A major challenge of being a recruiter is handling all of the applications that come in.
It all comes to a head when you have to deal with candidates that you aren’t interested in hiring. While you no doubt want to invest most of your time and effort into the candidates that you are interested in, it’s not fair or right to ignore the people that don’t quite fit your needs, no matter how time constrained you get. These are real people that are making a real effort to find a job. They have spent a lot of time and effort of their own putting together their application, as this story from Alan - a commenter on a Daily Telegraph article - highlights.
Alan sent out over 20 email applications in three months. Each application was individually written to address the job criteria with a CV attached. The CV also had relevant sections highlighted. He had clearly gone through a lot of work to do all this, but he only heard back from one employer who sent him a simple thank you note. Ignoring anyone but shortlisted candidates can be depressing for job seekers. It only takes a few seconds to send a simple, courteous, “thanks but not thanks” message that would at least tell a jobseeker they aren’t talking to a brick wall.
This is a problem with recruiters, who have their own systems and processes for dealing with the thousands of applications sent to them. But recruiters aren’t the only ones falling short. Employers also fail to treat their applicants with the proper respect. Really, the whole policy of only contacting shortlisted candidates is terrible. Everyone deserves to get an email that tells them their application has been received and reviewed, but their application has been rejected, at the very least.
While it’s true generic emails are mostly useless, they do at least tell an applicant that their application was considered. Nobody is perfect, and applications slip through the cracks all the time, but it helps to remember that every candidate, every single, deserves to be treated with some consideration and respect no matter how appropriate they are for the job.