Take Your Auto Response from Boilerplate to Brilliant

Take Your Auto Response from Boilerplate to Brilliant

When it comes to the auto response email your ATS sends out, most employers are missing the chance to set expectations and create a positive perception of their company.

Most of them sound utilitarian and bureaucratic. They fail to engage the candidate. The good news is that this can be easily remedied with a little creativity.

Take this example, currently being sent by Standard Innovation Corporation:

Hey! Guess what? Your resume made it! We got it! It’s here!…Granted, no one has looked at it yet, this is just a nifty automated message telling you that it made it across the internet.

We’ll review it and get back to you should we need you to make the journey to our office for an interview. We apologize that we can only respond to applicants who are selected for an interview. Worry not however, we’ll hang on to your resume for at least 6 months and will be in touch if something suitable comes up during that time. Don’t hesitate to send us updates.

Thanks for your interest in joining our team!

Human Resources

Standard Innovation Corporation

Isn’t that a refreshing way to greet a candidate? It sure beats the boilerplate response that most companies use. It’s short, personable, fun, and sets a great tone for the candidate experience.

Here’s another example from Fog Creek Software:

Hurrah! We have received your job application. At least, we think it’s yours. It is possible that someone who thinks very highly of you is forwarding around your resume while pretending to be you. That’s not a bad thing, is it?

In any case, this is an automatic email, sent by a mindless robot, to let you know that we’re absolutely thrilled that you would be interested in working for Fog Creek Software. We’re very honored.

Even though this is an automatic email, it’s not the usual blah blah, so please read on!

First of all — what to expect? Well, it may take a week or two (or even three or four as our volume of applications have increased) before a developer gets around to reviewing your application. We’re a small company, and to be honest sometimes eating lunch seems more important than reviewing resumes. But we will assure you that a real live human being, not an automated computer zapper program, will review your application carefully, and only after drinking plenty of coffee and getting lots of sleep and exercise, and under no circumstances will we reject your application because you lack ten years of experience in a technology that was invented only last year.

Next — yes, you will hear back from us. It is our policy to reply to all applications, even if we have to send you an unpleasant “go away, you smell bad” letter. We always tell people when we’re rejecting them for olfactory reasons.

Now, this bit is really important: PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE make sure that when you reply to us, you reply to this email (or at least preserve the subject line with our case ID number in it). We keep track of all this stuff in FogBugz and that ugly case ID number in the subject is the only thing that keeps us sane.

Finally — there’s probably some additional information we need to consider your application:

(1) Where you’re located in the world

(2) A phone number where you can be reached

(3) If you’re a college student or recent graduate, providing us with your GPA and any standardized test scores (SAT, ACT, GRE, etc.) will greatly enhance your chances.

(4) How you heard about the position you’re interested in

(5) For applicants residing within the United States: Whether or not you have the permanent, unrestricted, legal right to work in the United States

(6) For applicants residing outside of the United States: Whether or not your workday overlaps New York afternoons (1700 – 2200 GMT)

(7) Expected graduation date (internship applications)

If you forgot to tell us any of these things, just hit “reply” and let us know now.

OK, for an automated bot, I’m rather talkative, aren’t I? I’ll shut up now, and I assure you that I look forward with zeal to tracking down a developer, interrupting his or her lunch, and making him or her review your application.

— The Recruiting Robot at Fog Creek Software


Not only do they take you through their hiring process, they give you tips and reminders about what they need from you in order to be considered. The playful tone and use of the ‘mindless robot’ metaphor really makes you smile when you read it. Sounds like a great place to work, right?

Since the auto responder is usually the first communication between candidate and employer it makes sense that it should be a fun, personable message. And it won’t cost you anything which is the best part. Crafting a well thought out message requires only your imagination.

Here are several ways to do just that.

  • Personalize it. Include the applicant’s name and the position he/she applied for. Most ATS’s offer this kind of ability. (If you only use an email for resumes this won’t be possible so start your auto-reply with a creative opener like the examples above).
  • Ask for referrals. By asking your candidates if they have any friends looking for work you may be able to get some additional applicants coming in the door at no additional cost. Mention some of the other job openings you have and provide links to them inside the email.
  • Provide further information. Describe your hiring process and/or detail any important contacts that the candidate can use to follow up. Set their expectations in terms of what will happen to their resume once they submit it.
  • Keep it fun. Your auto response is a part of the your recruitment marketing mix. Use it to sell the candidate on why they should work there. Keep it playful. Boring not required! Mention some of your perks, awards, or other interesting things that makes your company unique.
  • Brand it.. If possible, include your company logo in the email so you can maintain your online branding.When I used iCiMS at my last role we were even able to include a HTML based header and footer with some additional graphics and links. Depending on your ATS you may or may not have this ability but it helps if you can. A well-designed email says that you took the time to make it look good. Candidates will notice that.
  • Promote your social channels. Use the email to also promote your social media accounts. Perhaps including a P.S. that tells them to follow you on Instagram, etc.
  • Hire a copywriter. Leave out overused phrases like “Your resume will be reviewed…” If you don’t fancy yourself a good writer, look to hire a one. You can surely find creative freelance writers on sites like Fiverr.

I hope these tips will encourage you to make your auto-response better. Give your email a refresh and make candidates love you more.

About the Author Chris Russell

Considered the 'mad scientist of online recruiting' by his peers, Chris is an entrepreneur and former corporate recruiter based in Connecticut. When not writing you might find him bass fishing from his kayak on the lakes & rivers of New England.

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