why are employers so rude to job candidates?

A reader writes:

I’ve been job hunting for about 18 months and I can’t handle all of the broken promises. I’ve had people make offers of help and then disappear. I’ve had interview offers rescinded (mostly involving scheduling conflicts until I find that the job has been filled). I’ve been told to follow up and then, after having chased someone down, found that the job has been filled. I’ve even had one job offer rescinded (the person doing the hiring didn’t have the authorization to hire me, which I found out three days before I was supposed to start a three-month gig). One company has called me on three separate occasions to talk to me about upcoming projects and how they want me to be a part of the team — and then crickets, even after I follow up for an update.

I know that none of it is personal, but it has me screaming “what is WRONG with people?” Why is it so difficult to hit “reply” when someone has followed up after an interview? (I do not expect a reply to every resume I send out.) Why does no one understand how hard it is to look for a job, especially when you’ve lost one? I can accept hearing no, but the silence is painful. I feel completely invisible. Being unemployed is hard enough, dealing with this insanity makes it unbearable.

I just spoke with another company was told that I would be getting a technical test for a freelance position several days ago. I followed up with an email yesterday but so far no reply. I’ll wait another week and call if I don’t hear but I can’t believe this is happening again. Do you have any advice for me?

I answer this question over at Inc. today, where I’m revisiting letters that have been buried in the archives here from years ago (and sometimes updating/expanding my answers to them). You can read it here.

{ 153 comments… read them below }

  1. Not my name*

    No good advice. The last letter was a job candidate who lost a job by being rude. Yet companies may be as rude as they like and we’re supposed to accept it. Big double standard. You are free to factor their rudeness into whether you want to work there. But if you are desperate for a job you may not be able to. The whole thing stinks.

    1. SL #2*

      Yep, I definitely find it interesting that these two answers ran back-to-back (intentionally or not!). OP, I know it sucks and I know it feels like you’re just sending applications and emails into a black hole. But there’s a good point here and in Alison’s response: the good companies are the ones that are considerate of applicants’ time and energy. The companies you want to work for are the ones who don’t treat potential employees rudely.

      1. Ann*

        No, avter 18 months, you want a job. You don’t want your time and effort wasted. Totally agree with the *interesting* difference between the answer here and in the last question.

        1. Gazebo Slayer*

          Yup. Ignoring the vast power differential between applicants and employers is at best woefully naive and at worst deeply dishonest and anti-worker.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            I’m not sure if this is directed at me or not. I’m not ignoring those differences, and I routinely criticize — in pretty harsh terms — companies that don’t get back to applicants. But that’s different than the question of what job seekers should do when companies don’t get back to them. You will get the best outcomes for yourself — and the best quality of life, generally — by understanding how common this is and not agonizing over it.

            1. JB (not in Houston)*

              Exactly. As a job applicant, you can’t do anything to make companies behave the way you want to. All you can control is what you do. Spending time thinking about what companies should do is spending time and emotional energy on something you have no control over.

              1. RVA Cat*

                There’s also the fact that taking it so personally may be harming the OP’s job search. It’s hard enough to keep slogging away a year and a half into the search, but a bitter, defeatist attitude will torpedo their chances.

                1. fposte*

                  @Gazebo Slayer–I think saying bitterness could hurt somebody isn’t blaming them, though; it’s just stating a fact.

                2. RVA Cat*

                  I wasn’t blaming them at all. It does seem to be a vicious cycle, though. Add in the fact so many employers (and our culture in general) see long-term un(der)employed people as somehow defective even when it’s entirely out of their control.

                3. LabTech*

                  There’s also the fact that taking it so personally may be harming the OP’s job search. It’s hard enough to keep slogging away a year and a half into the search, but a bitter, defeatist attitude will torpedo their chances.

                  I’ve seen this sentiment expressed several times in the comments, and every time it hits a nerve. You can’t not be bitter when you’re not sure where your next month’s rent will come from, spend hours agonizing over application materials, and exhaustively preparing for interviews, then get zero acknowledgement to the point where you wonder if you actually submitted the application or not.

                  Nearly anyone in that desperate a situation is going to feel horrid about it, but to suggest that it’s bleeding into interviews as a foregone conclusion – as though the long-term unemployed are incapable of presenting a professional, positive demeanor for the duration of an hour or so – is somewhat insulting, and, I think, demonstrates a lack of understanding of the challenges faced by long-term unemployed.

                  I’ve been unemployed long-term before (9 months). I’ve had to sell whatever wasn’t nailed down to make rent and ration rice and beans. It was awful, but all the extra free time meant I practiced answering every potential interview question I could think of or find down to the syllable, so that my answers were satisfying, sounded natural, friendly, and were mirror-polished. In addition to routinely memorizing the job duties, reading up on the work place, and connecting it to my own background, I put careful consideration into the types of work the role might grow into, so that I could connect my experience to those duties, should the interviewers express interest in growing the duties of the role. I spent days reading technical articles and browsing libraries so that I could speak intelligently about their work and connect it to my own experience. I looked up the interviewers’ educational and work backgrounds so I would know which set of technical acronyms to use in describing niche techniques, and get a sense of the technical depth I should use in describing my previous work experience, striking the balance between not having eyes glaze over, but not describing it in such broad strokes that they have no idea what the work entails – all the while conveying the sense of passion that I had performing that work so they would not only feel that the work was important, but also see that I take a personal interest in my job.

                  There wasn’t much that I didn’t prepare for as though my life depended on it (because it did), and keeping the desperate day-to-day facet of my life from the interviewer was pretty high up on the list of things to avoid. If anything, bitter wasn’t as hard to avoid as desperate, because there’s no effective way to communicate being highly flexible on the specifics of the job duties without it wreaking of desperation (I couldn’t care less if that 10% of the role is doing X instead of Y! Just tell me which you want instead of me having to try and divine which you’d prefer, or God forbid, back peddle after guessing incorrectly on something that is otherwise a fairly minor part of the role.) Moreover, there’s no avoiding the fact that they potentially hold the key to being able to have some semblance of housing and food security again, and remaining positive and professional in light of that, while tricky, is not as impossible as so many comments I’ve seen seem to suggest.

        2. SL #2*

          Understandable! 18 months is a long time and people get desperate, which is precisely why employers, especially in industries where there isn’t a shortage of qualified applicants, feel like they can get away with treating applicants like this. But when you’re not in a desperate position, these are things to keep in mind.

    2. ginkgo*

      I don’t love this, but I think the difference is that in both cases it’s the job candidate who wrote in, and is thus in a position to act on advice. There’s not really much a job applicant can do in this situation, but if a hiring manager wrote in asking if it’s OK to treat candidates this way, I’d hope Alison would point out that it could be hurting their reputation with job seekers and could cause them to lose out on the most in-demand candidates.

      1. MegaMoose, Esq.*

        Yeah, I’m not sure what other advice the last OP could have gotten that would be at all helpful. Should Alison have recommended that they go to HR and the CEO and stand up for their right to be hired? What on earth would that accomplish other than damaging the OP’s reputation even more?

        1. Rachel 2: Electric Boogaloo*

          It would show that the OP has gumption! ; ) (Had to say it!)

      2. paul*

        Yep. The best part of Alison’s advice (IMO) is that she tries to focus on things that are actionable: What can you actually *do. As a job seeker, you have no or minimal leverage most of the time, and her advice as to what you should actually do here is going to reflect that.

        One of the frustrations in my working life is the number of people that feel free to give impractical unworkable advice. Yes, we’re working with disadvantaged folks a lot and yes, there’s frequently some bad choices that they made that are still impacting them. But telling a struggling single mom or a person with a drug conviction that they shouldn’t have done X thing does bupkiss to help them in the situationt hey’re in right now does it?

        1. Lissa*

          +1000 yes! This made me think of the comment thread last week about the OP dealing with her coworkers joking around when she’s trying to work where one person said something like “maybe they are joking around because capitalism is evil!” Ok, true or not, that doesn’t help the OP deal with the situation.

          The “actionable” thing is so huge. Otherwise every letter would need to include a screed about everything that’s unfair about working life, which just isn’t going to be practical, IMO.

    3. 5 Leaf Clover*

      I think the comparisons with the previous letter are false equivalence. This LW would be perfectly justified (and probably wise!) in deciding not to take a job if he saw his potential manager being rude to someone on the subway.

  2. whichsister*

    My issue is when you spend a half day or more interviewing with them on site. Multiple people. You know you are one of maybe 3 candidates being considered. They say they will let you know. You send hand written thank you notes. Then nothing. They ghost you. No thanks but no thanks. No we decided to restructure the position. Nothing. I can understand no response when you are one of 100s of applications. But when you are a finalist, you should get SOMETHING.

    1. It's almost lunch wahoo!*

      Seriously! It’s so disheartening to get crickets after an IN-PERSON interview. Even if it’s a form-letter ‘thanks but no thanks,’ at least have the courtesy to acknowledge me with an actual rejection after I’ve come to your office and talked to you for an hour+. Even though I’m motivated to move on from my current role, I do not want to work for a company that doesn’t even acknowledge their rejects. Clearly they don’t know how to treat people.

      1. MissDisplaced*

        I recently had two in-person interviews, one of which I drove 2+ hours and over 100 miles for in order to meet with someone for like 30 minutes. They swore they needed the applicant to start ASAP but then I heard nothing.
        It sucks, but you can’t take it personal.

    2. NewBoss5000*

      I once interviewed for a (higher ed faculty) job where I had to pay my own way (out of state) to go and interview. I was one of only two finalists. They gave me money for cab fare from the hotel to the interview site. I ended up saving money by making it a “road trip” with my brother and we had a good time doing the touristy thing before and after my interview. But I never heard from them again. That was over seven years ago and sometimes I fantasize about randomly calling them and asking if they ever hired for that position.

      My second interview during that year went much better. My travel and lodging were paid for by the university. And I got the job! (It’s kind of a nightmare job right now, but hey, I’ve survived seven years here.)

      Everyone I’ve ever told that story to is dumbfounded, because that JUST ISN’T DONE when hiring for a faculty position. It was a very small private school, so I understood why I’d have to pay my way there. It was the fact that they didn’t bother to even email a finalist candidate (who traveled nearly 1,000 miles on her own dime to interview) that she didn’t get the job that really astounded me.

      1. JulieBulie*

        Don’t ask them if they ever hired for the position. Ask them if you’re still in the running!

    3. De Minimis*

      I agree, that is just flat out rude. That used to happen to me a lot, and it was usually smaller businesses where it would have taken almost no time at all.

    4. plain_jane*

      They flew me across the country for a half day of interviews. After a month, phoned me up to tell me there was no news, they’ll be sure to reach out in the next two weeks to keep me updated – and please tell them if I get an offer elsewhere in the meantime so they can try to move things along faster. 4 weeks later, still no phone call, and no reply to the touch base email I sent last week.

      Which is to say, I feel you.

    5. PhillyKate*

      This has happened to me SO MANY TIMES. Was a finalist, having to take time off of work and ghosted. It is so rude. Just send me a form email, or something saying “No.”

    6. atexit8*

      Last fall I went in for an in-person interview with a company I worked at more than 10 years ago.
      I worked there about a year before being laid off due to finances; it was a start-up.

      When I went back in my former manager was there as was the former peer who would be my manager now.

      I never received a formal rejection letter or email.
      The job is still posted on the company website, but who knows if the job is “real” or not.

    7. many bells down*

      A few years ago I had two interviews for a teaching position I was very qualified for. They told me that they’d set up a time for me to shadow another teacher “after the holidays”. I never heard from them again.

      Well that’s not entirely true … they still send me emails asking how I liked their classes and if I’d like to enroll my kid again? My kids are way past the ages they serve and have never taken these classes.

  3. Recruit-o-Rama*

    I’m sorry you’re going through this. Several years ago my team had an opportunity to rebuild our company recruiting and hiring process from the ground up and we started with the premise that onboarding starts at application. This means every applicant get notifications about their status. At the applicant stage, it is a system generated rejection email, due to volume. But, if we’ve spoken to them and /or interviewed them in person, they get an actual email from whichever recruiter is responsible for the particular cost center they interviewed with. We are a company in a relatively niche industry where hiring specific technical laborers can be very difficult and companies easily develop reputations.

    I think that is some industries or professions, there is no visible or readily apparent consequence for the rudeness (which is really just laziness) so the company sees no reason to put thought behind their process. I hope that as the job market improves and the internet increasingly makes these issues more visible, it will begin to change.

    1. Queen of the File*

      This sounds really great and so reasonable and decent to me. Have you received any feedback from candidates & recruiters? One opposition I have heard from some hiring managers that it would be opening the door to back-and-forth conversations, requests for feedback, and complaints. Basically, they don’t trust candidates to handle rejection well. Curious to hear what your experience has been?

      1. De Minimis*

        I think it’s better to have a designated HR person or other representative e-mail the candidates that weren’t selected, precisely to avoid those type of situations.

        I am that designated person at my job, and I’ve never had a negative response from a candidate [sometimes requests for feedback which I can’t give since I wasn’t at the interview.] The only negative response I’ve had was to an automated e-mail from a applicant who wasn’t selected for an interview, and who was just applying to any job, anywhere and had zero experience in our field.

      2. Recruit-o-Rama*

        We do get the occasional candidate who won’t accept rejection, but we use kind language so normally people are polite. What we don’t do is give very specific feedback, and it’s for the reasons that you mentioned. I just tell candidates that we’ve decided to move forward with other candidates, thank them for their time and wish them well in their job search. When they ask for feedback, I tell them we are just not able to give individual feedback because of volume. It’s the actual feedback that opens you up to the back and forth arguing, not a simple notification. I think candidates appreciate knowing one way or the other, most people say “thank you for letting me know”

        I know rejection sucks, I don’t like this part of my job but being kind to people and acting with professionalism in all business communication should be the minimum standard, in my opinion.

        1. Queen of the File*

          Thank you! It has always seemed awful to leave people hanging without a yes/no to me. Drawing the line at providing feedback makes much more sense.

        2. Puffyshirt*

          Yes!! My org does this, too. If a candidate has come into the office, they get a phone call. If they interviewed via phone/video, it’s an email from a Recruiter. Otherwise, it’s a form letter. I do random audits to ensure we are being consistent. I think treating people with respect is a big piece of the employer brand.

      3. DMR*

        My experience may be unique, but I had an applicant who was kind of still in the running attend a public, evening event at my office, corner me afterwards, and give me a piece of his mind about how he would be great for the position we were hiring for and all around rub me the wrong way. The process took longer than expected, which we tried to communicate, due to two deaths in my family. We had made an offer to another applicant earlier that week, so there was still a possibility of the interviewing more applicants. We tried to communicate about the process as we went along, but he was clear that our timeline was a problem for him and in his opinion we needed to hire him. Needless to say, he will not be inteveiwed for future openings.

        1. Recruit-o-Rama*

          I have definitely run into my fair share of difficult candidates, it’s awkward for sure! But on the whole, most people just want transparency.

      4. Toph*

        I don’t do this but if the pushback were “inviting back and forth”, I’d recommend sending the form-auto-reject-response from a noreply mailbox. It’s a bit impersonal, which I’m sure some would deem nearly as rude as ghosting, but it’s a way to tell people and cut off further discussion. Plus, if people aren’t handling the no-news well, they’re following up and being ignored anyway. So even if it weren’t from a noreply mailbox…I don’t see much difference between ignoring a “hey have you decided yet?” and ignoring a response to “thanks but no”.

    2. Mike C.*

      Seriously, this is great and isn’t that difficult to do. A few emails here and there saying that your application has been received, that you’ve been denied or accepted for the next step. It can be highly automated and doesn’t have to be difficult and yet it puts you in the top 5% of companies in terms of being kind to your applicants.

      1. Recruit-o-Rama*

        I think that’s nit picking my language. I am responseible for 15 of our cost centers and facilitate the hiring of 20-30 people every month. I understand being busy. The laziness is in not thinking through and having a process that sets aside the fact that hiring managers are busy. My hiring managers don’t have to do any of the rejection process because our system and process is set up for their benefit and for the benefit o f our candidates. It’s not intentional laziness or anything like that, its….systematic laziness.

    3. FD*

      I agree with you there. I think it’s much the same reason that many companies provide poor customer service–they still get customers, they’re making money, so why put effort into being better?

      It’s a poor long term strategy, because eventually stand-out companies tend to eat up more of the pie and edge out others, but it happens slowly enough that I think they often don’t notice.

  4. You're Not My Supervisor*

    FWIW, I have been the one to schedule interviews (and received the follow up messages from applicants after they interviewed since my name/contact info was on all the correspondence). I was not alowed to respond until a hiring decision was made. I didn’t invent the policy, but I had to carry it out… that may be the case with some of the people not responding to you, as well

    1. Artemesia*

      I have been in that position too and it is dreadful. I argued that the 50% of applicants whom we would not consider at all should immediately get an email notifying them they were out and that as soon as we were down to the 10 to be considered for in person interviews, the rest should be notified. The final 10 could wait till we hired. (we did 6 phone screens and then invited 3 in for interviews) It often drug on for weeks and it really bothered me that we didn’t get back to people earlier. We did however write to everyone once we had someone in the position. It is so rude to leave people dangling especially if they have been personally interviewed whether by phone or on site.

      Our worst experience was when my husband was offered a job and invited to a social event and after that it went sideways. The person who invited him didn’t remember he had done so apparently and we showed up. Life’s worst party; I could tell in 30 seconds that the job was gone, but my husband couldn’t believe they would invite him to a party and then not follow through. Awkward doesn’t begin to sum it up.

      1. De Minimis*

        The big delay I’ve seen at my job is getting everyone’s schedules to align for interviews.

        Our system allows us to put candidates in different categories and change those around as we move into the process. We usually send out e-mails to the people who were rejected after the initial review as soon as we have a group that we want to interview. We wait on everyone else until the selected candidate has accepted a job offer. The people who made the initial cut but weren’t interviews receive a different form e-mail, and anyone who interviewed but wasn’t selected gets a personal e-mail.

        Sometimes if two different departments have vacancies, we’ll forward the resumes of the candidates who passed the initial review for position A to see if they might be a fit for position B.

    2. Howdy Do*

      I think this is often true or a very similar case. I only recently hired my first employee and I was given very little instruction about how to do it at all (despite there being many complicated steps!) and didn’t feel comfortable telling the unhired candidates a rejection email until my new hire was fully set up and starting work (which was a 2 month process) because the whole system seemed so precarious and like I could be told at any minute her offer fell through. I was also given inconsistent information about if I was supposed to contact them directly or if that was handled through the automated HR system, it seems some of my colleagues contact people they interviewed and some don’t so if someone is very busy with lots of employees, I can see why if it’s optional, it’s not gonna happen.

      But I was on the other side of this for 7 years trying to find a full time position in my field and I was applying at cities and colleges so I expected this kind of impersonal bureaucratic treatment which made it easy to take in stride.

  5. Office Manager*

    It’s hard to say. As someone who does the hiring, I can tell you that we sometimes get an overwhelming response to a single job ad. When we hired a PA for the CEO last year, we got 185 resumes on the first day. We didn’t even look at anything that came in after that, because we had enough quality candidates from that first batch. My standard response became “We are currently reviewing resumes and will contact candidates directly for the next step in the hiring process.” Quite honestly, if one of the candidates did not respond to an interview request in the first 24 hours, they were out of the running- not because of anything they did or did not do, just because we had SO MANY similarly skilled candidates who were interchangeable at this point in the process.

  6. Anne*

    As a person currently helping with hiring at an org without any real established processes for it, I’d say the answer is “nobody knows wtf they’re doing and it’s a miracle a lot of places manage to hire anyone at all”

  7. CAA*

    What does everyone think is a reasonable time after an interview for an employer to let you know you didn’t get the job? Keep in mind that the minimum time it takes for me to know that I’m definitely not going to hire you is usually 6 weeks after the in-person interview, but it could be up to 3 months. It takes 2 weeks to complete all interviews and get input from everyone and rank the top 3 choices; 1 to 2 weeks to put together an offer and negotiate it; 2 to 4 weeks until the actual start date when the chosen person shows up and I know I don’t need to go to the second choice. If something goes wrong with choice #1, we move on to choice #2 and then to choice #3 if there is one. I try to tell everyone at the end of the interview that hiring is a long process and it may take several months for them to hear back from us with a definite yes or no, but we will let them know eventually. Based on the follow-ups, I know that the majority of candidates do not hear or understand anything I say about hiring timelines though.

    We do send out a form letter rejection email to everyone not in the top 3 as soon as we decide to make an offer to #1 (including those who were only phone screened and those who just submitted a resume), but we typically don’t reject the top candidates until we have someone actually start the job. If you were #2 or #3, at what point in this process would you want to get a rejection email?

    1. TulipRose*

      I think it depends on if #2 or #3 are currently employed or not. If I were unemployed, I’d personally want to get the rejection when you decided to hire #1. If #1 didn’t work out and then you contacted me, I may or may not take the job, but I don’t want to sit around waiting for you to decide that #1 isn’t good enough before I can start looking for other work.

      1. CAA*

        Thanks. I do hope you wouldn’t sit around waiting and would keep looking for other work regardless. Getting an interview with me gives you only about a 20% chance of actually getting the job, so you should definitely bet on the 80% chance that you’re not getting it and keep on looking!

    2. bleh*

      I’d want to know as soon as possible after the #1 choice accepts an offer and has a start date. Others may differ, but if something didn’t work out with that person and I was choice #2, I would not be offended later if you returned to me with an offer (assuming I’m still on the market). Either way you risk choices #2 and #3 not being available so long after an interview; clearly you think they’re top candidates, so if they’re actively looking, someone else very well might too. Why not let them know earlier?

      1. CAA*

        OK, that makes sense. I think the reason that we typically wait until #1 starts is that we’re often considering the other candidates for other positions that have opened up in the meantime. We wouldn’t usually reinterview them if the hiring manager for the new position participated in the process for the previous position.

        Our HR guy is always nagging us to make a decision so he can let people know, but we managers are reluctant to reject someone for a “Senior Dev” position one day and then have to go back the next day and say we want to hire him for a “Senior Dev” position after all and get the “Why didn’t you tell me sooner? I just sent the email and this makes us look bad …” speech.

    3. AMPG*

      I don’t see any reason to wait on notifying the #2 and #3 candidate once someone has accepted the position. If you’re having that much of a problem with people not showing up on their first day, you have a bigger problem with your hiring process that you should look at first. But assuming it doesn’t happen very often, you’re making people wait an extra 2-4 weeks for no reason.

      1. CAA*

        It’s maybe 15% that fall through after acceptance. It’s not that they’re no-shows, they usually at least call. We’re in a highly competitive environment with a couple of major Fortune 500s that can afford better benefits than we can and they will outbid us if they want to hire someone. I do understand that job seekers can’t necessarily turn down an offer that’s 10% more than we can pay with more PTO and cheaper health insurance, even if they’ve made a commitment to us.

        1. AMPG*

          15% is low enough that it would be appropriate and a courtesy to notify your #2 and #3 choices that an offer has been made and accepted. In theory they’ve continued to look for work anyway while they were waiting, and this allows them to have closure sooner.

    4. Coffee Addict*

      I really appreciate your comment since it gave me insight into the hiring timeline. I guess I’m a bit naive since I’m shocked that companies will wait until Choice #1 starts working. If I were working and Choice #2, I’d want a rejection right after Choice #1 accepted the offer. How likely is it that Choice #1 wouldn’t start the job? For me, I wouldn’t want to wait months to find out I was rejected. If Choice #1 fell through after the job offer, I’d rather get a callback saying things didn’t work out with another candidate and they were reaching out to see if I was still interested/available.

    5. Ramona Flowers*

      Very quickly. If you are waiting weeks or months to extend an offer most people will get that they were choice 2 anyway. I also know people who have been rejected, then candidate 1 didn’t work out and they received and accepted an offer.

      Candidates 2 and 3 will not be waiting on your offer for all that time – you may as well just tell them.

    6. Master Bean Counter*

      Ideally you’d tell me after #1 accepted the position.
      I’m a rational human and I know that you interviewed many qualified people. I also know that there is sure to be one or two way more qualified for your job than me. The odds against this playing out any other way are high.
      But when #1 jumps to another position/wins the lottery/marries into money down the road you’re going to post that position again or maybe you post another closely related position that fits my skills better. If I remember that you were courteous and prompt with your communications, I’m likely to apply again as a stronger candidate. If I remember that it took you a while to get back to me, I’d still apply, but with much less enthusiasm. If you ghosted on me, I’m not applying unless I’m desperate.
      Another thing to consider, if I think your communication sucks when I’m applying to your company, I’m going to remember that. Especially if I end up at company B, whom is looking to do business with either you or your competitor. Previous interactions will heavily sway my choice.

  8. Gazebo Slayer*

    I’m tired of recruiters lying, or not disclosing important things about company policies until you’ve already accepted an offer.

    I was recently told a job was $40k a year. AFTER I ACCEPTED, the documentation I got told me it was $15 an hour until it went perm. The temp to perm part had been clear, but no one had said a thing about the much lower pay until it went perm! I managed to get the recruiter to give me $16 – the first time I’ve ever negotiated pay – but three weeks into the job they ended up calling me on a Saturday morning to tell me not to come in on Monday because they’d changed their mind and decided they wanted someone with more teapot experience. At least they didn’t tell me that Monday morning when I’d already come in…?

    1. JB (not in Houston)*

      That wasn’t cool of the company or the recruiter. But at least you can take from this experience the knowledge that it’s better to get all the documentation about the parts of the job you care about (like salary) before you accept a job.

      1. Gazebo Slayer*

        The $40k in the job description actually was in writing – it just never occurred to me that the recruiter would be lying about something so basic.

        Employers and recruiters just seem to operate on an entirely different system of rules from job applicants. Like, it’s awful and appalling for us to lie, but for them it’s just part of doing business and filling the role.

    2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      That is so awful and deceptive. I’m really sorry you had this experience :(

  9. Ann O'Nemity*

    Ugh, this makes me feel terrible. I’m a manager and I know I need to do a better job following up with candidates. I’m trying to juggle a lot of balls and sometimes I drop them. I make excuses to myself (the ATS is clunky, HR should be helping). But the reality is that I know I should be doing better. Alison is absolutely right – it’s not personal at all. I’m just swamped and sometimes I postpone or even forget to send updates and rejections.

    1. AMPG*

      I think if you put wording in your ads to the effect of “only finalist candidates will be contacted,” and your auto-reply for however candidates submit applications contains the same wording, then you’re OK not contacting every single applicant. Most people understand that hiring managers get swamped. But you shouldn’t consider a hiring process complete until you’ve contacted everyone you’ve actually interviewed. It doesn’t have to take that long. I promise I’m not trying to pile on – just suggesting that it might help to think of it as an essential step in the process.

      1. Bend & Snap*

        I don’t think I’ve ever had a company contact me to tell me I didn’t get the job unless it was a response to an inquiry call or email. It would be nice to get that via email in a timely fashion.

        1. AMPG*

          I have, but I had an established relationship with the company, so I’m sure they were trying hard to be polite and not cause hard feelings.

          Once I applied for an INTERNAL position with my company at the time, interviewed, and never got a follow-up! They ended up taking down the posting due to changes with the contract, but couldn’t be bothered to tell me what had happened. I had my boss (the division chief) talk to their division chief and got an apology, but after that every time I was on a hiring committee I insisted that internal candidates get a personal follow-up, even if they weren’t going to be interviewed.

  10. Bend & Snap*

    I’ve posted here before about going through 11 rounds of interviews and then getting a text message rejection without any feedback. There’s also the company that dragged me through 4 months of interviews, jerked me around inviting me in for the final round and then called me twice in the same day after I followed up to tell me they found someone soooo fantastic they fast tracked her through the whole process and hired her and I probably knew her (I did) and wasn’t that exciting? Both of those things were done by internal recruiters who remain on my “never work with again” list.

    The first company just reached back out to me for another position and I mentioned how my previous candidacy was handled and the person I talked to was like “Yeah, we’re shitty at hiring! ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ ”

    It sucks so much but it’s just part of job hunting.

    1. Stella's Mom*

      Yes, this is ridiculous. In 2012 I interviewed at a very well known organization, where people want to work there so badly, they dismiss all kinds of goofed up aspects of the org, including a very toxic culture. (I have two friends who have worked there and left in the past 2 years after burnout). I did 8 interviews over 3 weeks, got to the point of talking to the direct manager (she was 20 minutes late for my interview), I worked with the recruiter and HR on a salary package…. then…. after 4 more weeks they hired someone half my age, male and for 60% of the salary I was discussing with them/they had posted. My friends in the org were shocked. But, it is what it is. After reflecting on this there is no way I would have been a good fit for the culture, and as I said my friends both had burnout (90 hour weeks, including even longer weeks for the once a year summit they hold).

  11. Mr Mike*

    Interviewed multiple times with 14 companies over 8 months. Got two formal rejections and one job offer. Two+ years on, I am STILL waiting to hear back from ELEVEN companies that interviewed me multiple times!

    PS I did take the one job offer…

  12. consultant*

    Add to that:

    – employers who lose your time to an extreme degree. Who, for example, flight you to another country for an interview only to tell you they want you for a different position than the one you applied for.

    – employers who quote a wrong salary in the job advert just to attract candidates, who are then treated rudely that they took the salary from the ad seriously

    – who ask you about your family status (of course only if you’re a woman).

    This is what happened to me in only the last few weeks. Plus a few stories that are so specific that I don’t want to risk being recognized by describing them.

  13. Xarcady*

    Things have changed a lot since I started out in the working world. Used to be, you’d send in a resume and cover letter, and either get a rejection letter or a call for an interview. But you’d get something, some acknowledgement that your resume was received.

    Now, applicants have to do an online application, which takes anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour, depending on what’s asked, submit a resume that duplicates most of the answers in the online application, cover letter, phone screen, two or three interviews, skills tests. It is a substantial amount of time on the part of the applicant, and very often they have to track someone down for weeks just so they can be told, no, they didn’t get the job. It is exhausting and disheartening.

    I’m looking for a job. I’m temping while I do so. Every phone interview? Two hours at home, during which I’m not working. Every interview? A morning or afternoon off, which means the loss of half a day’s pay. It costs me real money to interview.

    There are more and more hoops for candidates to jump through, and less and less communication from the employers.

    I mean, I interviewed 4 times at one company, and gave a sample presentation, plus submitted writing samples. Called two weeks after the final interview. No decision. Called a week and a half later. No decision. Emailed two weeks after that. Nothing. Finally heard through the grapevine that the company was concerned about how long it would take a new hire (any new hire, not just me) to get up to speed, so they rehired someone they had fired a year before, because it was better to have someone who already knew their software, even if they had messed up so much that they were fired. The whole process is incredibly frustrating.

    1. RVA Cat*

      It almost makes the cynic in me wonder if a bunch of companies got together to make hiring such a pain so that their existing employees wouldn’t leave….

      1. Gazebo Slayer*

        Wasting people’s time is definitely a common tactic for cutting down the number of applicants. I think that’s a large part of why application processes are often so cumbersome. Not so much to keep people in their current jobs as to reduce the number of applications they have to consider.

          1. sometimeswhy*

            Definitely not a deliberate strategy for us. We lose a lot of good people because our process is cumbersome (in codified ways I am not in a position to alter) and can be months long depending on the position. Front line managers do a lot of wailing and tooth gnashing over it.

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          I would be curious to hear if employers actually do this for this reason. In my experience, hiring processes are slow because they’re (a) poorly organized, and/or because (b) the people doing hiring are extremely busy and prioritize other work over hiring.

          I have not yet met an employer who drags out hiring and “wastes people’s time” in order to narrow the applicant pool. In fact, most complain about their inefficient hiring because they lose the most competitive candidates from drawing things out. I’ve always assumed any company that requires multiple interviews, etc., of this style usually has a crap approach to hiring. It would be interesting to hear if they know their approach is crappy and continue to do what they’re doing because they want to ensure that it stays crappy.

      2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        I’m confused. How does making hiring difficult make it hard for current employees to leave? It sounds like the company, not the outgoing employee, bears the harm from the bad process.

        1. Anne (with an "e")*

          I think what they’re saying that if it is a huge conspiracy on the part of numerous companies then employees won’t leave their current jobs because it’s so cumbersome, time-consuming, frustrating, etc. to find employment elsewhere. It keeps employees stuck where they are.

    2. Joe Jobseeker*

      Yes, this. Been there. Still there. “There are more and more hoops for candidates to jump through, and less and less communication from the employers.” I have traveled at my own expense, taken days off, filled out reams of paper work and done tons of “homework” and then nothing. Maddening.

  14. Frustrated Optimist*

    I’ve experienced a lot of what’s described here, and written about it in various comments on this site, so I’m not going to rehash the details.

    I’d be curious to know, however, how long ago this article first ran. Because it’s obvious that nothing has changed. If anything, I bet it’s gotten incrementally worse.

    1. JulieBulie*

      I once got rejected over a year later. (It involved a government contractor – they had started recruiting waaaaay ahead of the actual project.) I really wasn’t expecting to hear from them at all – in fact, the guy I spoke to originally had already retired several months earlier, and I had thought that was the end of it!

      But at least they contacted me.

    2. Lily Rowan*

      In my last job, there were always people I didn’t want to reject until I had actually hired someone, and hiring would routinely take that long, so I get that. Also the first time I was hiring, I didn’t know who was supposed to send the blanket rejections to people we weren’t even phone screening, so that didn’t happen for months, either.

      Sorry about that!!

    3. Emily*

      I think it’s good to at least have that small courtesy of them giving you the information… though that is an awfully long time, I know.

  15. Andrew*

    I would like even an automated rejection letter over nothing at all. I did get a phone call rejection once. Caught me by surprise and thought it was polite to have that. It was a higher ed position that I had an in person interview and knew I had no chance in getting.

  16. Sunshine on a cloudy day*

    This is such an interesting question for me, because it so such an alien concept to me. I just don’t have this issue at all, because I assume the answer is no, they’re not interested (or no I will not be moving on) until I hear otherwise. This probably speaks to some personal issues with self-esteem/self-worth, but I guess in this particular issue it’s a benefit.

    It reminds me of a good friend who has such confidence with the dating world. I take a similar approach – I assume there will not be a second date (or third date, or that they want to get serious or take the next step) until it’s explicitly made clear to me otherwise. Whereas my friend just assumes there WILL be a second date (or whatever) until its made clear otherwise.

    In terms of dating a more balanced approach would be best for both of us. However in terms of job searching, this mindset seems to serve me very well. Don’t get me wrong – I still apply or make my interest in the next round apparent, but mentally – it’s a no until told otherwise.

    1. JulieBulie*

      You know, it’s not even a matter of self esteem. During a job search, you know there will at least be a delay before you hear from anyone, even if it’s good news. It makes no sense to suspend your search while you wait to hear from someone, especially since the next place you apply to might reply sooner anyway.

  17. JulieBulie*

    I don’t have any unique insights to share, but want to add my voice to the chorus of frustration about the imbalance of power between employers and applicants.

    Any time I read an article about employers who say that it’s difficult to attract good talent, I wonder what their application/hiring process is like.

    1. Gazebo Slayer*

      Yeah, seriously. I see a job go unfilled for six months and think “Either revise your unrealistic wish list or offer more money/benefits. Problem solved.”

    2. Rachel 2: Electric Boogaloo*

      This! I love when a company says this, but when you go to apply, they have an extremely long, complicated online application requiring you to provide your complete work history going back to high school, including supervisor contact info and starting and ending salaries for each job you’ve held; at least 5 more references; and your high school and college GPAs, if not actual transcripts. (A la Topgrading)

      1. JulieBulie*


        My last unemployment occurred when a lot of companies were using Taleo. After several difficult experiences with that (one form was literally impossible to complete because all of the choices in the pull-down list for a required field were wildly incorrect), I decided not to apply to any more companies that used Taleo. Or to proceed cautiously, but be ready to bail if I had to spend any time trying to outsmart the application.

        I had been unemployed for nearly six months. It sucked. But I didn’t want to work for a company that made me feel resentful before I was even finished with the application!

      2. Xarcady*

        One online application I attempted to fill out wanted every single address I had ever lived at.

        I’m in my 50s. And I was a military brat. I moved for the first time when I was 6 months old, and moved a total of 14 times before my father got out of the military. I have no idea of the addresses we were living at for the first few years of my life. In some cases I don’t even know the name of the base Dad was stationed at.

        They also wanted the names of every school I’ve ever attended. I was in three different schools in kindergarten. I have no idea of the names of the first two.

        And why a common, ordinary desk job at a common, ordinary firm would even need this information is beyond me. It’s not like they have to have a security clearance for me.

  18. Sunny*

    The reason that companies don’t get back to you, or don’t take your feelings into consideration, is that they can. They can be rude without any real consequences. If they don’t respond to your messages, if they tell you they’ll call but then they don’t, it is no skin off their nose if you’re miffed.

    Of course, as we saw in the last letter, occasionally rude behavior to people you think you’ll never see again does come back to bite you in the butt, but most of the time it doesn’t. If that lady had been some other CEO’s wife, that letter writer would have gone about their life without another thought, which is the way it is 99% of the time. So companies are operating on the assumption that how they treat rejected employees usually doesn’t matter.

    Strangely enough, I interviewed for a job, and a few weeks later, the recruiter called me and left a message asking to speak with me. But she also woudl NEVER answer her phone. Since I don’t get cell reception in my office, we played phone tag for several days, because she would never just give me info in an email or voice mail–she said she HAD to talk to me. Finally, I ended up making an appointment with her for a phone call, because that was the only way she’d answer her phone. She then told me I didn’t get the job. I was so annoyed at all the time I’d spent just trying to get that info from her!

    1. Joe Jobseeker*

      I agree. Still, you’d hope they realize there are consequences. You don’t respond to me, I will make sure I tell every person I know how lousy your company is. A simple email saying sorry you didn’t get is hardly any work at all (no excuse for not doing this) and will go a long way toward my impression of your business.

    2. Insert name here*

      Yes this!! This is exactly right. I don’t see that ever changing either.

    3. Frustrated Optimist*

      What an awful story, about having to schedule a phone call to hear a rejection!

      Just out of curiosity, during all that phone tag, were you expecting a job offer, or were you leaning more toward the idea that you didn’t get the job?

    4. puffyshirt*

      Gracious, that does sound annoying. However, in context of the topic at hand, I do appreciate the Recruiters effort to be sure she closed the loop with you. So many people complain about receiving rejection emails- you can’t please everyone.

  19. Tuckerman*

    I wonder if the LW is getting especially bad luck because the nature of the positions for which she is applying. She mentioned a short term (3 month) gig, freelance work, as well as another job that sounded like project based employment. It could be that hiring for these contract/freelance/short term positions tends to be contingent on so many changing factors, more so than permanent positions, that they are more likely to fall through.

    1. Xarcady*

      Because I’m in more or less the same position as the OP, my guess is that the OP is applying for a mix of short-term jobs to get some money right now so as not to end up homeless and permanent jobs.

  20. SeptemberGrrl*

    OP, I feel you and I’m in the same boat as you (unemployed for a long time and looking). I’ll share some of thoughts if they might be of help to you.

    Alison said:
    It can seem less rude if you’re prepared for it from the beginning — if you go into interviews expecting not to hear anything afterwards, and if you’re vigilant about keeping in mind that no matter how interested an employer seems, you might never end up talking with them again. Let employers’ follow-ups be a pleasant surprise rather than an expected step.

    It shouldn’t be this way, but it often is, and so you’ll do yourself an enormous service by approaching it with matter-of-fact acceptance rather than frustration.

    Normalizing bad behavior isn’t the answer. You can expect people not to get back to without also finding it “less rude” that they are doing it. Employers aren’t going to get back to you after an interview if they’ve lost interest, that’s SOP these days and it’s also rude as hell and frustrating as hell. When you encounter frustrating situations, feeling frustrated is the appropriate and healthy response. *Of course* this needs to be done in healthy moderation. If you’re obsessing for weeks over a rude company or wallowing in negative feelings, that’s not good for you. But I firmly believe that to force yourself to react as though it’s raining, when actually someone is pissing on your leg, is not beneficial. It’s all about moderation – feel your frustration, know that they are doing the wrong thing and behaving badly, ALSO know that there’s absolutely nothing you can do about their behavior, vent an appropriate amount and then move on. I think the best way to care for yourself is to feel your authentic feelings, experience frustration and pain when someone treats you badly and in doing so, you process the feeling and allows you to move on.

    As to why people behave so abominably in the hiring process, it’s unpleasant to reject someone. People who have some degree of emotional intelligence know that rejecting someone for a job – especially an unemployed person who really needs a job – is going to be very bad news to the candidate and they just don’t want to do it. They don’t want to be the bad guy, they don’t want to think of themselves as the bad guy. So they don’t of course, they don’t realize that not holding themselves accountable, and taking 2 minutes to send a “Thanks for interviewing, but we’ve selected another candidate, best of luck to you” makes them an even BIGGER bad guy.

    It’s easy to be “too busy” to do something that will make you feel bad. There are people who understand that rejecting candidates is just part of the process and it doesn’t make them a villain. And those are folks who will take the few minutes to follow up on the interview and let you know you didn’t get the job.

    Then there are people who are just selfish a-holes. When you are a potential candidate who could possible be useful to them, they are all over you. As soon as the decision is made on their end that you aren’t a potential benefit to them any longer, they aren’t going to waste any additional time on you.

    Note that all of the above is about INTERVIEWS. I have no expectation or need to get any communication back based on just submitting an application/resume.

    Good luck, OP. I understand what you mean about feeling invisible. And it’s not only employers – friends and family can struggle with it as well. It’s depressing AF to be chronically unemployed and when people don’t know what to say or how to help, they can tend to drift away.

    The best piece of advice I ever read on here was about “following up” being mostly bullshit. It’s very true and it’s helped so much. I interview, I send my thank you emails and I move on with my life. I don’t second guess whether I should follow up to “see what their time frame is” blah blah blah. I always remember this: If they want to hire me, they know how to reach me! They aren’t sitting around going “Well, she came in and interviewed, then she sent thank you notes saying she wanted the job but she didn’t keeping following up with us for weeks, so let’s not call her back”. No employer ever has had that conversation :)

    12 years ago, I interviewed for a job and had multiple rounds and it came down to 2 candidates and I didn’t get it. The hiring manager CALLED ME to let me know and explain why the other candidate got it. She was lovely and complimentary and I will always remember feeling very grateful for that and also feeling like she would have been an amazing manager.

    By the same token, I also remember the company I spent 6 hours with, interviewing with 8 people and spending $40 on parking to be there. I never heard from them again.

    1. Jana*

      This is such a fantastic comment!!! I needed to hear this right now, especially the part about feeling invisible. I’m struggling with my job search right now and it seems to be one of those things that’s hard to talk about. It can be unpleasant to face rejection after being interviewed, but it’s even worse to be ignored and left wondering. And, honestly, it’s just not that hard to put together a form letter email if there are several candidates to reject and it’s even easier to reach out to one or two…

      1. SeptemberGrrl*

        I interviewed a few weeks ago and got a ding email a few days later and that is never going to be a fun experience, it will always sting (some times more than other) but it is still a whole lot better than the alternative of crickets. It’s such a quick thing to do – once you have the form email, it is literally 2 minutes to customize with a name and position and hit ‘send’. Taking that two minutes means I left the interview process with a positive view of the company.

    2. Frustrated Optimist*

      Seconding what Jana just said. I appreciate someone saying that normalizing bad behavior isn’t the answer.

      Interesting observation, too, about not wanting to be the bad guy. (But then ending up a worse guy).

      OMG, SeptemberGrrl, can you be my life coach? You totally get me! ;)

  21. SheLooksFamiliar*

    Corporate staffing person here. I get irritated on behalf of the candidate, too. I can’t count how many hiring managers virtually disappear when I ask for a decision on a candidate, and I’m willing to bet that’s why a lot of recruiting and/or HR folks don’t follow up. They have no answer for the candidate, and are embarrassed. And I tell them the same thing Alison has said to candidates: it is not personal. It’s part of the job to deal with reluctant hiring managers. You need to learn to press for answers, and also to follow up with candidates if only to say, ‘I don’t have a final decision yet, please bear with us.’

    Sure, sometimes things fall through the cracks, or Something Happened. Remind me to tell the story of when my laptop crashed and it took over 2 weeks to get back in my Outlook calendar. And I really do believe hiring managers, candidates, HR, and recruiting all have different definitions of ‘timely follow up.’ But when a candidate gets an interview – a brief phone screen, a panel interview, a ‘seal of approval’ interview – they should also get follow up. I’ve had a few candidates flip out when I delivered bad news, but that’s par for the course. Be brave, show some integrity, and follow up!

  22. Mazzy*

    I’m stalking in a candidate for months because working conditions have gone downhill and I don’t want to call a candidate to badmouth my company, yet

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Wait, Mazzy, what do you mean? “Stalking in a candidate”—do you mean you’ve been putting off speaking to the candidate because conditions have gone downhill?

  23. Bridget*

    I think there’s a possibility that this kind of thing could be personal, if there might be some kind of unflattering information out there about the OP that potential employers are finding after reviewing her resume.

    Here’s an example from when I was hiring earlier this year. I had a strong cover letter and resume from a candidate including experience with a particular institution that is important in our industry, which he did a great job of highlighting in the cover letter. I arranged a phone interview via email. Then, during the hour before the phone interview, I was reviewing his resume again and Googled his name — and found a public blog post that was extremely negative about his experience with the particular institution. It was definitely him. Discretion is very important in our field, so besides a potentially negative relationship with a group that was important to us, this blog post demonstrated questionable judgment, too. I cancelled the interview at the last minute (after conferring with some colleagues to make sure I wasn’t overreacting).

    I did not tell the candidate why I was cancelling the interview. If he had the poor taste to bash this institution publicly, I thought he might have the poor taste to bash me and my employer for cancelling his interview, too. So I just told him something came up. Later I told him that we’d decided to move on with another candidate, and he wrote back to complain about my holding this scheduling issue against him. I didn’t answer. He probably thinks I was rude and inconsiderate and allowed a scheduling issue to ruin his job chances. But that’s not what happened.

    1. fposte*

      I think that’s different from what’s being discussed in the letter, though, which is basically requiring candidates to put in a lot of time and effort and then ghosting on them.

    2. Seriously?*

      I think it was poor behavioural on your part to not tell this guy that the blog post was your reason for cancelling the interview and basically ghosting him. Also, are you SURE it was him? You didn’t even give him a chance to offer an explanation. You just made assumptions. I think this guy dodged a bullet honestly, and maybe what he wrote about your institution is correct. Maybe it’s not, but your actions don’t support that it’s a positive place.

      Also, you can’t treat people badly because you’re concerned that they might say something badly back. You should have told him why you were cancelling. I truly hope this guy finds something else and I hope your hiring skills have improved.

  24. Emily S.*

    This is such a rough situation, and makes me glad I have a steady job.
    My favorite piece of Alison’s advice was this bit:

    “It’s frustrating, but you’re probably going to be happier if you see it as “busy people juggling high workloads with lots of priorities besides hiring.” Most of the time, that’s true. Very few hiring managers are trying to be jerks.

    One reason this is so frustrating is because so much of it is outside of your control. So I recommend focusing on the pieces that are within your control — primarily your own mindset about all this.”

    Another thing I would add, for job seekers out there:

    It’s very important to take care of yourself during the process. You know: Eat healthy, exercise regularly, stay on a good sleep schedule, and get out and socialize on a regular basis, etc. It will help you feel better about life in general during a difficult / stressful period.

  25. Young and Managing*

    As a previous manager, I know I would always feel bad if there was a delay in getting back to candidates. That being said, the organization had a lot of rules about communication with candidates which made it more challenging. However, I’ll never forget the one time a job candidate hurt her own chances by aggressively following-up with everyone she encountered in the process. We all really thought she would do a great job in the position and were in the process of putting together an offer. However, she started calling the recruiter, myself, and the group the interviewed her asking where her offer was and making up information about when we told her she can start. She had interpreted the “we’ll get back to you soon” as though she was definitely getting an offer. The recruiter and I decided her behavior was concerning and decided not to make an offer at all. Even though we had enough, I did email her explaining that we had decided not to make her an offer. She called again for feedback, questions, etc. and we just stopped answering.

    While I’ve definitely been on the other side, some patience in necessary and generally effective hiring managers are going to try follow-up with you as soon as they can……sometimes organizations and candidates themselves don’t always make it that easy.

  26. Nevertheless*

    My field is way too small and the rare cases stuff like this happens, it gets around and seriously hurts the hiring company. They are too afraid of losing talent or getting a bad reputation. I also recommend reporting these companies on glassdoor. I always go there before applying/interviewing to get more information, realizing that with all reviews there may be a bias.

    I’ve seen it happen to others I know though, and it sucks. I think it happens more with recruiters who are desperately looking for commissions and shoving any candidate they can find towards companies in hopes that the company will take their candidate. They know full well its not what the company wants, and that its not going to help the candidate to get their hopes up, but they are working in self interest.

  27. MB*

    It definitely sucks, but you also need to think about how many resumes/applications an employer gets. When my company was hiring, they got over 1,600 applications for a single job. And you have to take the time to look at every single one, on top of everything else you have on your plate. It’s definitely rough to not hear back, especially when you’ve started the interview process, but I feel like it’s just a thing that happens now.

  28. Jana*

    About a month ago, I interviewed three times for a job, was told I was one of the final two candidates, participated in a skills assessment, and then heard nothing. No acknowledgement of any kind. That’s rude and no amount of moving on to other applications will make that behavior seem “less rude”. I fully appreciate that an employer may receive hundreds or thousands of applications for a single job and, therefore, not getting feedback at the application stage is something that I don’t even think about as a candidate. Of course, the frustrating thing for those of us in the midst of demoralizing job searches, is that rude employers don’t need to change their tactics, so they won’t.

  29. AnotherHRPro*

    I just want to thank Alison for acknowledging that often the individuals that are not reaching out to candidates in a timely manner are often over worked and it is difficult to contact everyone. Now if someone had a face-to-face interview I think they deserve correspondence to let them know where their candidacy stands but honestly for some candidates there is no quantity of communications that will satiate them other than an offer. I’m not excusing companies that ghost candidates, but Alison advice about moving on when you haven’t heard back is right on.

    We hire a few hundred people each year and for each job posting will receive hundreds to thousands of applicants. Each of them believe that they are a perfect match for the job and that they deserve individual and personal communications to update them of their candidacy regularly. This just is not possible.

    1. puffyshirt*

      Agreed!! Also, just called a candidate to discuss his submission and his phone isn’t accepting incoming calls. well… there’s not a whole lot I can do about that. Candidates who make a typo on their applications/resumes or who change phone numbers and forget to update happen quite often, too. Sometimes the HR/Recruiting team does try to respond and we’re not able to…

  30. Anon Anon*

    I always feel bad for the good applicants. Because the job hunting sucks.

    But, I work for a small organization. I am currently hiring. I’ve received 130 resumes. Of those 130, only 40% also provided a cover letter, of the 40% of cover letters, only about half were even remotely qualified. And of the candidates we’ve invited to interview, we’ve had two that have resulted in multiple emails and phone calls to get them to contact us back. The process sucks (not as much from the candidate side) from the employer’s side as well especially with no dedicated HR department.

    I don’t intend to be rude, but I won’t be sending out rejection letters to anyone but the finalists we interviewed in person. I simply don’t have the time. And I don’t really feel bad about that, given that half the candidates who applied clearly didn’t even bother to read the ad.

  31. Bend & Snap*

    I wouldn’t expect communication from just an application. But from an interview, yes, especially if you know it won’t be a fit. Multiple interviews, absolutely, there should be contact.

    I’ve had companies take excessive amounts of my time and not communicate the result, and even then, it was just “we hired someone else good luck!” If you’re having people in for many interviews, it would be polite to tell them they’re out of the running and generally why. But this rarely happens IME. Maybe it’s the field.

  32. Laura in NJ*

    The OP’s post is pretty much what I’m going through right now–minus the interviews (been unemployed since 2010). I’m an admin (non-receptionist) and it seems no matter what kind of job I apply for, I never get a response. I was thinking about reapplying for a state government job from last year (I only made 1 round of interviews before never hearing from them again) because no one else will respond, let alone interview me.

    I have signed up with an agency, but they haven’t sent me on any assignments. Not one since I joined in January. I have no idea what else do to

    1. atexit8*

      I am in NJ too.
      I have been working on-and-off since my last full-time direct job ended in September 2013.
      All the jobs since have been contract or temporary jobs.
      My last 1099 job ended in July 2016.
      I finally found an entry-level clerical job last week.
      I found it on Indeed.com
      You just have to keep applying.
      Every day I check the ads in Indeed and Craigslist.

      Good luck

  33. Molly*

    Sorry folks, but I just don’t have time to reject all of the hundreds of applicants. Plus I keep the resumes in a pool for the next opening, so no one is ever really rejected.

    I’m pretty surprised that folks expect responses for jobs they’re not hired for when they are not internal candidates. Maybe I am too young, but having applied for jobs in various parts of the country, this is never something I expect unless I am internal

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Whoa, no, it’s a thing that’s expected if you interview for a job, including if you’re not internal. If you take the time to interview for a position, it’s incredibly rude and unprofessional for them never to close the loop with you.

    2. SeptemberGrrl*

      You’re not understanding the situation. The OP is only referring to instances where she’s interviewing with or talking to these employers – not just having submitted an application.

    3. FD*

      You can make that decision, but if I’m a great employee, I’ll remember it, and I won’t be applying with you again. And if you call me in several months without any contact (and this actually has happened to me before), I’ll decline because you clearly didn’t care before.

      When you don’t respond to candidates who put hours of work into applying for your company, you convey that you don’t care about them. Is that what you want their first impression of your company to be? Great Employees Have Options, and they talk about their experience applying with companies.

      Also, to be honest, I find your statement that you don’t have time a bit incongruous. If you have an automated rejection (email template or one button if you’re using Indeed), it takes at most 30 seconds. Supposing you have 500 candidates, that’s less than five hours each week.

  34. Soon to be former fed*

    It’s ironic. When I first entered the professional working world nearly forty years ago, rejection letters were a thing. Me and my recent graduate friends would joke about being able to paper a wall with all the rejection letters we received.

    Fast forward to now, where there are several quick, no postage required common methods of communication, and employers ghost on applicants far more than in the past!

    Being busy is no excuse for unprofessionalism, and ghosting on applicants who have been interviewed is unprofessional. These same companies would likely not look too kindly upon employees engaging in this behavior during the course of their jobs. It’s hypocritical. Many places are disorganized though, and the ghosting may be an unintentional by product of this. OP, take good care of yourself and aggressively pursue employment until you have a firm offer in hand, and fluck the rest of them. It’s a numbers game, and you are closing in on success. The very best of luck to you!

  35. FD*

    The thing I find the most bizarre is that as I get more into the business world, I often hear employers whine ‘it’s so hard to find good employees’. Which is bizarre to me–no one would take it seriously if an business complained you can’t find good customers!

    If you can’t find good people, you probably either manage badly, pay badly, or treat candidates badly. Often two of the three.

    Businesses tend to forget that how you treat people in the interviewing process reflects on the company–and good candidates talk about these things! Ghosting a candidate now might mean they’ll tell a highly qualified friend not to apply with you in the future. It’s a really easy thing to do, there’s no real risk from it, and it has a high potential reward.

  36. Chaordic One*

    Back at “Dysfunctional Teapots, Ltd.” no one was ever hired from an unsolicited application and people who applied for one job and who were then rejected were rarely, if ever, considered for other positions.

    When I was an Admin in HR there I had virtually no say in anything involved with hiring. However, I am proud that after the task of handling unsolicited applications was dumped on me, I created a “thank you” form letter that referred applicants to our website where we listed open positions and advised them to apply for those open positions and that if they were going to apply for more than one position, to apply for each advertised open position as if they were applying from scratch. (I didn’t go into the reasons why.)

  37. Kate*

    It is extremely time-consuming, but I ALWAYS let each and every candidate know at some point in the process. And I always try to let them know as soon as I can. I get so many replies thanking me for letting them know – it’s crazy.

  38. Mollyg*

    My biggest pet peeves in the hiring gauntlet is fake job postings. I recently got rejected from a job ten months after I applied and two months after I flew cross country for an interview because they did not have the funding for the position. I was the only person they interviewed. I have also learned from back channels about other job postings where they already had the person picked up.

    Companies: Unless there is no leagal way to avoid it, don’t post jobs if you are already know you won’t hire anyone who applies.

  39. ErinW*

    Three years ago, when I was in grad school, I interviewed for an internship and was told I could have the position. I was shown around the workplace and everything. I just had to complete an online background check, which, they were sorry to tell me, cost $27 out of pocket and they could not reimburse me. I said fine, cool, I’ll do it, I understand, and did it. But I was a grad student and that was a lot of money to me during that period.

    Never heard from them again. I emailed several times–“did you receive the confirmation of my background check?” “hey, I’m sure you’re busy, but I’d like to follow up” “just concerned that I haven’t heard from you–should I make other arrangements this term?” Never heard from them. I think someone told me later that the woman who interviewed me quit the job like, the next day.

    I was very peeved that I was 1. robbed of the opportunity to do an internship that term (because I missed the window during which I could have obtained another one) 2. robbed of $27 for a background check that was never needed and 3. treated so shabbily by a professional organization.

  40. Katy*

    Yes, it is possible that the hiring manager is very busy and ends up being rude when you contact them. BUT are you respecting their time?

    Do you ever ask the HR Representative if they have a minute to talk about a particular job ad? (Your name could be Jane and they could have been waiting for a phone call from another Jane)
    Did you call to ask questions about the job ad that are clearly answered in the ad?
    Are you calling to ask if the job is still available even though it was posted less than 24 hours ago?

  41. Liz*

    I had a job offer withdrawn 45 minutes into my first day on the job.

    I graduated from nursing school in 2008, about the time the economy imploded. People who graduated the semester before I did had multiple job offers before graduation, in a state where nurses aren’t allowed to work as nurses until they pass the licensing exam. Suddenly, no one wanted to hire new grads. Many job ads literally said “No new grads.” A 1-star nursing home turned me down because I had no experience.

    After 8 months of searching, a few interviews (some of which required plane tickets), and no job offers, I finally got an interview at a local nursing home. The hours were 11 pm to 7 am, 2 days a week. I didn’t want to start my new career in a nursing home, but I figured we all have to start somewhere. It was also a short cab ride from my call center job, which I had before I started nursing school. My hourly wage would have been double what I was making at the call center, so I planned to work both jobs, pay down my student loan debt, keep my health insurance, pick up extra shifts if I wanted to, and eventually leave the call center for good.

    I was hired for nights, but they wanted to train me on days. The trip took 2-1/2 hours on public transportation, including walking a mile in 6 inches of freshly-fallen snow, but I got there on time, ready to start. When Iarrived, I sat in an office for 20 minutes. Then the woman who hired me sent me into the day room, where the nurse on duty was passing out medications to the residents. I helped her out for a bit, and after 25 minutes, I was called back into the office. The woman who hired me said the job was now per diem (no set schedule or access to benefits) and they couldn’t afford 2 orientees at once (the woman in the day room was also orienting), so she was sending me home. Less then an hour into my very first day as a nurse, I was waiting for a bus back home.

    She’d told me to call back the next week to see what they could do. It was Monday. When I called to check in Friday, I was told the job had been cancelled. My very first nursing job lasted 45 minutes. I never filled out any paperwork, so I was never paid.

    This and a few other incidents are part of the reason why I will *never* work at a nursing home unless my family is facing immediate homelessness.

  42. Andrew Kelly*

    Hi Alison;

    I have been job hunting for most of my life it seems like. I went to college got a post secondary school diploma in Business and posess a drivers licence in commercial vehicles.

    I have been working in security for 17 years, mainly as a security guard with some supervisory experience. It seems I can not get any further then this. I took courses in University to be a property manager and first year physics and electronics at a community college.

    I have had many interviews in the past and about 80% of the interviews the interviewer starts screaming his\her head off to, “Get out of my office.” as soon as I say, “I can drive” or they freak out when I tell them, “I have a post secondary school diploma in Business” I have had interviews were the interviewer never read my resume and when they do they start shooting from the hip attitude. The first thing they say during the interview, “You don’t have a drivers licence, it’s fake!” Using a demining voice. The other type of interview is where the employer screams at me during the interview, ” You don’t have a Business Management diploma retarded boy, it’s fake” or the other type of interview is, “Look at the guy, look at the guy” or “We don’t hire people who look like you.” in a demeaning type of tone. All this during the interview.

    Most interviewers never read my resume and they just look at me, look at my resume, look at me. Etc. Then the employer says in a rude voive, “We will call you if we are interested!” In a demeaning voice hey what? Your company called me into an interview and this is the respect I get.

    I carry a portfolio and had to open it up to defend my education and licences as the interviewer just attacks and even with my portfolio I still get, “Anybody can make this up a on an ink jet printer” according to employers I went to a fake college for 3 years to pay fake money after going to fake classes and studying fake material costing me thousands of dollars.

    I never hear back from interviewers from the jobs I am qualified for. I get these type of responses upon me following up on my resume. “If we are interested we will call you! Click” or “Hopefully somebody will call you back.” and that is the manager who does the hiring.

    I also had interviews I got called in for where the manger says, “We are not going to train you because you have no experience!” Yet the position advertised no experience. Do the interviwers just turn off their brains when interviewing people? Do they put on their rear end on their head everymorning when they wake up?

    1. Karen*

      I’ve had similar experience where I have a Business degree however cannot get into the field I studied for and companies do not take into consideration transferable skills. I’m finding at the moment I am pigeon holed into types of work that I really need to get out of due to work stress and unmanageable workload – the struggle to get back into admin!

      1. Andrew*

        It’s stupid, employers complain about no skilled people, then one walk right in and they don’t want it. Then they complain and say they hire cheap labour because no skilled people. The real truth is they do not want to pay and are too lazy to train. Like as if the hiring manager walked in with a silver spoon in his\her mouth or the experience fairy hit them eight times on the head. Somebody gave them the opportunity or else they would not be where they are.

  43. Kat*

    Yes… I’m having this problem at the moment. The company I’m dealing with right now, tells me there could be another consideration for me by the end of this week but I honestly feel like I’ve wasted enough energy and time with it all. It’s all a very long story, but it’s awful to have to go through these situations with companies. This stuff is draining to say the least.

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