Monday, November 10, 2014

The Silence of The Hiring Process

From the inbox, a common thought amongst chemistry job seekers expressed extremely well (I have made one redaction to protect their identity): 
I have been looking for a job for about 12 months and under-employed for 6. During this time I have conducted about a dozen initial interviews, 3 second interviews, and most recently, 3 interviews with a company that I felt really good interviewing with. In 8 of these cases, despite being told I could email with questions and explicitly asking if it would be OK to inquire about the state of my candidacy, I never hear anything back... Radio silence. 
Is this normal? Honestly? I have checked with my references, my Facebook pictures are tame, various internet information is up-to-date and accurate. Is there something I am doing wrong? Am I violating some great taboo of HR by asking if I am still being considered after 6 or 8 weeks of not hearing anything (even after 3 interviews)? I understand how deep the talent pool can be in this economy and how important it is to hire the right person to complement skills and personalities. But this is occurring with companies large and small, with HR departments or with front office secretaries. I thought by asking questions (such as, "do you offer [further] training?") after an interview I was showing the company that I was actively interested, engaged, and prepared to begin working. Is this not true anymore? 
Finally, and this is my own wellspring of self-pity here, where is the respect for human dignity in ignoring a candidate when a 60 second email would suffice? I have received above-and-beyond service from people and companies when I take the time to keep them informed and respond to their questions and concerns.  
Kind Regards
Frustrated Job Seeker, PhD - Chemistry
Thanks to FJS for the great e-mail. I can't say any more than they have.

I am beginning to think that one of the missed opportunities of the past 5 years has been failing to pressure chemistry employers to adopt a series of best practices, one of the first should be a process that tells people as soon as possible about a negative hire decision. In fact, I wonder if there should be a "ACS hiring best practices" pledge? I'd like that.

20 comments:

  1. For what it's worth, this seems to be a wide-spread phenomenon, not unique to chemistry. I've heard similar experiences from other job seekers in a variety of different fields, both in and out of STEM. Just as demoralizing, nevertheless.

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    1. Absolutely true. It's standard practice nowadays in the UK for employers to reject candidates without informing them, even with an email, and I find it offensive and disgraceful.

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    2. Yes, Nick, I totally agree with your use of the words offensive and disgraceful. I was involved in hiring some sandwich year students a while back at a large pharma company in the UK. Because we were late in the process we missed the general 'pool of candidates' thing, so all of the applications came to me to deal with. HR told me explicitly not to respond to those who we did not select for interview, which I found unacceptable. If someone has made the effort a short email informing them was the least they deserve. So that's what I did - I couldn't square it with myself otherwise.

      Maybe there is some sort of legal reason for this? But whatever it is just remembering what it was like never hearing back from applications was enough to make sure I wasn't doing the same to someone else. It really does take a 'special' person to become an HR automaton doesn't it?

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    3. See below. The explanation is almost certainly fear of litigation, though I can't understand why a rejection letter or email would be grounds for a lawsuit. At any rate, it's unacceptable.

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  2. The lack of responses is not really recent, alas. I interviewed with many fewer places than did FJS when I left grad school in 1997, and while I did receive two rejection letters, and my job, I didn't hear anything from the remainder of interviews, including one where they spent a lot to interview me (so that a rejection letter would have been not much of an extra expense).

    I remember being frustrated by everything about the search, though I was not good at coping with it.

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  3. Same boat here. 4 weeks since site interview and nothing.

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    1. Three weeks for me as of today. They said there were only 2 other candidates and that I should hear back "shortly." I'm wondering whether I should poke them or if that would just screw me over entirely...

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  4. This was my experience as well back in 1998. I had a good string of interviews at the end of the graduate school and a dozen second/on site interviews. I didn't get any replies whether/why I was rejected.

    It took my thesis adviser to make some phone calls and find out what went wrong. I made the suggested adjustments and got a job on the next interview. It is nerve wracking to know that something was off and not be able to find out what. Can't improve myself without feedback.

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    1. Consider yourself fortunate that your thesis adviser was willing to step up to the plate for you. Mine expected that his former grad students go to the government employment office, and is on record for stating that he won't help "adults" find a job after graduating. You only learned this on the way out of his research group.

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    2. I'm very interested in your story. Can you share what you were doing wrong?

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    3. I had no experience looking for a US job (I was a foreign student) and there was little help from the employment people at the school. I followed some advise from "self help" books. that was probably good for sales or accounting positions, but not for a scientist. I got a better ideas after talking with my adviser and his former students.

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  5. I'm still waiting to hear back from a 2-day on-site interview at Schering-Plough in Kenilworth in 2005...

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  6. I speculate its probably that lawyers won't let any actual Rejection communication for fear of getting sued.

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    1. That's exactly what I was told when I was hiring at a Fortune 500 company. Anything in writing as to why you are not hiring the candidate can be grounds for a lawsuit. I felt comfortable telling a recruiter "I'm not interested in this candidate anymore" by phone. Outside of that we were not to contact the candidates directly.

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    2. Very interesting, and quite probably the case. Lawyers again!

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  7. This is even true for jobs with the federal gov't , e.g. Sandia. Their HR website still lists two applications -one from this past May- as being still open. it was only after going to considerable effort to uncover the telephone numbers of the HR office and speaking with them, that they admitted the job from back in May had been cancelled. And they still have not updated their HR website...

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  8. There is also the oh-so-fun case when you are told and offer is being drafted or is sitting on a VP's desk waiting for a signature. And then weeks go by before you find out you're not getting the job. In my case, I heard after 4 weeks that they wanted someone with more experience. My friend found out that the job had been re-posted when a different headhunter called because said headhunter thought he'd be perfect for the job.

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    1. I do have some experience with that scenario from the other side. We interviewed a bunch of people, found a good candidate, and then our offer vanished in the "machine" like iodine on a hot day.

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  9. Hey CJ, you wrote: "I wonder if there should be a "ACS hiring best practices" pledge".

    Actually, as you surely know, the ACS does have several committees on "Ethical and Professional Guidelines", so this might be something for you to suggest :-)

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