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Does an employer's silence speak volumes?


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Job hunters used to measure their progress by the number of rejection letters or calls received. That's getting hard to do these days, with many candidates reporting they never hear back at all from companies they've interviewed with.

"I had gone on two rounds of interviews for a marketing manager position at a respected insurance company and was told by the director to whom I would report that I was one of two finalists," reported Caroline, who had recently been downsized from a similar role at a major financial institution.

"A few days later, I got a call from a former colleague at the bank I'd been let go from. She was elated over a fantastic new job she had been offered -- it turned out it was the job I had interviewed for. I never heard anything back from the company again."

Another candidate on the East Coast got a call on a Friday afternoon from a well-known food company on the West Coast asking him to fly in for an interview the following Monday -- and by the way could he put together a PowerPoint presentation about himself to present to the hiring committee?

The candidate spent all weekend preparing his presentation, then got up at 4 a.m. Monday to fly out to the West Coast. After making his presentation and meeting individually with all of the team members, he returned home at 1 a.m. Tuesday.

He sent a follow-up thank-you note and heard nothing. He called the HR department four weeks later: nada. Then a few days after he'd sent an e-mail to the hiring manager reiterating his interest, a friend who worked in another division of the company called him to say the job had been filled by an internal candidate.

So what's going on? Has silence become the new way for employers to say, "No thank you?"

"One of the most frustrating -- even humiliating -- things that can happen to job seekers is not to hear one word back from the potential employer after an in-person interview," writes columnist and employment expert Carol Kleiman. "And it seems to be happening a lot these days."

How can employers be so heartless? Some HR departments are so overworked and inundated that they just let it fall through the cracks. Others don't get back to people they've rejected because they're worried about having to give reasons, which could get them into conversations that present potential legal liabilities. Other times, the hiring process stalls or grinds to a halt and the company doesn't know what to tell candidates, so they say nothing.

What's a job seeker to do? Corporate recruiters offer these tips:

  • Ask how to follow-up: At the end of the interview, specifically ask how to follow up and listen carefully to the answer.
  • Be patient: The hiring process often takes longer than employers expect. Two weeks can turn into two months -- or more. It's not unheard of for a candidate to get an offer six months after an interview, either because the process got bogged down, or because they offered the job to someone else who didn't work out.
  • Check back: If an interviewer tells you to expect an answer in two weeks -- and four have passed -- it's a good idea to check in to see if the timeline has changed. You may also want to try e-mail -- many people find it more convenient (and a more comfortable way to give bad news). Additionally, recruiters for sales positions say employers like the show of interest and that some even wait to see who persistently "asks for the sale."
  • Move on: Silence can mean a lot of things: the employer hasn't made a final decision yet, they're waiting for your hiring or the job position to be approved, or they've offered the job to someone else who hasn't yet given them an answer. In any case, if after a few attempts you don't get a response, don't beat yourself up over some one else's discourtesy. The best course of action is to put it behind you and move forward. Keep at your search and your call will come!

  • © Copyright 2005. All rights reserved. The information contained in this article may not be published, broadcast or otherwise distributed without the prior written authority
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