Archive for December, 2011

Respectful Communication for Job Applicants

It is a tough job market these days.  For every open position, there are even more applicants.  A hiring manager, and their HR department, has many obligations to fulfill within their organization to fill the position.  While I understand their responsibilities, I feel they have one additional responsibility – timely, respectful communication to the job applicants.

I have a close friend who is unemployed.  He has applied for position after position, and rarely hears a thing from the companies where he is applying.  Not even a courtesy email that states “Thank you for applying but our assessment does not show that you meet the qualifications for this position.”

But what is worse, is that he has had a few face-to-face interviews and had absolutely no word back from the hiring manager or their HR department.  When a person is told that they are within the top 3 candidates for a position, they are likely putting some effort into the interview.  Why is it that a hiring manager cannot put forth a little effort to let the person know that while they were not selected for the position?

Now perhaps a mishap occurred and the need for communication fell off the radar somehow between the hiring manager and HR.  That happens.  Honestly – it happened to me once.  I came across a friend of one of the candidates weeks later and heard that they had never been told that they were not selected for the position.  I immediately reached out to the candidates personally and communicated the status of the position.  It was the respectful thing to do – even if it was a little embarrassing for me.

What’s the risk of not communicating as a hiring manager? It reflects not only on you but also on the company.  Will that candidate ever consider your company as a potential employer again? Maybe they were not right for your position but they might have been a perfect fit for a future opening. What story will they tell their friends & family? How you may not have selected them but the interview process was one of the best they have ever been through?  Or that you dropped them like a hot rock when you decided to go with another candidate?

Communicating with someone you have not selected for a position might seem uncomfortable.  It can be kept short & polite.

Dear Bob,
I appreciated the opportunity to talk to you about the open position on my team. We have finished our interview process and selected a candidate to fill the position. I hope that you will consider future opportunities with ABC, Inc as they become available.

3 sentences sent via an email or letter.  Yes, the candidate might push harder by responding and asking about other openings, or asking why they were not selected.  If they are professional, they will just take your note as closure.  If they push for additional communication, you can either reply and refer them to your HR department or your corporate website where jobs are listed.  No reason to get into a long string of emails.

There is nothing easy about looking for a job – just as it is not easy to fill a position. Why not make it as pleasant as possible by treating candidates as kindly as possible.

I am sure there might be reasons why hiring managers do not follow-up and I’d love to gain that insight.  And if you have been through an interview process and had a great or not-so-great experience with communication afterwards – please share that too.  

December 30, 2011 at 8:17 pm Leave a comment

What Managers can do to support Team Members who return to school

I am finishing my first year of the MBA program at the University of Kansas.  It has been an amazing year of hard-work, amazing educational opportunities, and a serious lack of sleep – but it has been a great opportunity for me to develop professionally.

It has really made me think about what an employer can do to support an employee who is returning to school.  Tuition reimbursement always comes to mind, but there are other things managers can do and I think they are worth talking about.  I am in a unique position to be both the team member who has become the student, but I am also a manager of teams, and looking for ways to encourage and develop them is something I think about often. 

First things first – what do you do when an employee says “I’m thinking of going back to school.”

I would start by congratulating them.  It’s a personal choice, and whether your company offers tuition reimbursement or not, there are many expenses not always covered and there is a huge sacrifice of time.  One of the first questions to ask is what type of program they are considering.  This will help you evaluate whether it is relevant to their current position or professional development or maybe a completely outside interest.  Based on that, and your company’s policies, you will want to encourage them to talk to someone in HR or another organization to find out what the policies are for tuition reimbursement or other related programs.  Finally, if you know of another employee who has undertaken an educational program while working at the company, you may encourage your team member to reach out to that person so they can learn more tips & tricks for navigating the path they are considering.

Once your team member has started school, there are things you can consider doing to help them – and your organization benefit.

Show Interest

In your 1:1s (you are having those, right?), a manager can easily ask about how classes are going or which classes they are taking.  This is an easy answer with absolutely no pressure on either person.  You could raise the stakes and ask what the student/employee has learned in a class that might be relevant in the workplace from a particular class.  This is a simple set of questions to consider from time-to-time that shows that you do care about their development.  And whether their program is directly related to their position or an outside interest, it just shows general encouragement.

Complimentary Books, Training and Assignments

You may want to consider reviewing their professional development plan for work, and talking to them about how it should be updated to take advantage of the outside education they are receiving.  For instance, if they had planned to take a professional writing class as part of their professional development plan this year at work, and their education program outside of work also requires this type of class, then maybe you should consider replacing the work-sponsored course with something else that might help the team member.  You may also want to see what other internal resources such as free training, books, subscriptions (online or magazine) might be available as a compliment to their education and development.  You may need to note that “these are some great resources you may find helpful to review outside of work” – if you don’t want to risk the employee spending work hours reading through a magazine for their MBA program, for example.

Along the same lines, there may be assignments that the team member can be given that compliment their current classes or educational path.  Taking the time to explore this idea can be worth it in benefits to both you & the team member.  You would get a team member who is learning skills in class that would make them more successful or efficient in completing the task.  You may also find that the team member has learned new ways to take the task than used previously in the company.  The team member gets the chance to use their new knowledge from class or perhaps to use the work activity as a case study for an assignment in class (assuming proprietary information is protected). 


This is a luxury that not many of us can afford.  Even the best manager in the world cannot add hours to a 24-hour day but you may consider if you can offer some schedule flexibility to help encourage your team member’s external educational path.  Now it’s a fine line to walk – because what about others in your organization who are not going to school?  I’m not suggesting that you give “Susie” an extra day off per week – but you may ask Susie if it would help if she could work 7:30-4:30 instead of 8-5 on school days, or if it would be helpful to not be on-call during finals week.  You may even just note that Susie could eat lunch in your office while you are out so she can study without distractions during her lunch hour.  None of these add a lot of work on your plate, is unfair to other team members, but your sincerity may mean the world to Susie.

Job Shadowing

Chances are that your team member’s educational choice is going to help them move towards a new position in the company.  That’s great as this means they are planning ahead and want to develop towards new, challenging positions.  A great thing you can offer (again, minimal cost) is the chance for them to meet with someone who is in that role now.  This may give the team member a chance to tailor their education plan based on real-world feedback from someone doing the job.  The team member may also find that what they thought their dream job was, really isn’t what they thought.  Good to know before they get too far into their education program.  If you can afford for the team member to job shadow, and the person in the role is willing, what a great way for the team member to have a chance to apply what they are learning.  It is much easier to learn and retain knowledge if you have a chance to apply it in a real-world situation, plus it gives you and others in the company a chance to see how the employee might perform in the role that they are working towards. 

A Chance to Share

Another way to enhance learning is to have the chance to share with others.  If it’s appropriate, you may ask your team member if there is something that they have learned in a class that they would like to share with the rest of your team or organization.  THREE BONUS POINTS FOR THIS – #1 – the employee gets a chance to not only enhance their learning by sharing but also to work on their presentation skills, #2 – the audience gets a chance to learn more about a particular topic, and #3 – the audience gets a chance to see one of their peers taking on the challenge of an educational program, and might find it is something they are interested in pursuing.

I pointed this out earlier but tuition reimbursement is a great option for employees that many managers have no direct control over.  If your company does not offer tuition reimbursement, find out what they do offer.  You may also want to help share feedback with HR if the benefits are less than supportive of developing your employees.  Educational assistance is a HUGE employee recruitment and retention benefit.  It shows employees that you want them to grow with the company.  If your HR team is worried about people taking advantage and then leaving the company, there are policies to consider to help avoid this. 

I will note at this point that my manager and organization have offered me some form of a few of the things that I mentioned.  The greatest advantage to me as a working student has been the chance to apply what I am learning in classes immediately.  My post on this topic is completely from my perspective only (as they all are) and should not be considered a “wish list” of things I wish my employer did.  They are doing just fine – I still work there, don’t I?  My hope with this post is that other managers who have team members going to school will consider how they can better support their team members while benefiting from the knowledge that is being gained.

Having a team member return to work can be a great opportunity for their professional development as well as a significant benefit to your organization.  Taking time to encourage them in a variety of ways as they go down this path can not only enhance their learning experience, but also help in building a stronger relationship between you, the team member, and your organization. 

What are some other ways a company can encourage a team member who returns to school?  What have you observed that is discouraging?

December 3, 2011 at 7:36 pm Leave a comment

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