Job inquiries met by silence

Q: I have been out of work now for nearly four months. I have had many interviews and great leads through networking. Still nothing has panned out. Given this economy and with so many people being out of work searching for jobs, I find it frustrating when the HR rep/hiring manager do not get back to you with updates on the interviewing progress. I have had to call or email (numerous times) to get updates, many only met with silence. Is it too much to ask for status updates from HR without solicitation? I know we are all busy, but I really believe that is an important practice now-a-days. I find it bad practice if an organization does not communicate any status when unemployed people need that information to move on. You think you are still in the running to only find out an offer was made weeks ago to another candidate. Do I long for the days of the rejection letters in the US mail? At least it was closure.

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A: Thanks for your question and the background information you provide. Your situation is unfortunately not that unusual. I hear this concern repeatedly; specifically, that any inquiries about a job are met by silence. It is unfortunate but an unfortunate reality.
A bit of information from “the other side.” Many HR teams have been sliced, diced and thinned. I hear from recruiters and HR reps that they could work 90 hours per week and still not be able to return all the calls and emails from candidates. And sometimes when the HR rep does return a call to a candidate (trying to do the right thing!), they are met with frustration, anger and even threatening demands. I had one HR rep recently share with me that a very unhappy job seeker angrily threatened to come into her office and “track her down” after telling him that he was not a final contender for an opportunity at her company. I have even had parents of recent college graduates contact me and demand to know why their son or daughter was not hired by my client.
In the pre-technology days, it seemed easier to return calls to candidates. But now with the advent of the internet and email, the responses to online job postings can be overwhelming. I posted an ad last week on an online job board for a client and received over 100 responses in less than one day! For the record, I often add a comment to my postings that tells candidates “only candidates of interest will be contacted.” I am hoping that candidates understand that I can not contact each and every person that may reply but only the candidates that best match my client’s requirements. At a minimum though, candidates should be contacted if they have interviewed with an employer or a recruiting firm. Candidates are sometimes offended when I notify them by email but honestly I feel like at least they are receiving an update and closure. Not all candidates are satisfied with this type of response either. And then there are those candidates who I have played telephone tag with for several days, if not weeks. Then there are those candidates who tell me “I can never reach you. I always get your voicemail.” Of course, I say to myself “that is because I am trying to get back to you and 15 other candidates today!”
Finally, I can empathize with your situation. It sounds like you are conducting an active job search — this is still the key to landing a new job. It is a tough employment market right now but hang in there. We are all looking forward to more prosperous times ahead.

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