything from the hiring manager. In one instance I’d gone through no fewer than 8 interviews spread out over a couple of weeks. Very poor form. There has to be a better way.


  6. April writes:
    August 28, 2012 at 1:49 pm

    Thanks for your comments, everyone. We at Idealist always appreciate hearing different perspectives and ideas, and it’s helpful to know what some job seekers are going through.

    Many of us here have had our own frustrations with the process of job searching, but want to add to the mix that there are lots of great organizations out there who want to hire outstanding people and make good communication a priority. We’re always eager to spread word of ways and means to keep this up—like our good friend the autoresponder.

    Best of luck to everyone with their searches, and do let us know when you have other good ideas.


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