Searching for a job can be fraught with stress and anxiety—and also confusion. Job seekers don't always know what rules employers expect them to play by, and employers frequently engage in behaviors that job candidates find baffling.
Here are five of the most confusing elements of looking for a new job.
1. Why do some employers set up phone interviews and then never call? It's surprisingly common for an employer to schedule a phone interview with a candidate, but then not call at the scheduled time and not bother to get back in touch to reschedule. Even worse, the candidate's attempts to get back in touch are often met with silence.
Usually this happens because the phone interviewer is disorganized—forgot the call or scheduled something else for that time without bothering to notify the candidate. And sometimes they don't get back in touch because they've moved forward with other candidates instead. It's incredibly rude behavior, and is the sign of an employer you might not want to work with anyway.
2. Should you apply for jobs when you meet most but not all of the qualifications? Job seekers often wonder if it's OK to apply for jobs when they have slightly less experience than required, or have some exposure to a required software program but lack proficiency. And they definitely don't know how to handle ads that require five years of experience with technology that has only existed for three.
While ads might not make this clear, it's OK to apply if you meet the majority of the requirements, even if you're not an exact match. Job ads are often wish lists for employers, and employers often end up interviewing—and hiring—candidates who are reasonably, though not perfectly, matched. If you match at least 80 percent of the job's requirements, it's worth a shot.
3. Why do some interviews seem to go well, but then you never hear anything back from the employer? Many companies never bother to notify candidates that they're no longer under consideration, even after candidates have taken time off work to interview or traveled at their own expense. Candidates are often anxiously waiting to hear an answer and end up waiting and waiting, long after a decision has been made.
Employers who operate this way claim that they don't have time to notify everyone, but the reality is that it doesn't take that long to email a form letter, and most electronic application systems allow it to be done with the click of a button. Employers who respect candidates and their time will make sure that everyone who applies gets an answer.
4. Why do companies ask you to name your salary requirements without telling you the range they plan to pay for the position? This practice causes lots of anxiety for job seekers, many of whom aren't sure what salary range the company will consider reasonable.
While it's reasonable to talk about salary expectations before investing time in interviewing candidates, employers who insist on hearing a number or range from candidates should be willing to share their own range as well. Employers who refuse to share their range are setting up an adversarial relationship contrary to what making a good hire should be all about.
5. Why is there so much conflicting advice about job searching? Show 10 different people your resume, and you'll get 10 different opinions on what to change. Ask whether you should follow up with a phone call after submitting an application, and you'll hear passionate yesses and equally passionate nos. Job seekers are bombarded with all sorts of conflicting advice, much of it presented as gospel, and it's tough to separate the good advice from the bad.
Much of the confusion stems from the experience level of the people doing the advising. Try to screen out advice from people who haven't done significant amounts of hiring themselves, and whose hiring experience isn't recent. Pay more attention to people who hire regularly themselves, and who you know to be sane and realistic. And if someone's advice makes you uncomfortable or seems counter to common sense, it's sensible to ignore it.
Alison Green writes the popular Ask a Manager blog, where she dispenses advice on career, job search, and management issues. She's also the co-author of Managing to Change the World: The Nonprofit Manager's Guide to Getting Results, and former chief of staff of a successful nonprofit organization, where she oversaw day-to-day staff management, hiring, firing, and employee development.