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Only shortlisted candidates will be contacted. Why?

Mark Daniel //  6 Comments

Great for those shortlisted candidates, but so frustrating for those who aren’t. Is it really so challenging for employers to respond?


Surely, it’s how you manage the candidates you don’t want that sets you apart from the others?

I understand how much time is invested in managing the successful shortlisted candidates that you want to progress through to a job offer, but you can’t ignore the people who are ‘not right’ - no matter how time poor you are.

How the shortlisted candidates rule affects jobseekers

I picked up this comment recently in a publication and have heard it many times over the last six months.

“I have submitted more than 20 email applications in the past 3 months, all individually written and addressing the job criteria and with my CV attached, having the sections relevant to the job highlighted. Only ONE employer sent a thank you for your application response. What happened to good manners? This modern trend of only shortlisted candidates will be contacted is cruel and depressing for job seekers. It takes but seconds to send a thanks, but no thanks reply and at least tells job seekers that their efforts are not falling on deaf ears.”

I often hear from recruiters that it’s due to 'the systems' they have to use becuase they are inundated with applications. 

Come on, most, if not all systems have template facilities that allow for simple rejection letters to be sent. With a bit of creativity, you can make it personal also.

The flaws in the process 

I have been experimenting recently myself to see what communication is like. I have changed the name of this person to protect the guilty.

Here's a response I recieved which is fairly typical and highlights all the problems with this method of dealing with applicants.

Dear Mark

Thank you for applying for the HR Manager role.

Marissa Glover is carefully reviewing your application and will be in touch if you are shortlisted for this role.

We aim to give our candidates the best experience possible. This means we will only get in touch if you have been shortlisted for the role.

A few issues here.

The email isn’t from the person I sent it to.

She is carefully reviewing my application after 2 seconds of it arriving ( I doubt it).

They (Not Marissa) will contact me only if I am shortlisted. If I am not shortlisted, then I can assume that I am pretty hopeless really.

How long should I wait to be sure of my total inadequacy? Another 2 minutes, 2 days, 2 weeks, 2 months, 2 years?

Standard practice 

It’s not just recruiters who use these tactics. it’s employers also.

This whole ‘only shortlisted candidates will be contacted’ policy is terrible.

Everyone deserves, at the very least, an email to let them know that their application has been received, looked at, and that they are unsuccessful on this occasion.

Generic emails aren’t great but at least in these situations, the majority of the candidates will receive a message to acknowledge that their application has been considered but unfortunately on this occasion, there was a candidate with more appropriate skills.

Another day, another role, things could be different, and we truly hope that you will apply for roles with us in the future.

Surely a bit of respect and consideration doesn’t take too much time

Am I wrong?

Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

This article was originally published on LinkedIn.

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About the Author

A global resume writer and career coach, Mark is known for his honest, direct, and hard-hitting advice, helping people manage job applications and succeed at interviews. Now based on the Sunshine Coast in Australia, he is the co-founder of Real Life Career Advice and a prolific publisher, contributing to several industry magazines and his daily career advice blog to his 45,000 LinkedIn followers.

What are your thoughts?

Leave a comment or ask a question.

  • I agree. If you are shortlisted it’s not always obvious how long you will wait to find out. So if they contact you regardless of whether you’re shortlisted or not, you will at least have closure if you’re not successful.
    Also it’s ironic that in the example you have included the employer says “ We aim to give our candidates the best experience possible.”
    After which they say they’ll only contact the shortlisted candidates. Are they kidding? How is that the best experience? Really.

    • Dash, Thanks for your comments and glad you saw the irony. My advice however is to always apply and discover at interview whether it is an company/organisation you want to be part of. Remember the decision is always yours

  • As a university lecturer, I empathized with my students who, caught in this web, were left wondering if their applications had been received, were under consideration, or had simply been deemed unworthy of acknowledgement. Now, as an applicant, I experience their dismay and disappointment.

  • As someone who has been in the hiring seat, it can be very difficult to reply to every individual application. From my experience, more than 70% of the applications I received are from people who do not qualify for the position (many just want to fill the number of jobs they applied to, so they can meet certain social welfare criteria). I have work to attend to, I can’t be sitting in front of the computer, typing out individual letters to each applicant. The best I can do is to send out a generic reply.

    • Hi JH. Sure it can be frustrating responding to candidates that don’t meet the initial role criteria, I know that, as I myself have been involved in recruitment for over 30 years (time flies). A simple ATS systems answers that quite easily and cheaply allowing you to give a first class response to any and all applicants. The other area can be setting out “knock out” questions which filter right from the start and create a barrier to progress. My final thought is based on your comment “the best I can do is send out a generic reply” I would say if that is the case, do it, it will make both you and the candidate feel better. Thanks for the response to the blog. Mark

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