Friday, March 29, 2013

Wouldn't it be nice to get a "no"?

A reader talks about the lack of a response to a job application:
I have not had good luck getting a response from companies.  I was wondering when people would expect a response and if there are any tricks to getting said response.   
My perspective on responses: 
1.  After application -- no response expected (except automated junk)
2.  After phone / screening interview -- would expect a response here, don't usually get one.
3.  After on-site -- definitely expect a response, usually receive a response but not always.   
When I don't get a response I've e-mailed HR / hiring manager (first step) and then followed up by calling and leaving voice messages, but still get nowhere.  I guess I am receiving an answer, but an actual "No, we are not interested anymore." would be appreciated.  
I think I've gotten a response to every on-site, even though one of them was a very short, curt e-mail from the manager. One time, I actually received a very nice call from the president of the company telling me "No, we're looking for someone with more experience." after what I thought was a fairly decent interview. Ah, well.

I think the saddest response I've gotten was a short letter in the mail that was a copy of a copy of a copy of a copy of a "no, thank you" letter. I think it may have even been misaligned, which was adding insult to injury.

It's too much to think that we could change the way companies worked, but readers of this blog, I beg you! If you've decided on a candidate, yes, tell him or her, but don't forget to tell the candidates that didn't get the position, either.

26 comments:

  1. I got a really nice no once. I was looking for my first job back in 2006 after receiving my MS. Had a fantastic interview, left with the impression that I had the job.

    I got a call a few days later from the main interviewer. He told me that they got a stack of resumes and inch and a half thick, many of which were PhDs for the MS position I had applied to. The entry level position ended going to a MS chemist with 10 years experience who had just gotten laid off. That chemist had applied for the same job 10 years prior, gotten it, but went instead to the company that later laid him off. He called connections in the company a day after my interview asking for a job. The interviewer told me that the 10 year experience MS bumped me from getting the position.

    Kind of a scary reality check, but it was nice to know how good I had been just to get to the interview.

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  2. Amen! From my point of view, there should be follow up after a phone interview, and definitely after an on-site interview. I've had companies invest an entire day interviewing me and, despite several emails and phone calls on my part, I never heard anything from them again. All this does is lower my opinion of that company and the people working there.

    I like to receive feedback. But maybe one reason for lack of responses is to eliminate the potential for someone to say something that could lead to a lawsuit? OK, so if they don't want to provide feedback, a simple no is much better than nothing. We're all adults, and we can certainly understand that it's a competitive market, just tell us so we know to move on to the next opportunity instead of being anxious about this one.

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  3. I remember a rude "no" I got. I was applying to a teaching position in a small college and the rejection letter said that they could not find anybody who they felt met the qualification for the position.

    I felt I was very qualified for the job. How dare they....

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    1. "the rejection letter said that they could not find anybody who they felt met the qualification for the position."

      Wouldn't feel too bad about that. What they probably really meant was "the funding for this position was cut from our budget, so we can't hire anyone".

      Delete
  4. With the rise of the HR-bot it's trivial to send a no to the people who are out-right not being considered for each position. A form letter could easily be emailed with the click of a single button. And yet the ones I got the most efficient responses from were smaller companies that didn't use the bots.

    Never got a response from Genentech, Merck, Lily, Medimmune, Roche, or any of the big ones. Only got a response from one of the many SAIC jobs I applied to. Universities rarely sent a response. One took nearly a year to respond with a no.

    Always got a response from government, although it sometimes was fast and sometimes was slow.

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    1. There's no need for HR-bots. I guess the big ones don't do MS Word or the HR-people just don't know the basics. I'm always surprised how limited knowledge people have when it comes to MS Office.

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  5. Ha...I thought MedImmune was the gold standard for rejections. My wife and I have both gotten rejections emailed at 4 AM!

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  6. "... but readers of this blog, I beg you! If you've decided on a candidate, yes, tell him or her, but don't forget to tell the candidates that didn't get the position, either."

    I think we would be better off pushing HR internally to make sure that all candidates were responded to. We haven't been through all the legal training required - we could easily say something wrong and cause real trouble.

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  7. I had a few cases of no response after an on-site. One, years ago, was really weird. I interviewed together with another postdoc from our department. He got his "no" a few day later, and I got a call informing me that they are still very much interested. After that - nothing, they didn't even answer to a very polite e-mail. A few months later I heard through the grapevine that the position went to a student of the hiring manager's undergrad advisor.

    PS. Think what you want of Koch brothers, but their companies always follow up an all applications within a month.

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  8. On the flip side, I once received an email from a Department Chair, after the application deadline for a tenure-track position, that the competition was cancelled because of funding issues, but I had been short-listed before the cancellation. The word about being shortlisted did picked me up for an hour, until I told a colleague who snarled "yeah, I bet he wrote that to every person who applied!"

    I've been told that companies don't send negative responses to prospective candidates because they don't want to "close the file" with them. If they pick candidates for interviews and none ultimately get the position, they want to dip back into the resume pile - and maybe someone who just missed the cut the first time will be elevated to the new shortlist. And if that person had been rejected earlier, they may harbour bad feelings.

    Then again, I applied for two jobs with a company in the Spring of 2010, and according to their HR website, my application is still "under review". At some point, I stopped believing I'd hear from them...

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  9. I've sent out around 100 applications in the past 2 years or so. All my applications submitted online have come back with zero responses, in spite of networking extensively with HR people at the company via LinkedIn and contacting them directly asking whether or not my application was still being considered. I think 'nothing' is the new 'no,' sadly. I'd prefer an automated email no, but I guess the guys at Taleo or Brass Ring forgot to turn on that function in their latest iteration of their HR software service.

    Of the two onsite interviews I've had, one I heard nothing back from afterwards. I wasn't very happy with this smaller company's interview process. I was flown out, given a hotel room, but no rental car. I had to taxi from the airport to the hotel and again from the hotel to the company for the interview. The hiring manager was suppose to take me to dinner that night but couldn't, and there was no restaurant in the hotel nor one within walking distance.

    The second company was moving forward with the hiring process, but asked me for 2 of my most recent pay stubs. I felt this was an inappropriate invasion of my privacy, and just plan lazy on their part since I can just as easily get a ball park figure for salaries from webpages like Salary.com. At this point I was already considering whiching fields from chemistry to engineering, and have since entered into a MS engineering program. (Engineers still have a favorable employment outlook right now, right?!)

    The last thing I'd like to mention is that I always get a response (eventually) from all my applications to the federal government. The response might come a year or more later, but I got it.

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  10. During my postdoc search I received only one "no" from my all of my applications. To my surprise the "no" called me a few weeks later to say that the postdoc he was interviewing didn't want the job. I am now happily employed in the only lab to formally reject me.

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  11. When I was on the academic job market over five years ago, I got an on-site interview at a smallish school. The interview seemed to have gone fine as far as I can tell, but I never received any notification one way or another afterwards despite a follow-up email from myself thanking them for inviting me. Pretty classless on their part.

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  12. I applied for an academic job (would have been my 1st job) in the same city, different school. Did a "phone interview" in person, got a call back for a full day of interview, seminar, dinner, etc. Didn't hear back for a month, sent a polite email, no response. Another month goes by, and I ran into a member of the hiring committee at a coffee shop. He is super cordial and commends me on a job well done during the process and then proceeds to tell me how they just got lucky that a guy with 10 years exp decided to apply at the last minute blah blah blah but I should keep my eyes open as they were possible going to be hiring again soon.

    I tried not to act TOO surprised, but told him that I had not be contacted before that point in time. He was pissed, and sort of embarrassed, as it was the committee chair's job to contact me. I told him I had emailed and left a voice mail and gotten no response. So, yeah, a simple no, especially considering there were only two of us asked to give in person interviews, would have been nice.

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  13. I was told "no" in an email following a recent phone interview with an up-and-coming research II (maybe?) university. It was nice, and I was expecting it, because to be honest I did a terrible job. But I feel the sentiment of this post 100%. Not telling the no's "no" is just plain cowardly!

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  14. You can get too many "no"s also.

    I used to work as a contractor for a federal agency, and applied for an opening that came up in the same section that I worked for. 5 Days after applying, I got no less than 3 emails from 3 different HR persons telling me that I was not considered highly qualified (federal-speak for not among the top 3-5 candidates). One email would have been sufficient. I also wondered how they had so quickly narrowed down the top candidates.

    Anyway, I just put it behind me. Except 3 months later, I get another 3 emails from the same 3 HR people telling me that they decided not to fill the position.

    Which turned out to be a big lie. One month later, the person who got the position started. I was still working there in my contractor position the day he began.

    Some federal agencies send out these fake 'didn't fill the position' emails just to keep applicants from filing appeals saying that the hiring process was unfair; the federal government actually has such an appeal process. However, if you are led to believe that no one got the job, then you wouldn't appeal. It is amazing that some HR people in the federal government commit such fraud on a regular basis.

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  15. I was once told that I was rejected by a university because the cover letter told them I was arrogant and like I have a big ego and they would never want to work along someone like that. This is actually pretty useful, because I'm not like that at all in real life, but I've been taught to 'sell myself' by cover letter advice stuff I found on the internets, and this advice does not apply to most of Europe I'm guessing. I did get an interview somewhere else, with a cover letter not too different, so I don't know what's going on. The advice about me being arrogant, although very useful, also made me feel ashamed and incapable of doing work for a day due to a panicky feeling, on a day which I set aside for writing papers.

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    1. I'm just trying to imagine a University where "arrogant and a big ego" is not expected or even required.

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    2. This is actually a really important example of cultural differences. "American" over-exuberance and "selling yourself" isn't always the expectation elsewhere in the world, and can in fact work against you. Thanks for sharing.

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  16. I'm a little late to this party but I thought I would provide a different perspective. I'm a recruiter and I literally wade through hundreds of resumes everyday - including people who've submitted their resume for a specific position. I'll happily admit, I don't respond to most people who submit their resume to me. The reason? The applicant is not a fit for the job. Submitting your resume online through a job board, LinkedIn, or company website does not, in my humble opinion, merit you a response. That said - if you've had contact with someone about a job, whether it be through a recruiter or through HR at a company, you do deserve an answer.

    There is no sense in getting angry when you get no response to an online resume submission. In reality you haven't done much...that may sound harsh but hey, it's true. If you made an extra-ordinary effort, such as calling the company and speaking with someone or calling a recruiter and discussing the job, then yeah, I'd say you deserve an answer, but a resume submission through a website does not a response merit. Just my two cents from a different perspective.

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    1. Well, you know perhaps you are right spending an hour changing you resume to fit job description and writing a cover letter is not much, but clicking a button to send boilerplate letter to all rejected applicants takes no time at all.
      And since you are a recruiter I have a couple of questions. One. Most of the times when a recruiter calls me I have a distinct feeling that he. has. no. clue. what my experience or skills are. I assume when I send a resume in the story is about the same? Two. Every once in a while I get a bunch of e-mails from recruiters from companies I've never heard about all peddling the same position. All of them are Indians. What's up with that?

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    2. Tailoring your resume and cover letter to a specific job can take a good amount of work, as someone has mentioned. I don't think something as arbitrary as getting in contact with someone who works at the company, should play a bigger role than your qualifications when you are a fit for the position.

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    3. Adam Krueger showcased a typical HR response - none.

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    4. Apparently they don't merit a response from you but do merit your contempt. You don't think that an hour or more of their time spent writing a cover letter, etc. is worth 5 seconds of your time to submit a rejection email.

      A simply form email rejection is professional courtesy and frankly part of your job if you are in HR. If a company has advertised for a position and solicited applicants, then they have a duty to respond to the interaction that they themselves initiated.

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  17. I remember a few years ago when my (then) big pharma employer made a last-minute decision to hire a couple of extra university placement students in my lab for the year. As we didn't have time to go through the official centralised process (with HR etc), I garnered the CVs, whittled them down, interviewed a handful of applicants and chose the best two. Didn't take me long really, and emailed each applicant at the appropriate point to let them know they hadn't got the position.

    I didn't think anything of this - it's the simple and decent thing to do if someone as taken the time to apply, even if the 'job' is a simple student placement for a year. However on meeting with one of the HR 'people' I told her how I had managed the process and she literally laughed in my face and asked why on earth I had bothered emailing rejection notes to students etc.

    This sums up the situation for me. Something many of us would feel duty-bound to do as a minimum, HR drones find amusing and outdated.

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  18. I had a couple of interviews (phone and face to face) and in some cases didn't get an answer even after following up. HR would be super angry in case a candidate runs 5 min - but don't bother responding people that took a day off to attend their interview sessions? Paradox!

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