Post-Interview Correspondence from Employers: Has Common Courtesy Become Obsolete?

Many Accounting, Finance, IT and Office Support job seekers have surely been ignored after the submission of a job application – especially via Internet job boards.  We’ve discussed the dismal reality of depending on this employment search method and, quite frankly, an employer’s lack of response in such situations is reasonable.  Assuming that someone in the company actually accessed all applications for a given position, the preparation and deployment of individual letters of rejection would be extraordinarily time-consuming. Non-qualifying applicants typically receive an automated message from Human Resources, if anything at all.  More commonly, no word back after a week or two will simply speak for itself. Such forms of impersonal communication or lack thereof, while frustrating, should be relatively tolerable to a candidate because he or she has not established a personal connection with the hiring manager. Receiving no such correspondence after an interview, however, is exponentially harder to accept. This is because attending an interview is a much larger investment than merely submitting an application. Aside from generating nerves, an in-person meeting with a hiring manager requires extensive preparation, sacrificing valuable time, most likely from another job, and, potentially, a considerable amount of travel if the candidate is considering relocation. Given the amount of commitment required in accepting an employer’s interview invitation, then, a candidate has good reason to feel disrespected when ignored in the subsequent weeks.

A thorough explanation of the context of “ignored” is necessary before proceeding.  This increasingly common occurrence does not refer to a lack of correspondence after a mere week and a half following the interview.  Concerned professionals who attended an interview last week and stumbled upon this article after frantically conducting a Google search for “Why I haven’t I heard back after my interview?” need not panic…yet. Such persons most likely remain in relatively good favor with the employer – assuming they remembered to send a thank you note, of course! – and would find more benefit from an article like this, which outlines the most common reasons for a hiring manager’s sluggish decision-making. Here, though, the intent is not to address the normal post-interview waiting period (the result of points one through five in Green’s aforementioned list); rather, the objective is to explore the fact candidates often receive no news after these five hiring “speed bumps” are legitimately no longer possible. Unfortunately, candidates are commonly greeted by endless silence after emailing a polite, well-written thank you note and potentially one (but no more than that, lest the candidate be perceived as a “stalker” or “pest”) additional request about the status of the decision.

This practice is undeniably inappropriate and emotionally straining for a hopeful candidate, but the employer does not have much reason to care. The 240 applicants who were not offered an interview after submitting their resumes are somewhat understandably not contacted. But, if out of the 10 individuals who visited the personally visited the office – perhaps even multiple times – to give their best efforts in meetings with hiring managers, nine are not hired, do they not deserve to be informed about their rejections? Is the professional who does not get selected not worthy of a two sentence email or 30-second phone call from the interviewer?  Many organizations certainly project this uncaring opinion whether they intend to or not. It’s wildly unprofessional, but the reality is that happens all the time. The reasoning could be that the hiring manager “never got around to” contacting the candidates or that he or she would prefer to avoid a potentially uncomfortable phone call after making a decision. After all, the hiring manager, not the candidate, has the upper hand in the situation. Human Resources shouldhave the competency to issue rejection statements, but failure to do so is of virtually no risk to the organization.  Sure, candidates who remain uninformed four months after the interview will think poorly of the company, but their opinions will never impact profit or perception at large. Besides, the candidate who never gets a call from the employer cannot easily validate his or her suspicion that another applicant has been hired. It’s very possible that the lack of communication is the result of the hiring manager’s unplanned leave of absence or budgeting issue with the new position (Tip: In some instances, a candidate can, in fact, confidently  confirm rejection by visiting the organization’s LinkedIn page and browsing recent hires. This method has a big limitation, though; professionals do not always update their work information on LinkedIn in a very timely manner). So, in short, a company does not lose anything by lazily or weakly failing to communicate with candidates after their rejection has been finalized.

Though this limited risk does not, by any means, excuse a hiring manager from neglecting the candidates who have interviewed with an organization, there are some useful pieces of advice for professionals who may soon find themselves in this demoralizing position: 
At the end of the interview, ask for an approximate date to expect to hear back from the hiring manager.
Asking this crucial concluding question will add further credibility to the interest in the position and establish a timeline from the start, thereby reducing future uncertainty. Although the timeline may not be adhered to, it will serve as a rough estimate of how long the candidate should wait after meeting with the employer before completely giving up on the position. It’s also helpful to mention this timeline in the thank you email to the hiring manager by including something such as, “I look forward to hearing back from you next week.” This is an easy way to remind the interviewer about expectations and to reestablish the timeframe in writing.

No matter how well the interview went, don’t stop your search.
A candidate might leave the interview absolutely certain of an impending offer, but can’t possibly be aware of the other candidates’ performances or feel fully confident about the hiring manager’s genuine opinion.  A seemingly successful interview, therefore, is no excuse to slack on a job search.  Although it may be tempting to take a break after what feels like a clear victory, the best strategy is to continue job hunting as if the interview had never taken place. 

Still no word back? Don’t take it personally!
Remember that many candidates have experienced this type of unprofessionalism after an in-person interview.  In fact, in any given instance of this discourtesy, the other unsuccessful interviewees are most likely in the same situation. The lack of contact should not be interpreted as extraordinarily poor interview performance or horrendously inadequate professional experience. Even though the employer has failed to confirm rejection, the candidate should acknowledge that his or her credentials were impressive enough to at least warrant an interview. 

Don’t harass the employer.
The thank you note is obligatory – employers will reject 22% of candidates who fail to send one, per CareerBuilder.  A second form of contact is optional, but should not be issued until a few business days after the promised date of decision.  Candidates who choose to pursue additional contact should email, not call, the hiring manager.  If the name and email address of the hiring manager are unknown, try to find out; HR does not want to be bothered. This tactic yet again reaffirms interest without being a pest. No response after this attempt is obviously impolite but should signal to the candidate that he or she has not been selected.  

Candidates won’t experience this uncertainty if working with a diligent recruitment firm.
A recruiter functions as a direct pipeline to the hiring manager. He or she coordinates the interview setup, and receives feedback about the candidate’s performance. If the employer has chosen not to pursue the candidate, the recruiter will be made aware and pass along the bad news accordingly.  Because the employer and the recruiter have already engaged in a business agreement, the hiring manager will promptly find out if the candidate was not a match for the role.  Recruitment firms, therefore, expedite the process and alleviate the painful, frequently unending waiting period that employers often create for job seekers. 

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