One of the most frustrating things in life is putting time and effort into applying for a job, acing the interview and then never hearing back from the company.
Being rejected is one of the biggest annoyances experienced by job seekers. But it's not just being turned down that infuriates people. It's having an interview and then not being turned down, or so much as contacted by the company ever again.
We interviewed company leaders and hiring managers to find out why companies no longer send rejection letters – and why those who do, still do.
1. Sheer volume. It's a buyer's market out there in today's economy. Record numbers of applicants are applying for fewer jobs, with companies receiving on average 250 résumés for every job opening, according to a recent article by Dr. John Sullivan on the recruitment community website ERE.net.
"The reason we can't always respond to job seekers is simply a matter of volume," says Joel Gross, CEO and founder of Coalition Technologies. "Considering the sheer number of responses we get to a single job listing, it's impossible for us to even open all of the emails, let alone respond to each one personally."
2. Fear of being sued. The decrease in employer response to job applicants may be a natural consequence of the faceless online applicant tracking system, but also the result of a greater fear. "With today's recession bringing more employment lawsuits, your company's applicant rejection letters could be very costly if written in a way that could spark legal action," warns George Lenard, the originator of George's Employment Blawg.
3. They put office staff in the firing line. Sending a job rejection email with a name or number included may have unintended consequences. "Mounting layoffs are creating a glut of qualified job hunters who are desperate for work," says a source at theHRSpecialist.com. "As their frustration grows, more applicants are reading deeper into their rejection letters – sometimes spotting job promises you never intended."
The last thing your office staff wants is to spend time on the phone with rejected job-seekers who have called with the hopes of talking their way back into the job, or worse – questioning whether you made the right hiring decision.
4. They're keeping their options open. Companies may also linger to reject you in case another candidate falls through. Sometimes the No. 1 candidate doesn't work out, so the No. 2 candidate is then called and offered the position. "The company doesn't want to completely shut that door," says Katie Fuller, a recent graduate from UVa McIntire School of Commerce. "If they never come across a good candidate, they can't extend any sort of offer if they've rejected you."
Reasons to Send Rejection Emails
There are many good arguments for notifying candidates that their application has been unsuccessful. Sending job rejection letters can actually build brand goodwill by giving applicants closure. "When you apply for a job, it often feels like your résumé goes into the same black hole that sucks up your socks in the dryer," says Ellis Blevins, the director of Amadeus Talent, a technical recruiting division of Amadeus Consulting. "We find that a personal approach alleviates a lot of the stress and frustration that happens when applying for jobs."
"The hiring process is an important part of building a company," agrees Jessica Nobrega, director of talent at Grammarly. "Clear communication across all departments and channels is a key piece to ensuring that the company's culture is one of integrity and respect for others."
Whatever you do, avoid this move, posted by a frustrated reviewer with the user name "Pixilated" on the website About.com: "The most memorable [rejection letter] came via email, with the subject line: REJECTED. Wow."
What to Do If You Don't Hear Back
So what's a job seeker to do? The best way forward is to ask at the end of your interview about the next step in the hiring process. "Asking about the timelines gives you the opportunity to follow up," advises a hiring manager at the career coaching website Expectingchange.com. "If the employer says, 'We expect to let people know by the end of this week,' you can then say, 'If I haven't heard back from you by the beginning of next week, is it OK if I call?'"
Asking for the green light to check allows you to take positive action to follow up on your interview, rather than being left in the dark.
When Being Gracious Pays Off
It takes a rare person to respond to rejection with positivity, but writing a gracious thank-you note if you actually do receive a rejection letter will make you stand head and shoulders above other candidates. "If you can muster the professionalism and grace to thank the people who interviewed you, you could transform yourself from a reject into a pearl," says Julie Bauke, president of Congruity Career Consulting. Every time Bauke gets a thank-you letter in response to a rejection, she finds herself wondering: "Did I make the right decision?"
Natasha Rhodes is a writer for CareerBliss, an online career community dedicated to helping people find happiness in the workplace. Check out CareerBliss for millions of job listings, company reviews, and salary information.