Know that it is Not Your Fault To Interview Your Best

February 1, 2010

Companies treat people badly during the selection process. This is an unfortunate fact of life.

Recently, I have seen a large number of online posts from job seekers writing about how badly they are treated by hiring companies. The primary complaints are no acknowledgment of receiving resumes and the lack of feedback or information following an interview. Job search is such a difficult and emotionally trying experience that these slights cause significant emotional stress and consternation.

Why the inhumanity? Bottom line there is no good reason now lets deal with the excuses and rationalizations.

Inundated with resumes
In today’s job market any job listing will get a formidable stack of resumes. Online job boards have made submitting resumes far easier so a significant number of submitted resumes are in essence “spam” from unqualified applicants. This causes a lot of additional administrative overhead as well as an angry attitude of “why the heck are you applying and wasting our time”.  For small companies this can overwhelm their ability to respond. Most large companies use an applicant tracking system (ATS) that have autoresponders acknowledging the receipt of a resume. For some reason, many companies do not turn this feature on. Thus, small companies, although still not kind, have some basis for not responding. Large companies do not. Also, job seekers should not apply to jobs for which they are not qualified this will unclog the system a bit.

Post interview response
To me this is the most egregious of job search inhumanity. A job candidate has taken the time to interview with a company and then gets no response for weeks if at all. I have heard numerous stories where an applicant had 4 or 5 interviews over several weeks  only to get no response once the company decided not to hire them. Unfortunately, there is a prevailing attitude that the job seeker needs the job so the company can treat them badly without consequences. Equally unfortunate, companies get away with this behavior. Job seekers eager, and sometimes desperate, for a job cannot stridently complain to the company. Even if they do complain, typically by email, they hear nothing in response. The company has no consequences and does not change their behavior.

Interestingly, I have spoken with recruiters from large consumer companies who do a lot of hiring and they are sensitive to this issue. These companies understand that every applicant is a customer (think shoe company) that could spend hundreds of dollars on their products. Treat people badly as an applicant and lose a customer. Disappointingly, these companies are motivated to do the right thing by the bottom line rather than empathy for the job seeker.

What to Do
First expect this behavior and do not personalize it. Human beings when faced with the unknown tend to view things negatively. If a company does not acknowledge your resume do not assume it was something wrong with your resume, your cover letter, your experience, or your chances of getting a job. They did not respond, that is all you can know. Most companies are disorganized, confused and not set up to manage the hiring process with any skill. They will mismanage lots of resumes including yours.

Interviews are somewhat different. In every interview be sure to ask, “How and when should I follow up with you?” If you are using an interview presentation, be sure that  this question is on your “important questions” page. Do not let the interviewer duck this question. If they say “we will get back to you” respond by saying “If I have not heard from you by DATE is it OK for me to call you? Then follow up as directed. Do not be afraid to be persistent, they have a responsibility to you since you have spent time and energy interviewing with them. In some situations, persistence will communicate as interest and motivation which will help your candidacy. Companies with caring cultures will respond. Companies who do not care will not respond and you need to question how they treat employees.

Job search is a sales process. Good sales people have a thick skin to handle rejections, slights, run-arounds and no response. Sales people will tell you a customer does not want to talk with them until they need their product and then they want it yesterday unless they find a better product or price. If they don’t want to buy they typically just go silent and don’t return phone calls. Sales people get use to being treated this way, most job seekers do not.

Most important- do not take this personally. Being treated badly is not a reflection on you it is a reflection on the company. If you begin to think you have done something to earn this treatment you will lose confidence, begin to wonder about yourself, and hurt your interview performance. Do not let this happen.

Also, resolve that when you get your next job you will never treat job seekers in the way you have been treated!