Rude employers who don’t bother to follow up with job candidates after interviews, even after promising a hiring decision within X number of days, are a staple topic on Ask The Headhunter. And it’s no wonder — job applicants are fed up with, “Hurry up and submit your application! Hurry up and fill out the forms! Hurry up and show up for an interview! Then hurry up and wait while we contemplate our navels!”

Comments on I really, really want this job, a discussion about frustrated job hunters, turned back to the problem of employers that fail to display the most basic courtesies.

Reader LT commented:

Back when HR was “wages and benefits”, management made darn sure there were hoards of fresh-faced stenographers and typists to crank out correspondence of all types, including but not limited to “We thank you for your interest in XYZ Company, and will have a decision by Friday next.”

But, complains LT, after you do all that HR asks of you, “the next sound you hear is utter, complete rude, deafening silence.”

Were companies better citizens then?  I don’t know.  I do know that, at least form a potential employee’s perspective, their “corporate culture” is so blatantly demeaning that it is beyond comprehension why anyone would care to work there.

LT raises a very good question. What changed?

Is it the lack of support staff to write thank-you notes? I think it’s a far more serious and systemic problem. In many companies, HR doesn’t behave respectfully any more because it has boxed itself in.

As a profession, HR has created a monster. While some HR departments actually recruit, HR on the whole funds job applicant sources like, CareerBuilder, HotJobs, TheLadders to the tune of billions of dollars a year. For what? To ensure a massive, untenable, unworkable, impossible-to-process pipeline of incoming job applicants.

When HR got into bed with the databases, its standards slipped, and thoughtful, careful recruitment turned into a mindless, sloppy, “volume” business. Sorry, LT, but there is simply no way for HR to process all the incoming “applicant” crap it pays for, much less send out nice notes to people it interviews. Personnel jockeys are drowning in the drek gushing out of the job board pipe. They have no time to actually deal with candidates.

The good HR folks out there know who they are. They’re selective. They’re respectful. But the rest of HR has made its bed, inviting too many to jump in. Today, Slam-Bam-Thank-You-Ma’m is how HR does it, and don’t expect a call tomorrow.

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  1. You hit the nail on the head! Another aspect to this ” rude scenario” so prevelant is staffing services. Companies wil use 2,3,5,10 services for ONE position. Everyone is using the same data bases, same ad sites. Some Staffing services out right lie. They take your name off a data base send it in without even a phone call never mind an interview. Another service calls you and takes the time to interview you, treats you with respect. You present your candidate and guess what ” sorry another service has presented this candidate” What, my candidate never interviewed with XYZ service? But guess what? They “presented” you 1st so they get the credit if you are hired and they never call you if you are not. Some candidates try to explain to the company what happened …they just do not care. So rudeness and unethical behavior is rampant every where and I take the position it is HR’s fault.They creat this chaos. They allow this behavior. A reward for unethical and outright lies. Who needs 10 staffing services? 2 should be sufficient for anyone. If your that busy hire an onsite recruiter! At least that way there may be a chance people will start being treated with the dignity and respect they deserve. I guess they don’t teach good manners or business ethics during the SPHR, PHR exams. Such a shame.

    • While working as a contractor for a company, I literally sat on the other side of a cubicle from my boss. The very well known temp/contract labor company called me to see how everything was going and towards the end of the call asked me about an open position at the company. I told the recruiter what the job entailed but I did warn them that I thought the job would be filled in Ohio as the company’s new headquarters was located there, not in our state on the East Coast. After our call the recruiter called my boss to see how everything was going and I could hear him tell the recruiter from the temp agency just what I told them, except he confirmed the position would be filled in Ohio. That Friday the open position was posted on the temp agency’s website in our state and in Ohio.

      As Nick has mentioned several times, most recruiters these days seem to be in the business of collecting resumes and jobs in the hopes that somehow a match will take place. They don’t want to do the hard work of matching a job candidates skills to what skills an actual company needs. These days it seems as though some companies are as clueless as the recruiters on what position they are hiring for.

  2. @Lynda

    I’ve heard similar stories and experienced the same type of thing.

    I’ve seen where a company will have their own recruiters and also hire 3rd party recruiters.

    Regardless, it leads to the left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing.

    What compounds the problem is a lot of agencies/head hunters won’t share the end client name with you up front – so it may be the same job, but the job description was written differently.

  3. @Lynda: The problem you describe – multiple firms submitting a candidate – was a problem even when I started headhunting. Even then, HR departments used the “more is better” approach to recruiting. Rather than get off their duffs and actually go out and FIND the people they wanted to hire, they chose (and still choose) to sit on their duffs and wait for what comes over the transom. Today, HR can and does use every channel available – and then complains it has no time to be polite or to send thank-you notes to the ridiculous number of applicants who are submitted. The outcome: “Recruiters” flood HR with resumes and hope their number will come up… meanwhile, candidates and responsible headhunters get screwed.

    (One note: A smart headhunter has a signed contract with an employer that defines how they are credited with a placement. Other “headhunters” submit resumes to companies they’ve never talked to. What’s astonishing is that employers even do business with them.)

    The problem starts with HR, which permits “recuriters” to do what they do. All HR needs to do is select a small handful of the very best recruiters, and set down some simple rules for candidate submission. But that would mean HR knows how to select recruiters better than it knows how to select candidates, and reject submissions from all others. That would mean getting over HR’s addiction to MORE RESUMES, MORE RESUMES!

  4. People shake their heads when I tell them the best way to apply for a job is to avoid HR and go directly to the hiring manager. It’s the only sure way to get respect.

  5. I’d like to start a public wall of shame.

    I had a situation recently (a couple of weeks ago) where I pass the phone screen and was called in for the first onsite interview. During that interview the HR person told me that some of the interviewers had already emailed her and told her I was good. A couple of days later, she sent an email saying when could I come in for second interview? I sent an email back with some dates. I phoned her once and emailed her once and never heard from her.


    You know, I don’t want to hear how I wasn’t a good fit. If I wasn’t a good fit, how come they didn’t figure that out in the phone screen? And really the problem is that they are rude, not that I fit in or not.

  6. Dear Nick – I came across your article while coaching a candidate who did call the hiring manager, was treated rudely, and shoved off to HR (who for some reason did not call him back:) )

    So hiring managers are not all spreading sunshine and light…..I suggested to the candidate he may want to move on….any other thoughts? Thank you for your down-to-earth advice. I read it frequently.

  7. Another consequence of the ‘pipeline of drek’ is an increase in the number unadvertised jobs, mainly in small businesses. Some time ago, a local school district here in Ohio advertised a janitor position at its middle school; 835 people applied. At about the same time, I had a client who had worked in mold shops. I put together a list of 50 some companies and told him to call them. When he did, more than half said they were not hiring but to come in and fill out an application. What that meant to me was that when they did have an opening, they did not want 835 folks milling about the parking lot. They wanted to fill the position from a manageable stack of applications from people who had the initiative to contact them directly. Within six weeks my client got a call from one of the shops and was hired.

    The key here, I think, is initiative. Everybody wants to make job search ‘easy’. Well it’s not easy, it’s very hard work.

  8. @Chris Walker: If I could deliver just one message on Ask The Headhunter, that would be it. Job search is not easy. Anyone who tells you it is, or that it can be, or that they can make it easier if you’ll just pay them… is lying. The added problem is that job boards have convinced employers that hiring is easy, too — just pay for listings and keywords, and you’ll never have to get your butt out of that chair and go find the people you need to hire… It’s all a big lie. And people who reocognize this have an incredible advantage over those who don’t.

  9. @Dave,

    In this day and age of the internet, I always find it amusing when headhunters (well, the robocallers anyway) won’t divulge the name of the client. On more than one occasion, I’ve had a recruiter call me about a job. Having seen it online because either a) another recruiter divulged the name or b) the recruiter basically copied/pasted the description from the company listing, I’ll say, “Oh, this is at (insert company).”

    The response from the recruiter is telling. The ones just pumping resumes will pause and then say, “How do you know about it?” The decent ones will acknowledge it and start talking about the position and hiring manager.

  10. @Chris: Regarding headhunters – you’ve hit on the big difference between those dialing for dollars and the legit ones. The good ones aren’t so worried you already know about the job, because they can offer something that the job posting you found cannot – access to their client. The good hh’s have a relationship with the employer and can actually tell you about the job and the manager, and they can actually help facilitate interviews and a job offer.

    You’ve figured it out. Take advantage of it.

  11. Rude Employers? I know job boards are not too useful but are they a hinderance? Talk about playing russian roulette with an automatic weapon! I got this email: Monster’s lawyers are threatening us instead of listening. Two weeks ago, when they heard that major online job sites like were hosting ads that said the unemployed need not apply, we were outraged.1 How are we supposed to solve our employment crisis if the only way to GET a job is to already have one?!

    So together, USAction/TrueMajority members gathered more than 26,000 signatures asking these companies to stop hosting help-wanted ads that discriminate against the unemployed. We also ran Facebook ads that targeted their staff and executives asking them to refuse these ads

    Well, one of the companies called back, but not with the answer we’d hoped for: sent us a “cease and desist” letter, demanding that we stop mentioning them in our campaign.2

    It’s not going to work – Monster’s threats only prove that we’ve got their attention. And now, we’re starting to get the attention of major media outlets like the Huffington Post and Daily Kos too

    These threats are even more frustrating because these corporations can clearly afford it: Revenue in the second quarter at Monster Worldwide Inc. rose 25 percent to $270 million from the prior year.3

    And what’s more, they KNOW it’s wrong. When the New York Times first broke the news about these discriminatory ads, Monster responded by saying it actually counsels employers not to discriminate.4

    Discrimination against the unemployed ought to be illegal. But until it is, it’s up to companies like Monster to refuse to work with people who practice discrimination – not attack those who speak out about it.
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  12. @Faith: I agree with you–I’ve experienced this too–contacting the hiring manager and being rudely pushed to HR and never hearing from either again.

    I suppose it depends on company/corporate/agency culture and who is running the show. In some companies, the hiring managers have either delegated or ceded their hiring authority to HR–hence getting pushed to HR. In others, HR hires who the hiring manager wants to hire. The problem is that companies don’t advertise which one they are.

    And it is still laziness and lack of any manners and social skills that is causing this. In this day and age of automation and robocalls, HR could surely buy a program that merges applicants with ding or we’re interested/please call to schedule an interview letters and the system could spit them out quickly with little work for HR. I really think that HR just doesn’t give a damn.

    @Chris: that is a possible reason. It is also possible that this employer, like more than a few of my former employers, simply didn’t keep applications and résumés even more than a week or two. If a wonderful applicant walked in and filled out an application or submitted a résumé and there was no job available, it got trashed. If 2 weeks later a job vacancy occurred or a job got created that he would have been a good match for, HR and management’s attitude was that he would either apply again or that there were plenty of others to fill the job. They didn’t care. They assumed that he’d already have a job and wouldn’t be interested any longer. It was bone-headed and stupid and incredibly short-sighted on their part.

  13. @Edward –

    I’ve seen some job ads require this, but I’ve heard this is more common in lower-level jobs.

    Regardless, it’s stupid. We’ve had a long term, very deep recession with higher than normal unemployment.

    The unemployed are often looked upon as damaged goods. It seems to me that the majority of unemployed were the worker bees – they were good, profitable workers who through no fault of their own found themselves out of a job. Many times, they weren’t the decision makers at the companies – i.e. the buck stopped with them, and their decisions directly contributed to profits/losses.

  14. HR is great for making sure all the appropriate forms are filled out, and to a small extent, interviewing an applicant for some of the more social/company culture aspects. And that’s all. Period.

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