Silence Is Not Golden

If you’re a job-seeker like me (or remember the last time you had to find a job), the waiting game after the interview is a nail-biter. During the interview, you dressed sharp, smiled, sat up straight,  and did your best to sell yourself as the best candidate for the job (while pacing yourself carefully so you didn’t come across as an arrogant you-know-what). At the end of the interview, the interviewer asks if you have any questions. If you are drawing a blank, the correct response is, “When can I expect to hear from you again?”. The most common responses I get when I ask that question is either “Two to three days”, “sometime next week”, or “you are welcome to follow up on the status of your application”.

Time passes, and you haven’t heard anything from the person who interviewed you. You already sent that “thank you for the opportunity to meet with you” Email that shows you are still enthusiastic about getting the position, but there’s no reply at all. To keep that interest going, you follow up with another Email. Perhaps you decide to add a personal touch by phoning, only to be told by the receptionist that the person who interviewed you is not available.  Days pass, follow ups are done, but you never hear from that person again.

If I had a dollar for every time I didn’t get a response to post-interview follow-ups, I’d have enough money to pay for cable TV for a month…if I didn’t cancel it a year ago in order to save money. One example I had was at a office support agency that had openings for contract work. It wasn’t information technology, it was entry-level and required no experience. The agency was well-known, and not a fly-by-night operation. I filled out an application form and sent a resume along with it by to the agency by Email. Two days later, I received a call from a manager who wanted to see me for an interview. We had an excellent conversation that lasted a little over 45 minutes. I felt the manager and I got along well during the interview. At the end of the interview, I was asked if I could provide a void cheque (YES!) which is required for direct-deposit payments for contract work completed. Seeing I had my chequebook with me, I provided one while trying my best not to bounce up and down in excitement like a kid at Christmas. I felt things were looking up: I was finally going to get some kind of income flowing into my home to pay the bills. I wrote a short but sincere thank you Email for the interview to ensure the job was sealed.

Turns out I was overly optimistic. I never heard back from the manager who interviewed me, despite leaving 4 messages to contact me on the status of my application. I had to contact the head office of that agency to ensure my void cheque was destroyed. Big letdown.

In this age  of free Email, system automation, and reliable high-speed computer networks, I never understood why some companies can’t return a short response to a job-seeker’s followup. It only takes a minute to return a phone call. If there are a lot of applicants, it’s a cop-out to say “there are simply too many people to respond to”. There’s such a thing as form letters and mailing lists. At my last job, I configured our company’s SAP system to Email invoices to customers each business evening with very little human intervention required.  If doing something similar is that much of a chore for some businesses, I’ll be happy to hire my programming skills out to code something, at minimum wage.

I’m not going to use this post to rant and rage about employers who don’t call back, especially if they fail to inform me that the position is filled. I am, however, going to offer some friendly advice to those managers (referred to as “you” in the section following) who are currently hiring.

The first thing to remember is any employee who works for a company represents that company. It doesn’t matter if that person deals with customers directly or not. You work for the company, you are the company. Any act you do on-the-job that results in a negative response reflects on the company in a negative way. If you treat a job-seeker the same manner I was treated in the above example, that person is going to remember the company name even if the name of the interviewer is long forgotten. Now that we have social media spreading the word about companies and their products, the last thing you want is someone slagging your company name because so-and-so in the Human Resources Department did not return the job-seekers calls about the status of the position they applied for.

If there is a chance you are not going to be able to follow up with every job application for a position, say either at the end of the interview or write at the bottom of the job advertisement, “Only candidates in whom there is an interest will be contacted”. This tells the job-seeker that if they do not hear from the company, they didn’t get the job. This frees them to move on to the next job advertisement. Don’t say you will call the applicant on some date or time and then fail to do so.

Also, the interview is not just a chance for the job-seeker to sell him/herself. It’s also the chance for the interviewer, who represents the company (see above), to sell the company to the person being interviewed. If you fail to return the job-seeker’s calls for a status update, what does that say about you (as an employer or co-worker) if the job-seeker is hired? Is this the kind of thing the new hire is going to experience on the job?

For any person in charge of hiring for a position, if you are not returning the job-seeker’s inquiries because you are afraid to tell the person he or she didn’t get the job,  that’s unprofessional. We won’t take it personally if we learn we were not hired. Life goes on, and so will we.

Thanks for reading!



2 thoughts on “Silence Is Not Golden

  1. Hi David,

    I am in a similar position, currently looking for work (not in Toronto though!) and I agree, “we’ll get back to you” is an all too familiar phrase. I completely agree with what you say in your post. When I was applying for teaching jobs I spent hours on crafting the perfect cover letter and fine-tuning my CV. For some jobs there was the traditional “We only contact successful applicants”, but for others there was nothing. Especially when applying electronically, a simple “Thanks, we got it” would certainly go a long way.

    1. HI Eleanor.

      Thanks for taking the time to reply. Yes, a little courtesy really goes a long way and it does not take much effort or time. In fact, it doesn’t even require expensive software and hardware to set up. It’s all about respecting the applicant. We go through enough aggravation trying to land work through sheer effort without being treated like we are bothering the hiring manager. I wish you great success in finding the job, and hope it does not take too long for you.


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