Respect in Recruitment: Why Does it Matter?

I often present Human Resource workshops to business leaders. In it, I explain why building a respectful workplace is essential to a business, and although everyone certainly agrees, I’m usually asked why it matters so much in the recruitment process.  The people applying are just applicants or candidates – they aren’t even employees yet.  Why does it matter how you treat someone who isn’t an employee? Why care so much? Why not expend your energy on those that have already made the cut?


When I get asked these questions, I wonder to myself: is there a magic line in the sand when people suddenly become more worthy of an employer’s respect?

They are always people.  Human beings who want to work for you. People who are asking to spend day after day pushing, slogging, creating, crafting and producing for you.  I think they are always deserving of respect.

What does it say about an employer who doesn’t bother to thank applicants for applying? It’s more than a nice touch when an applicant gets a response from a company after submitting a resume; at minimum, it confirms the resume was received and at most it indicates that the applicants is more than just a number.

Furthermore, what about companies that don’t bother to tell a candidate who has been interviewed that they didn’t get the job? These folks took the time to pick out and press nice clothing, prepare and research your company, think of answers to questions you might ask, travel (maybe even take time off of current work or arrange childcare) and in some way fit the interview into their lives, and after all that, they go through a stressful interview with you. They sit in the hot seat and try to be likeable but not too friendly, knowledgeable but not boastful, and share all the relevant details but not talk too much. Please pick up the phone to tell them they didn’t get the job. It’s uncomfortable and may not feel very kind, but it actually is.

Another opportunity to show respect to person through the recruitment process is to NOT have them go through all the interview stuff I listed above if you know they aren’t right.  Sometimes employers are on the fence about an applicant’s resume and in that case, go ahead and interview.  I’m referring to the situation where you feel you probably should interview someone for some reason other than their qualifications: maybe they are a friend of an employee or a family member of a colleague, or maybe they seemed really nice so you want to give them a shot at an interview – but in all those cases you know you won’t be hiring them, so don’t do it. You aren’t giving them a shot, it leads them on, wastes their time and really wastes yours too.

Your brand and reputation as an employer is a direct correlation to how you treat employees. Start your reputation as a respectful employer from the very beginning of the employee’s relationship. A few courtesies go a long way in setting yourself up as a respectful employer of choice.