the sound of silence: companies that don’t send rejections

One of the biggest complaints I hear from job seekers who write to me at Ask a Manager is about companies that don’t respond to job applicants: no rejection, nothing.

There’s a real divide on the issue. Job seekers think it’s incredibly rude, while many companies feel perfectly justified in not putting resources into dealing with candidates they’re no longer interested in hiring.

Personally, I think it’s inexcusable—throughout the hiring process but particularly after a company has engaged with an applicant in some way, like a phone interview or an in-person interview. It’s callous and dismissive and lacks any appreciation for the fact that the candidate is anxiously waiting to hear an answer—any answer—and keeps waiting and waiting, long after a decision has been made.

Some companies defend this practice by claiming they couldn’t possibly find time to respond to all the tens of thousands of applications they get. I call BS on that. Have an intern send out a form letter by email. It’s fast, and it’s free. If your company is so large—and thus your applicant pool so mammoth—that an intern would be overwhelmed by the project, then you’re large enough that you’re probably using some kind of database to track applicants. Use it to email them a rejection, too.

But if nothing else, employers have an obligation to warn candidates that they may not hear anything: If you’re committed to being rude, at least state clearly on your website that you won’t get in touch unless you’re interested in talking more with an applicant, so that at least people know what to expect.

And for the record, my organization makes a point of responding (often with a form letter, granted, but it’s a response) to each and every applicant who approaches us. I am amazed by the number of rejected candidates who email us back to thank us for simply letting them know they are out of the running. Goodwill isn’t a bad thing to generate among people we might want to hire in the future, to say nothing of it simply being the right thing to do.

I originally published this at U.S. News & World Report.

{ 5 comments… read them below }

  1. Anonymous*

    As a job seeker, I honestly don’t expect any kind of rejection if they don’t interview me (I am sensitive to the fact that they may be receiving a hundred or more applications for a position).

    But I am appalled by how many people have done phone and in-person interviews with me and friends and acquaintances recently, and then heard nothing back from them, even with very, very polite and unintrusive follow-up on our end (again, I, at least, am very sensitive to bugging people I know are incredibly busy). It’s a real morale buster.

  2. Anonymous*

    One reason they don’t provide they reason why you’re rejected is because the reason they rejected you is illegal. Age discrimination is rampant. I’ve tested this theory, and it has proven 100% true. After removing 10 years worth of relevant experience from my resume, guess what…more response from my resume when I submitted it for consideration of job openings. (These are positions for which I am fully qualified, with 20 years experience. In fact, I’m certain that I am more qualified than ‘most’ applicants.)

    Ok, I discovered by concealing my age by removing 10 years of experience, suddenly there is more interest in my resume. I’m aware that it is futile as far as landing the job, because the first moment they look at you, (no matter that you’re fit and dressed in an expensive suit), you can see it in their face that they have immediately ruled you out because you’re older than they expected.

    I do not understand why age discrimination exists. Why in the world would an employer NOT want the most experienced and qualified employee? At any rate, I’m sure the recruiters on here on going to do their best to cover it up. I can assure you it exists and it truly is rampant among not only employers, but recruiters as well (perhaps because they know that few employers will hire employees over 40). If you’re in HR or a recruiter, you won’t ever admit it, but you KNOW what I’m saying is 100% accurate. For the rest of you, if you want proof, google it. You’ll come across thousands of entries on forums where over-qualified older applicants are speaking out on the topic. I’m sure they’re not all imagining it…

  3. Anonymous*

    As a job seeker I took the time to review your job posting and send in a resume, I can tell from a “no response that maybe your company is a bad fit for me. It’s called company branding.

  4. Anonymous*

    As a job seeker, I don’t necessarily expect a response to my resume (though it is nice to get one). But once a company asks me to come in for an interview (and in some cases travel quite a bit to do so), I would expect them take two minutes to send me a “sorry, we have chosen another candidate” e-mail.

    In one case, I got a very positive verbal feedback at the end of the interview and had a good impression myself; still I didn’t hear back from the company. My inquiries were met with “it might take a while but we will get back to you”. I didn’t hear back from them for months.

    A year later, the same company came back to me, offering me another position. I turned down this offer, because I feel that if a company values its candidates so little they don’t even get an e-mail, I don’t want to find out how they treat their employees!

  5. sarah*

    I think it’s a really bad practice to not follow up with people and let them know they didn’t get the job. It sends a message that people don’t matter. More often than not these companies expect job applicants to be extremely professional and follow all the etiquette involved in the job search process (which usually just amounts to showing respect), it’s strange that they think it’s OK at the end of the process and show a complete lack of respect in turn.

Comments are closed.