I've been writing this column for nearly three years now.

While I can't claim to receive sackloads of email every time it's published, there are a few people out there who have become regular correspondents, sharing with me their comments on subjects I've discussed. I mention this not just because it is flattering to know there's someone out there actually reading this, but because recently I've had a few conversations with some quite senior candidates about a topic I covered a couple of years ago, on business ethics and professional courtesy, which elicited the most responses to date.

When respondents discuss 'professional courtesy', they focus on the lack of responses they receive to job applications or the number of unreturned phone messages they've left for people whose voicemail greetings tell them how "important" their message is and that they will "get back to them ASAP". Now, I'm a professional salesman, so over the years I've learnt to manage the objections and ultimately rejections that inevitably come along. But for many people, especially senior executives used to a certain level of authority, the experience of rejection can be a real eye-opener and sometimes rather unsettling.

Sitting here with my recruitment hat on, I can see things from both sides. For candidates looking for their next roles, the recruitment process can become all-consuming, a priority in their lives. For recruiters, it is what they do every day, dealing with lots of people at any one time. So it's not surprising that sometimes a recruiter's response fails to live up to a candidate's expectations.

The people I've been speaking to lately have highlighted the issue of poor manners. Of course, a lack of politeness is bad enough in itself, but what surprises me time and again is the shortsightedness displayed by many businesses.

One thing I've learnt over the past 25 years is that professional courtesy pays off in the long run. What is obvious to us as recruiters still seems to be a revelation to some: when you're working in a specific sector or industry, it's not only about the person you're dealing with right now it's also about who that person might have as connections.

At the end of the day it comes down to treating others in a way you'd be comfortable with yourself. No one likes to hear bad news or an outright "no, thanks", but that's preferable to the frustration of being left in limbo. Being polite and returning calls is not just about being nice, it's about being professional and ultimately protecting that most precious of things in business your reputation.