JOB SEARCH / FEB. 03, 2014
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The Curious Case of the Invisible Job Seeker

Back in “the good old days” before the World Wide Web really started impacting our lives, companies posted ‘help wanted’ ads in the newspaper; and HR managers personally acknowledged every resume received with hand-addressed, pre-printed letters. This type of common courtesy, it seems, has died with flip phones. And it has left many frustrated job seekers asking: why did HR managers stop sending rejection letters?

“For most HR managers, it’s a matter of time and volume,” said Dan Schawbel, Forbes contributor and the managing partner of Millennial Branding, a Gen Y research and consulting firm. “Today, there are three job seekers competing for every one job.”

The fact is that after a long recession with nail-biting unemployment statistics, the latest numbers are still hovering around 7 percent. In addition, there’s the possible legal ramifications associated with rejection letters, says Schawbel. Many HR managers rather air on the side of caution than be faced with potential lawsuits when it comes to sending rejection letters.

From a company standpoint, you understand right?  

Especially after you have taken the time to craft a great submission and completed the online registration form followed by those lengthy supplemental questions. And although it may be a little ill-advised, you even answered those intrusive EEO questions. You then checked the ‘I Agree’ to disclose box and added your online signature. Finally, you waited and waited and waited. And you still haven’t heard anything?

“From an old-fashioned snail mail standpoint, it would be ridicules not to send some sort of notification when all it takes is a form letter and click of a button,” said Jim Weinstein, a career counselor, Life coach and Life consultant based in Washington, D.C. “I think that it’s very poor business and it leaves a bad taste in your mouth.”

At this point, you feel like your application was sucked into a black hole. Like many job seekers, you also start to feel invisible. It becomes personal, says Weinstein. And it does when—at the minimum—you expect to get the ‘after careful consideration’ or ‘sorry but’ note via e-mail.

Did you follow up?

“Applying for the job is just step one,” said Karen James Chopra, Washington Post columnist and the founder of The Savvy Career Counselor, ChopraCareers. “Once you send your application in do whatever you can to reconnect with that HR manager.”

Before applying for the job, you did your research. You checked the companies’ social networking pages. You also called a couple of friends to see if anyone knew someone who works for the company. Before following up, Chopra says you should give the employer at least a week to ten days after sending your application.

“It is always legit to call and ask if they have received your materials,” says Chopra. “You may never get a response; but it keeps your name on the radar.”

In addition, you were prepared to contact the HR manager with a few key reasons why you were interested and ask when they plan to begin the interview process. But when you tried to follow up, you couldn’t find the HR manager’s contact information or anyone who knew someone who works for the company.

So what are you going to do now?

Schawbel says, “Don’t wait for them to contact you. Keep going. You have to network; and create a strong brand online. You never leave your career to chance. Be aggressive.”

Weinstein says, “Move on. Never miss out on an opportunity to restate your interest and qualifications.”

Chopra says, “Let go of the expectation that you will hear back. You cannot control what the company does, but you can control what you do. Use your time to network.”

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