6 Things You Need To Know About Unresponsive Employers

6 Things You Need To Know About Unresponsive Employers

by Kerry Scott on 10 August 2009


Last week I posted about candidates who are angry with companies who don’t respond when they apply and/or interview with companies.  The comments were interesting, and I started to reply…but it turned into a list.

First, let me be clear:  Every employer should respond to every resume submission, and follow up after every interview.  While it’s not as automated as candidates seem to think (because most companies actually do not have these fancy applicant tracking systems you keep hearing about), it’s not that hard to set up an email auto-reply for resume submissions, even if you’re just using Outlook or something.  There’s no excuse for not doing it.  As for companies that don’t respond after an interview—well, that just blows my mind.  It’s not physically possible to interview so many people that you can’t send them a canned rejection email, at the very least.

This list, then, isn’t meant to make excuses for these people.  There’s no excuse.  They should always respond.  But there ARE some things you should be aware of:

  1. Stuff gets lost. If you didn’t get a response to your resume, it’s possible that it’s because they didn’t receive it.  It happens.  That’s one more reason it’s up to you to avoid depending entirely on technology to get the job.
  2. Your spam filter might have eaten it.  When I was recruiting full-time, I’d get at least one angry phone call/email a month from a candidate who was mad because she’d never heard from me after applying or interviewing with us.  Each time I was mortified, and each time, I checked my “Sent” folder to see if I’d sent them something.  In my 14 year career, only once did I find that I’d failed to send the candidate the email (and that was because I’d spelled the email address wrong—duh).  Before you fire off a letter to the errant employer, check your spam folder.
  3. The recruiters lost their jobs months ago. When companies stop hiring, they often lay off all of the recruiters.  Most of the recruiters I know are out of work right now.  The HR people you’re dealing with now are often not recruiters, but HR generalists (people who handle stuff like sexual harassment complaints, terminations, people who can’t get along with their managers, etc.).  I only know two HR generalists in the whole world who actually like recruiting.  They’re often doing their regular job in addition to the recruiting job…and they also don’t always know how to work the applicant tracking system, if there is one (that’s the big database your resume goes into).  This is pretty much a recipe for a bad candidate experience.  I’m not making excuses for them, because having a sucky job is not a license to be rude.  I do, however, think that’s part of the reason that so many people are being treated poorly by companies right now.
  4. The worst part of recruiting is the managers (at least a few of them).  I pretty much loved everything about recruiting.  The only thing I didn’t love was working with incompetent hiring managers.  Every so often, I’d get one who just couldn’t be bothered to actually fill the job.  He’d insist on running an ad, and we’d get all these resumes, and then he’d sit on them.  And sit.  And sit.  And I’d bug him daily, and weeks (even months) would go by, and this idiot keeps saying, “I’m too busy to look at the resumes.”  He won’t let me just pick some and screen them—no, only he can do it.  Then, when we finally get to interviews, he can’t make a decision.  We’d agree up front that we’d make a decision within a week of the last interview, and this guy couldn’t do it.  By then he’s not returning phone calls, so I’m stalking him in person…only he’s “too busy” to decide.  People always think it’s the HR person who is responsible when they’re not getting an answer back.  That’s just not always the case.
  5. HR people don’t hire. Hiring managers hire.  The hiring manager is ultimately responsible for filling the job.  HR people do not hire anyone. They’re in a service role, serving the managers by helping them hire effectively.  That’s why when you’re following up after the interview, you need to do so with both the HR person AND the hiring manager.  If the HR person is the problem, the hiring manager needs to know that you’re not hearing back (in the same way that the store manager needs to know if a cashier treats you poorly…because that HR person serves the hiring manager).  If the hiring manager is the problem, the HR person needs to know so that she can shake things loose and get the process moving.  But if you’re directing your anger at the HR people, save some of the person who is actually responsible for filling the job:  the hiring manager.  Hold them accountable as well.
  6. If you have a bad experience, speak up. Tell your friends.  Companies who treat candidates like crap need to be held accountable.  I knew one person who had an experience so bad that she wrote to the company president (and really, the circumstances in that case were so extreme that he really needed to know).  The worst offender got fired as a result, and she deserved it.  It’s very easy these days to share your experiences, good or bad…and companies who haven’t figured that out yet are in for a rude awakening.

Photo by skycaptaintwo

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Sabrina August 10, 2009 at 4:00 pm

First off, I really want to know the story behind #6. *pulls up a chair and quietly munches on popcorn*

Second, I don’t blame just HR. I blame the whole company. LOL In my instance that I commented on the previous post they re-posted the job a few months later. HAHAHAHAHA clearly found someone that couldn’t have done the job as well as I could. Or that’s what I tell myself.

Thirdly, I got a “rejection” email last week. Nothing too bad, and really I didn’t think I would be a good fit anyway for several reasons. Well at the bottom of the email he sent me a coupon for their services. It was actually useful not like “$5 off some insane trendy service that no one without a job would ever use” type coupon. I thought it was nice, beats a rejection letter without a coupon! :)
.-= Sabrina´s last blog ..G.I. Joe: A Review =-.

Kerry Sandberg Scott August 10, 2009 at 4:21 pm

On number 6—let’s just say the interviewer thought it was a good idea to comment on the candidate’s “nice rack,” along with some comments about her Asian ancestry. I would have liked to use it as a Tale of the Cluefree, but the comments are actually too offensive for me to print.

Sometimes the reason they post the job is that they’ve let the candidate pool sit for so long that they figure it would be best to just start over. They just assume that all of the good candidates have already found jobs. It happens a whole lot more frequently than you might think.

The coupon thing is either brilliant or horrifying. I’m trying to decide which.

Carla August 10, 2009 at 4:31 pm

Regarding #6, I have gotten some inappropriate complements during an interview once or twice, but that was the worst of it.

Because I’m “only” an assistant, I expect not to get the same amount of attention as someone who’s applying for a position higher up. A recruiter may get hundreds of resumes for a particular position I’m applying for. With that said, it bugs when when I not only have a first interview, but a second and never hear from them again. Even after the thank you note, follow up phone call, etc, they vanish into think air.
.-= Carla´s last blog ..Link Love – Cleaning Day =-.

Kerry Sandberg Scott August 10, 2009 at 4:42 pm

Filling an assistant job is just as hard as filling a management job. Sometimes it’s harder. You absolutely deserve the same courtesy as anyone else.

I had a company who tried to recruit me for an HR job when I was pretty high up in terms of my career level…but I remembered how they treated me in the early 1990s, when I was a candidate for an assistant job. Level shouldn’t have anything to do with basic courtesy.

I have to say, it’s really blowing my mind how many of you are not hearing back *after an interview*. I thought there were isolated incidents here and there, but this is sounding way more widespread than that. Amazing.

Lisa August 10, 2009 at 5:56 pm

What about when you go to an interview, it seems to go OK, get told you will hear something soon, and THEN see the job re-posted on Craigslist with a couple of semi-snarky comments (not pointed toward me necessarily, but still…)? Isn’t that pretty rude?
.-= Lisa´s last blog ..I Can No Longer Deny It. =-.

Kerry Sandberg Scott August 10, 2009 at 6:05 pm

Yep, that is pretty rude. I can see re-posting if you have to start over for some reason, but everyone should be rejected first, and snarky remarks don’t belong in ads, period.

abdpbt August 10, 2009 at 7:39 pm

Oh sure, blame the poor blameless hiring managers. Listen, we all know that HR people are the devil’s minions, Kerry. Why don’t you just come clean? ;)
.-= abdpbt´s last blog ..16 Things You Might Find Yourself Shocked To Discover Have Happened While You Were In The Shower, Provided You Are The Parent Of A Two-Year-Old Boy =-.

Tim G August 10, 2009 at 9:08 pm

It’s true, there are some HR people who get called to the dark side, but even they would enjoy sending an evil rejection.
I have seen several benefits of conscientious communication to candidates. If they are consumers of your product, they may remain so even if rejected. If they believe they are a good fit for the culture, they work harder for the next opportunity to get in. They can learn from their rejection, even though we would rarely say anything other than “there were better-qualified candidates”. Sometimes these are the people who make it on the third try and are dedicated to making the job work once they get in.
.-= Tim G´s last blog ..5 Everyday Risks =-.

GeekChic August 10, 2009 at 10:33 pm

I’m like Sabrina in that I tend to blame the whole company when these communication failures occur. Even if the problem is solely with HR or the hiring manager, the company is just as responsible for permitting this situation to exist and continue.

That said… I haven’t had these types of problems come up that often (I don’t get a response to every resume, but I don’t expect it). Usually the people I’ve dealt with have been very helpful and even when I’ve been rejected have been willing to provide feedback. One place that I interviewed at even contacted me several months after I was rejected to see how my job search was going and was very pleased to hear that I had accepted a new position somewhere else!

novice_hr August 11, 2009 at 12:10 pm

wow GeekChic, that’s pretty amazing regarding the feedback that you received! I’ve never once been successful at getting feedback from employers that I’ve interviewed with.. are you doing something that I’m not doing? =*)
.-= novice_hr´s last blog ..Unemployment rate finally drops… =-.

GeekChic August 11, 2009 at 9:47 pm

I’ve worked really hard to not take the job rejections personally – though, of course, they are personal to a degree.

I usually send a card after the rejection stating that I appreciate their [timeliness in responding, opportunity to come up and meet them, constantly keeping me in the loop, etc.] and wishing them luck with their chosen candidate. After I do that, I wait about a week and call the hiring manager to see if they would be willing to give me any feedback about what I could do better (I should note that I practice these calls with a friend before I make them to make sure I sound neutral and confident).

Most of the time, the hiring managers have been willing to give me some feedback about my resume or my interview. The one place that called me to see how my job search was going was completely unexpected.

It’s not easy doing these things while hunting for a job. Rejection can be very tough to take – especially repeated rejection. I’m fortunate to have supportive friends and family who will let me vent so that it doesn’t come out when I’m talking to potential employers.

Kerry Sandberg Scott August 12, 2009 at 6:59 am

Geek–that’s an interesting approach. I would think that hiring managers would be way more likely to give you the feedback, since they tend not to be as liability conscious as the HR folks.

Ronnie Ann August 12, 2009 at 1:26 pm

Kerri…I am soooo glad you are writing about this and encouraging discussion. I’ve done my share of hiring and have tried to be as responsive as possible, but when a post on my Work Coach Cafe blog about how to tell if you did well an interview became a forum for a lot of angry and frustrated people waiting to hear something…anything (excuse the link, but here it is with over 450!!! comments: http://www.workcoachcafe.com/2007/08/03/how-to-tell-if-a-job-interview-went-well/), well…I admit I became even more aware of how I handled interviewees from then on. This is a huge problem and I wish there were more we could do about it. (Can we start a campaign>?) In a time when people are feeling most vulnerable, they are being left hanging high and dry. NOT ok. Grrrrrrr!

Thanks again for this great topic!
.-= Ronnie Ann´s last blog ..How to Beat the Job Interview Baby Boomer Blues =-.

Ronnie Ann August 12, 2009 at 1:29 pm

My apologies. The link above is bad. Here’s one that works. If you go back and look at prior comments, you’ll see just how frustrated everyone is!

.-= Ronnie Ann´s last blog ..How to Beat the Job Interview Baby Boomer Blues =-.

Nadia September 26, 2009 at 11:20 pm

Thanks for the tips! I have no doubt that perhaps recruiters/hiring managers are just not getting my application or my resume..cyber space is HUGE…but what to do when after submitting the necessary paperwork and following-up you get no response??? While I love trees and would do absolutely anything to be green…I wish hospitals would take paper applications instead of posting everything online. GRR!
.-= Nadia´s last blog ..I can’t get my foot in the door! =-.

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