Dangers in Letters to Applicants

Where’s the danger in sending a letter to an applicant you’re not going to hire?  Or… should you send a letter to someone you’ve decided against hiring?  Should you give a letter to an applicant you are offering a job?  If you do send such letters, what should you include, and most important, what should you NOT include?

Why send letters to applicants not hired – and to applicants you are hiring?  Three important reasons:

1. Common courtesy. Applicants who make the effort to complete your application procedure deserve, at the very least, to know the employer’s reaction to their application.  This applies especially to those applicants who get interviewed.

2. Protection to you.  For applicants not hired, there is danger in making oral statements about the employment decision.  Employers and supervisors doing job interviews and hiring tend to want to avoid making statements which could hurt the feelings of the applicants.  An applicant who is a member of a protected class – a minority or a female, for example – who hears the words “I’m impressed with your qualifications” but then doesn’t get the job might believe the hiring decision was discriminatory.  The value in sending a properly written letter to the applicants is it will contain no statements which could trap the employer in a discrimination action.

For applicants who are hired, there is danger in making oral statements about the terms of employment.  One purpose of a letter to the new hire is to be sure both the employer and the employee agree on the conditions of employment.

3. Documentation.  A carefully written letter to applicants and to newly hired employees gives you additional documentation regarding employment decisions in case an applicant or new hire later files some kind of legal action stemming from the hiring process.

 

What should you put in these letters?

Keep letters to applicants and new hires brief and to-the-point.

In letters to applicants not hired, do NOT try to lessen the hurt of rejection by writing such statements as “although you are very qualified…” or “we had a hard time choosing between you and another, because you were both equally qualified…”  Such statements may open you to a charge of discrimination if the applicant you turn down (and praise as qualified) is a member of a protected class.

In letters to new hire do NOT put in any statement that implies a promise or condition that you do not intend to keep.  Do NOT put in any statement that implies a long-term employment relationship (unless you intend such a promise) or permanent employment. DO include an employment-at-will statement, if you are an at-will employer and want to preserve your at-will status with the new employee.

 

Sample Letter 1 to Those NOT Interviewed

Your application for a position with us has been reviewed.  Although you are not one of the persons we are asking to interview, we do thank you for applying with us.

Sample Letter 2 to those NOT Interviewed

Your application for the position (name position) has been received.  Many persons have applied for this position and it has been difficult for us to make a selection.  We want to let you know that we have filled this position, and thank you for applying with us.

Sample Letter 1 to Those Interviewed but NOT Hired

We have chosen another applicant for the position of (name of position).  Although you are not being selected for our present opening, I do thank you for applying with us and cooperating in the interview.

Sample Letter 2 to Those Interviewed but NOT Hired

[For the applicants not hired who do have qualifications that are impressive.  Do NOT send a letter like this unless you actually mean what is written.] We have chosen another applicant for the position of (name of position).  I want to tell you that I am impressed with your qualifications and hope that sometime in the future your qualifications will match our needs in some other position.  Although you are not being selected for our present opening, I do thank you for applying with us and cooperating in the interviews.

Sample Letter to Those Hired

[Prepare in Duplicate.  Give or mail both copies to the new employee.  Have the employee return a signed copy to you and place it in the employee’s personnel file.]

Thank you for accepting employment with our firm, in the position of (name position).

Please report to (location and supervisor) when you begin work on (date and time of day).

[A paragraph briefly summarizing income and benefits.  Example: Your starting wage (salary) is $_____ per ______. You have the opportunity to participate in our group health insurance.  Initially, you will accrue paid vacation on a pro-rated basis, so you will be entitled to up to ___ days of paid vacation after January 1.]

The employment relationship we have agreed to is an at-will relationship.  This means you may end your employment with us at any time and for any reason.  And we also may terminate your employment with us at any time and for any reasons not prohibited by law.

If you agree this letter sets forth our employment understanding, please sign and return it for our files when you report to your supervisor for work.

Thank you.  We look forward to your contributions to our firm.

(Signed by Employer/Supervisor)

Agreed and accepted:

(Signed by Employee with Date)

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