can I ask employers to let me know if they’re rejecting me?

A reader writes:

I relocated a couple of months ago after taking an out-of-state internship and falling in the love with the area. The internship has since ended, and though I still work there occasionally (it’s a retail store/event space), the owner can’t really afford a full-time employee so I’m left looking for full-time employment elsewhere. In addition to my continuing networking efforts and posting my resume on the standard job sites, I’ve also posted ads and resumes on local community sites and listservs. In general, I’ve gotten more replies from these avenues than from applying to jobs I find online or through word of mouth and I tend to like these opportunities better because they’re usually with smaller, local businesses as opposed to big, national corporations and they have a more casual and creative environment. Unfortunately, this also means that my chances of getting a reply after they’ve asked for my resume is a bit hit-or-miss since they’re not using electronic systems that send out automatic rejection letters.

Am I being unreasonable in expecting a simple “Thanks, but no thanks” if they’ve emailed me asking for my resume? I understand the lack of response from large companies, but I feel like if you’re a small company taking the time to scour local sites looking for candidates and asking for their resumes, you can also take the time to let them know that they’re not what you’re looking for.

Also, a manager friend of mine recommended adding a line at the bottom of my ads (on the local sites only) that says something along the lines of “I welcome all feedback and would like to be notified if you are no longer interested in me after receiving and reviewing my resume,” but I feel that may come off too pushy. Ordinarily, I wouldn’t even consider it, but I am experiencing some culture shock here since I’m originally from up north where “no answer is an answer” is pretty common, but down here about 1/4 to 1/3 of my interview requests have come weeks or months after sending the initial resume and then assuming I wasn’t a fit after not hearing back from them. As it stands right now, I usually put something like “I look forward to hearing from you” at the end of an email when sending a resume, but now I’m wondering if I should use the line my friend suggested instead since my original line doesn’t imply that I’d still like to hear back from them even if they don’t want to interview me. Thoughts?

You’re over-thinking it.

No, you’re not being unreasonable by thinking a response is warranted, but you are being unreasonable — or more accurately, unrealistic — by thinking that you can force a response from someone who otherwise isn’t inclined to give one.

Do not follow your friend’s advice about adding that line requesting that people contact you if they aren’t interested. The polite ones will do it without being told and so this line will look weird to them, and the impolite ones won’t be swayed by that to do it anyway. So you’ll just end up looking slightly odd and not achieving your goal.

The reality is that part of job-searching is not hearing back from employers. It’s certainly rude — and incredibly so if you’ve taken the time to interview with them — but it’s an unavoidable reality these days. It’s not something worth getting worked up about because it’s not something you can change. You’re better off seeing it as an expected part of the process and not letting it bother you.

And really, what’s the real impact on you if assume you aren’t going to hear back from a company but then get contacted a few months later? After all, it shouldn’t affect your behavior either way — you should always be proceeding under the assumption that you don’t have a job offer until you have an actual job offer, regardless of how many solid leads it might feel like you have, so it really doesn’t matter if they respond and give you closure or or never contact you or wait three months before getting in touch. In all of those cases, your best bet is to mentally move on right after sending off the application, and let it be a pleasant surprise if you’re contacted.

You’ll only set yourself up for frustration and anxiety if you expect responses and get irked when you don’t get them. Assume you won’t, and you’ll be a lot happier.

{ 19 comments… read them below }

  1. -X-

    This reminded me of one of Paul Watzlawick’s five axioms of communications, which is roughly “You cannot not communicate.”

    The organizations that are not responding are communicating poorly, but they are communicating: they’re not interested and they’re not courteous. Two messages. That’s annoying, but should be enough for the OP.

    1. Jessa

      Exactly. If in this day of emails they don’t have the courtesy to even send out a blanket “sorry no,” to everyone they have interviewed (not every applicant, just the ones they’ve actually talked to,) then you know. They’re not organised, they’re not polite.

  2. AnotherAlison

    After going thru a long, drawn out interview process (months) with one company, I was ticked off that I never got a rejection or offer. I still really don’t know what happened because one week they said an offer was coming, then silence. Then last week another manager at the company called me and said the other manager and another person I interviewed with both passed my name on to him for a position he will open soon. I guess I would rather they keep me in the warm pile than give me closure.

    1. Just a Reader

      I’d love to see a post on interview limbo horror stories. I have a doozie and it sounds like a lot of other readers do too. It’s just so common. And horrible.

  3. Just a Reader

    It’s so much better to move on than to let yourself be mentally screwed with over a job. No response is a response in itself, and any firmer communications should be taken at face value as AAM preaches.

    It stinks but there’s not much else you can do.

  4. Daisy

    ‘Ordinarily, I wouldn’t even consider it, but I am experiencing some culture shock here since I’m originally from up north where “no answer is an answer” is pretty common, but down here about 1/4 to 1/3 of my interview requests have come weeks or months after sending the initial resume and then assuming I wasn’t a fit after not hearing back from them.’
    This doesn’t quite make sense as a complaint to me. You wouldn’t mind no answer, but suddenly you do because people are saying yes to you? Why would you want people to tell you straight away that they’re not interested, because they’ve been taking a long time to tell you they ARE interested? Surely these are good results that you wouldn’t have if everyone immediately said ‘no thanks’ just to be polite? I feel like I’m missing something.

    1. KayCee

      Hey, OP here. I supposed I could have phrased that part better, haha. Basically, I’m used to no responses equaling no interest but when I talked to people in my networking groups and my mentor/boss about late responses or follow-up they all say “Oh, that’s just how it is down here, people are more leisurely with that kind of stuff”. So now I’m kind of stuck in limbo where no response doesn’t necessarily mean no interest, it just means that they’re not in a hurry to get back to applicants. It’s problematic for me because I like to research a company and be prepared when I go in for an interview and it irks me if this company I’d written off months ago suddenly wants an interview in the next 48 hours.

  5. Ly

    This is my first job search in 5 years and this new silence behavior is so frustrating. Out of 27 resumes sent in the past month I’ve had 4 no’s, 2 interviews three weeks ago with no follow up, 1 interview with a potential second interview this week, and 1 follow up questionaire and the rest of the resumes seem to have been swallowed by a black hole.

    1. Tina Career Counselor

      I realize this may not entirely make you feel better, but that’s actually a good (initial) response rate, especially if your time frame has only been a month. It can often take weeks or months before an employer gets back to someone, even if they’re interested, so that’s a good sign.

      As for the lack of follow up regarding your actual interviews, it’s possible that’s just the nature of their interview process. Did they give you a time line at all, or did you consider following up with them?

      That said, one of my personal pet peeves with the job search process is when employers NEVER inform a candidate that they interviewed of the final status. I realize the process can take a long time, there are a variety of factors involved, but how many people could you have interviewed that you don’t have the time to tell someone they didn’t get the job? It’s a basic (to me) courtesy. We try so hard to help candidates understand and display “professional” behavior, shouldn’t the employers show the same professionalism?

      I know what we want isn’t always what we get and the employer has a job already, but I can hope, can’t I? :)

    2. ThursdaysGeek

      “new silence behavior”? I was getting the same lack of responses 25 years ago — what’s new about it?

  6. EnnVeeEl

    I’ve gotten calls from two companies, returned a call and actually spoke to the other in the past three months. Both dropped off the face of the earth after the contact, with one making promises of when I would hear from them. Honestly, just assume you aren’t going to hear anything.

  7. marty

    “…but it’s an unavoidable reality these days.”

    Really? The automated “we’re moving on with other cnadidates” or “We have many candidates whose qualifications match…” rejection e-mails I’ve gotten seem to be OK with some companies. I may be wrong, but isn’t setting up an auto-response like this a relatively simple task?

    With the decreasing time that we are told the overworked recruiters have (the latest I’ve seen is 5 seconds) to scan our resumes and now that employers simply CANNOT respond, it’s getting a bit tiresome. Apparently, the computerized, algorithm-driven, hiring machine no longer has time for people.

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      I mean that candidates can’t avoid it, not that employers can’t avoid doing it. Employers certainly can avoid doing it if they choose to; it’s easy. But so many don’t that a candidate shouldn’t think they can devise some way around it.

  8. CAndy

    It’s terrible, but you just have to move on.

    I had an interview last month with a local company, I did lots and lots of prep for it which included visiting three of their locations… after a 2 hour interview I was promised a response very soon, as I was “a strong candidate who the MD would definitely like to meet”.

    Then nothing.

    It’s happened before and I’m sure it will happen again, you just have to try to manage your furiousness/disappointment.

    It’s not about you, it’s them. They are shit. And if you were interviewing with your potential line manager, you maybe just had a lucky escape. From working for someone who likes the authority and power of the position, but is no use at the responsibility that comes with it.

    Best of luck for the future.

    1. Lydia Navarro

      Hee hee. “They are sh*t.” My husband says this when he is rejected. I think its hilarious!

  9. Lydia Navarro

    Rule of thumb for electronic communications is you cannot expect a response anywhere. Not email, contact form, Twitter, blog, forum posts, nothing! I have been there myself, and I know how frustrating and isolating it feels. I also know what it’s like to re-read what I wrote and bite my nails wondering if I sound too pushy or bossy or bee-yatchy, or timid or shy or Hispanic or Texan or Hippie or conservative or….yeah, you get the idea, right?

    Your mind can go all kinds of places wondering what it is about you that caused someone not to respond. People have rejected me for all kinds of reasons and they will continue to. All I can do is take it in stride and move on, and with that, choose to focus on the attitude that it is their loss. It’s said that Americans nowadays are too entitled and have too much self-esteem but I personally don’t have self-esteem that’s the best, at least my husband doesn’t think so anyway. So when I am ignored or rejected, I choose to tell myself the following:

    “I’m friendly, I have a good attitude, and I put my best foot forward at all times. I own those character traits. No one can take them away from me. AND, I will continue to persevere and move forward regardless of how many rejections come my way.”

    Try it…it can really help you out, I promise. Good luck! : )

    1. KayCee

      This was actually really helpful and something I should be telling myself more often. Thank you!

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