In the April 26, 2016 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, a hiring manager lectures employers about the importance of no-thank-you notes — and about respecting job candidates.


I like your suggestions about thank-you notes. However, I want to talk about no-thank-you notes.

clean-underwearI recently got a very nice thank-you note from an applicant to whom I had sent a no-thank-you — that is, a rejection letter. She seemed surprised to hear from me. As a manager, it has always been my practice to reply to every applicant either by letter or e-mail. I’ve been criticized for the time it takes. However, I believe that if someone takes the time to express interest in your company, the least you can do is tell them “no, thank you” if you don’t want them.

The convenience of job boards and e-mail applications has led us to forget there are real humans with feelings at the other end. Since we are not likely to run into one of them at the check-out counter, we don’t acknowledge that every resume sent out to us carries this person’s real hopes for a job along with it.

I would encourage you to write a bit about etiquette for the hiring manager and about the proper approach regarding the communication to applicants after receiving their resumes.

Nick’s Reply

Hallelujah! I hope everyone who reads your statement tacks it to a couple of doors: the boss’s and the human resources (HR) department’s. But don’t forget the board of directors. It ought to be tacked to their agenda.

Who has time to be nice?

You’ve given me a chance to hold forth on a subject that’s always too easily dismissed. The story today is that companies receive so many resumes and applications that there is simply no way to respond to them all. HR  departments scoff at the suggestion that they’re responsible for such niceties. Who can reply to 5,000 job applicants and still have time to hire anybody? The trouble is, HR sets this standard for all managers in a company.

Somewhere along the way, maybe after getting intoxicated by the millionth resume she downloaded from LinkedIn, an HR manager lost sight of the thousands of job applicants she had lined up outside her door (actually and virtually). She forgot that if you invite them, you have to feed them. She forgot that when you post jobs on websites that encourage thousands of people to send you resumes, you get thousands of resumes. However, you don’t hire thousands of people. So, why solicit them? (See Employment In America: WTF is going on?)

When we create situations that make it impossible for us to respect basic social conventions (like saying “thank you” and “no, thank you”), that should be a signal that we’re doing something fundamentally wrong.

Stop behaving like wild dogs

Why solicit thousands of applicants, when you need just a handful of good ones? When you get sick from overloading your plate at the cheap buffet table, nature is telling you something. When we let the dogs go wild at feeding time — HR rabidly devouring heaps of non-nutritive resumes — it’s time to re-train the dogs. But I’m not lashing out only at HR managers. Nope. I’m lashing out at their trainers: departmental managers, corporate CEO’s, and boards of directors.

Are you on a board? Are you a CEO? Do you have any idea how your HR department and your managers are treating the professional community you so desperately need to recruit from? Make no mistake. Even in today’s “employer’s market,” top-notch workers continue to be few and far between. Finding those few precious souls who can both do the work and bring profit to your bottom line is a daunting, challenging task. To get the attention of the best, the brightest… you’ve got to be nice to everyone.

Your company is under the spotlight every time you recruit to fill a position. The behavior of your HR department, your managers, and your employees reflects your company’s values. And your values affect your success at hiring. Yah, that’s right. Don’t proclaim to your shareholders that “people are our most important asset” while your underlings shove job applicants through keyword algorithms like meat through a grinder. (See Reductionist Recruiting: A short history of why you can’t get hired.)

Be Nice: Say thank you

This is a wake-up call about behavior. Every company’s reputation hinges on it. Ask your mother; she’ll tell you. Always say thank you. Always wear clean underwear. Always take time to be polite to people.

  • If you have no time to write thank-you notes, then you’re soliciting too many resumes.
  • If you have no time to get out of your office and meet the movers and shakers in your professional community, you’re not recruiting; you’re pushing paper. (See Ten Stupid Hiring Mistakes.)
  • If you have no time to be nice, I’ll bet it’s because you spend too much time with resumes and not enough with people.

thank-youIt’s easy to be rude to a resume; but you can’t hire resumes. Top-notch workers in your field will not stand for rudeness. Talk to all the people you pissed off when you ignored their applications, and you will learn what rude is. Rude is awakening to find your company’s professional reputation has been trashed by good applicants who found out you’re not as good as they are. (See Death by Lethal Reputation.)

Learn to be nice. Make it your policy.

If you don’t inspire good people to say nice things about your company, you can’t hire good people. It starts with that thank-you note; even with a no-thank-you note. Where it really starts is with your hand writing a personal note; with that hand attached to an arm attached to a warm body that gives a damn. Because if you don’t give a damn about people who apply to your jobs, pretty soon everybody will know, including your shareholders.

And that, Mr. CEO and Ms. Member of the Board of Directors, is why you need to make sure your HR department and your managers are polite, wear clean underwear, and write thank-you notes.

Does your company respect job applicants? Does it walk the talk — and send thank-you notes? Does your HR department insist on proper behavior from job applicants, and then diss them when the interviews are done?

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  1. While it’s not the most personal way to handle applicants, modern mailsystems (ie Office 365 and the like) can all generate autoresponders. When an applicant sends an application to an emailaddress, the system can automatically generate a receipt confirmation, so that the sender knows it has been received. This can happen after the email passes the spamfilter. The spamfilter should however also be checked regularly, as it can and does catch legit emails.

    Once the manager or HR person has made their selection, and knows which applicants are rejected, it’s very simple to drag those applicants into special folder (ie in Outlook) and have that generate “sorry” emails.

    It’s not like its hard. It just comes down to the carefactor.

  2. Thank you, Olger.

    When I was tossed out of my job seven years ago, it took only a few weeks to fall into clinical depression. Not getting responses wasn’t the major reason, but it was an important one.

    At the time, I was severely cyber-challenged, but I had learned enough to understand the term “auto reply”, and wondered why HR found it so difficult to initiate by just clicking on the box.

    I was a member of a job club for over a year (some of my new-found buddies were there for nearly two), and if you were to ask any of them what their number one concern was, it would be not getting an answer back when we sent our resumes into cyberspace (which was no longer an option circa 2008).

    To this day, I probably have 5-7 responses from the hundreds I submitted.

    And that number is probably outstanding considering that my fellow long-term unemployed have probably sent out thousands and received zero replies.

    If I had the power to create one law, it would be a huge requirement to acknowledge the receipt of a resume, solicited or unsolicited.

    Having such a requirement in place in 2008 may not have prevented my illness, but it would have at least slowed my descent into unemployment hell.

  3. Don’t you also love it when an interviewer states ‘We will notify you by…’ and you never hear from them ever again? It’s a cliche now.

  4. I work in HR, but I hold a grudge to lack of responses because I never received one when I was job hunting fresh out of college. I felt so belittled, so UNWANTED (but at the same time, I received my diploma in the Spring of 2008…everything was collapsing).
    Fast forward to today and I openly say that our Recruiting Department is an *extension* of our Marketing Department. They both do the same thing, just to different target audiences.
    HR and Recruiting are under the same umbrella, but lets not put this week’s article on the backs of HR, lets narrow it to Recruiters and the Recruiting Department. It’s bad MARKETING practice to not reach out to customers–buyers or workers. Hopefully the CEO/Board will respect applicants better when they see it is relative to Marketing.

  5. From the perspective of a recruiting agency, my response to a resume is directly proportional to the effort that someone took getting it to my desk. I write very specific job posts with very specific criteria. On one extreme is a bare resume that is emailed to me with zero accompanying text that has nothing in common with the job described; and on the other is one with a very personal note bullet pointing and quantifying why this particular job aligns perfectly with their experience. Whether I feel they are a high-level candidate or not, if they put genuine effort into it, I (or my staff) will respond in kind. If on the other hand you clearly spammed me…well, the knife cuts both ways.

    • You know what John….the world does not owe the recruitment industry a living. A polite no thank you is not negotiable no matter what you think.

  6. Thank you, thank you!!! And indirect thanks to the manager who submitted the initial comment. Before I started my own business and was a job seeker, a total lack of acknowledgment was one of my biggest sources of aggravation. Now that I work with job seekers, I get it second-hand; not much (if anything) seems to have improved.

  7. The HR administrative assistant where I work said the head of HR explicitly told her to NOT notify rejected job applicants. This includes current employees applying for another job within the organization. So all rejected job applicants are deliberately left hanging. I don’t understand what the head of HR thinks there is to gain from this policy.

  8. I work and live in Australia. Looking at our local job board (, in the region where I live, there are 9 jobs currently advertised in my field (IT).

    One closes with “Please forward your application with a cover letter to careers@*******, providing contact details of two or three character references”. What? You want to meet my parents before we even start dating?

    Another closes with: “Please note, only successful candidates will be contacted.”

    This day. There are still employers that belief this is ok. The first employer is even someone we do business with. I know them. And I’ve seen their ad several times the past year.

    I migrated to Australia 13 years ago. I never realized how I always landed jobs back home. It was never through job boards. Always through whom I knew. Friends, family, people I worked with. When I landed in Australia, I thought I’d find a job (in IT) easy. Did I learn a lesson. The recruiters I contacted never returned my calls/emails. One contacted me months later, for another job, and “oh yeah, that job I applied for back then? Yeah, that’s filled”. No kidding.
    I found the best chance of getting a response, was applying only for jobs that were listed by employers themselves, not through recruiters. And even that wasn’t great.

    I don’t apply for jobs at employers that aren’t willing to put in some effort. It’s probably not going to be a great employer anyway, and I’ll save my motivation for someone worthy.
    I’m investigating companies in my area, using to monitor their careers webpage if they have one. Not just to find jobs that interest me, but also to see what else they advertise.
    Then learn as much as I can about companies that interest me.
    Try to do what Nick tells everyone to do.

  9. If I go fishing and get no bites, I don’t expect the fish to send me a note thanking me for trying. Getting no bites means I am using the wrong equipment or maybe my fishing skills need to improve. Bettering my skills and equipment is something that I can do to improve my chances of getting hired for the job I want.
    However, the next level of the hiring procedure seems to give many of us fits. That is, we hear from the HR person regarding a position we applied for. They ask some general questions and say they will get back to us to schedule an interview but nothing happens and we get no further replies from any correspondence we send to them regarding the allegedly still open position. At this point it is still very rare to get a “thanks for trying out” trophy.
    I guess my long penned point is, I do not see this process changing much in the near future.

  10. Thank you to the manager who sees the light that being manager does not remove one from simple social graces like a thank you note.
    Sadly we now live where a thank you for just about anything is overlooked and accepted because we are just ‘too busy’ from expected birthday/holiday gifts to receipt of a resume.
    I have some thoughts on this article:
    1) online application systems have taken over the world and resulted in a backlog of hiring and positions left opened because the applicants do not KEYWORD into the system. QUESTION: how does the EEOC allow this continued ‘blind’ application process to continue when it is hurting the economy?

    2) with all the political rhetoric tearing at CEO and C-suite compensation, what an ideal way to begin to respect your potential employees who are more likely your customers, by giving up a small portion of bonus and feeding it to a small group of folks to write acknowledgement notes.
    Additionally, once an interview has been given why does it weeks and sometimes months before there is a response to either the interviewee or recruiting company as to the outcome. I had one company manager’s tell me, their response fell through the cracks due to responding to fire drills. My response back was I am a good firefighter.
    Some of these companies are required by compliance law to acknowledge customer complaints why not potential employees who either apply via online system or through a recruiter?
    3) It is sad that many are still out of work, however, I have been fortunate because I refused to continue to search for the ‘perfect’ job. I committed myself to go the contract/temp route because I knew most of my skills aligned to what the hiring company needed. And I was right. I have worked pretty continuously since being laid off from my last permanent position in Fall 2006. Most of these contracts were for nearly 12+ months at a good rate of pay. My recent birthday gave me the opportunity to begin collecting a small pension and SS benefits which I supplement via contract positions.
    After each phone and in-person interview with both the search company and their client I send a thank you note, unless it was an awful client interview (most recently, the hiring manager kept snarling that temps do not ever work out in her dept – wonder why).

  11. Good points! We employ a couple of simple rules, that would make our moms proud:

    1. We write job specs that are as specific as possible.
    2. We confirm receipt of all applications via email.
    3. The hiring manager prescreens all qualified applicants by phone.
    4. HR handles the scheduling of interviews with those who pass the prescreening, and the background checks and paperwork with accepted applicants (references are checked by the hiring manager)
    5. Every prescreened applicant receives a formal follow-up (thank you note or a call) at the end of the process.
    6. We take down the job posting as soon as we have filled a position.

    And that’s it…

    It’s not a rocket science. One just has to think for a moment how they’d like to be treated if the shoe was on the other foot.

  12. After moving to another state, I left the company where I was a part-time in-house recruiter for over 7 years, preceded by about 4 years of agency recruiting. And like several who’ve already responded I did a few tours of job hunting.

    When I joined that small company there was no HR Mgr, another full time recruiter and myself reported to the President.So we built and managed the process.

    Core to it was that we read, and responded to every applicant, personally. Sounds nice, but we were small and actually didn’t get many hits directly to our web site. At the time I joined, the company rarely used job boards. (cost) the exception being the State’s workforce (unemployment) board.

    So initially we’re not talking about a lot of volume. As we started growing that sourcing didn’t cut it. And we still didn’t like the cost of job boards, so we got creative on the networking side.

    long story short our primary sources were a couple of volunteer run local (free) job hunting networks. In particular, we leveraged related job fairs. This kicked up the volume of applications, usually in surges from the fairs.

    We retained our practices. Between us we read them all, but per this topic, we got back to everyone. Personally meaning they had our emails Due to the volume, getting back to them sometimes took some time and in steps, 1st to simply tell you that we have the resume in hand & we’d get back to you, then when we got back to you. And since we met the majority of them in person at a job fair we’d tell people what to expect.

    We kept a spread sheet(s) so we could see plainly if someone needed to be contacted.

    I personally made a point to follow up on the job fairs. I followed a priority guided by our desire to find win-wins, people interested in the company, & good for the company, not those merely tire kicking for a job. Also it reflected my belief that from both sides of the table, working a job fair best happens after you leave. My followup priority would be:
    1. Immediately Respond to those who follow up immediately, regardless of fit. If no interest I’d let them know, if interested there resume would be in the hands of a hiring manager
    2. Respond to people of interest to us (potential fit) (this would generate some belated response, putting them into the aforementioned step.
    3. Respond to everyone else & this may take quite some time. I know they didn’t give a hoot, but like we promised, we’d get back to everyone. And we’re talking about hundreds of people per fair.
    I put that process together because I didn’t want the company to have a “black hole” I’d been a job hunter & as many people said, being ignored sucked. And 2nd as Kev said, I believed doing so marketed the company, that HR should sell the company & a simple thing as responding personally to an applicant is a class act and a differentiator.

    You don’t do this for attaboys, but because it’s the right thing to do and it’s good business. But it is gratifying to hear back from people who tell you that they talked to a hundred companies, & you’re the only person who they heard from.

    The optimum word is networking. I noted we worked with and developed rapport with volunteer run job groups. When the dust settled, I’d collect the general info (how many resumes, how many we interviewed, how many we hired) and feed that back to them. I was told we were the only company that did that, and they appreciated it. Those volunteers didn’t do this to kill time, they really want to help people and loved to know that they did. They too heard from people we got back to, so we began to get “known” and the members developed into advocates for us. A company they pointed people to, & I could alert to keep an eye open for good candidates.

    Hiring managers. Left to their own devices, it was rare for them to communicate with anyone other than someone they thought might fit. Hell in a lot of cases our job morphed into company nag. Badgering them to read the resumes, to follow up, to take action on people they claimed they wanted to hire.

    Our solution which worked extremely will was to leverage the job fairs. We’d bring the managers with us in force & have them help work the tables and position people to meet them 1st hand, get their contacts. And in doing so, reinforced the company’s image as unique, because in the majority of cases the other companies only had recruiters or worse, warm bodies at the table. Then we could nag them much better as we both know they met them & liked them.

    We weren’t perfect at this, at times we’d get swamped. I’d have liked to get back to everyone immediately. And sometimes I didn’t get back to you if you didn’t reach out. But for a small operation we bested a lot of bigger players.

    About when I was leaving, we did buy and install Taleo, lose me and the other recruiter, so I think it’s operating like any other software driven recruiting process. In this case it was set up so the managers ultimately get all responses to their jobs and follow up is up to them. Which I assume is minimal.

    As to this topic. Companies can do more then install software. They can eliminate that awful vacuum & there’s no excuse for doing nothing.

    Sorry for the long harangue, but it touched on something I spend doing for years. And know it works.

  13. Don’t get upset by how you’re getting treated by employers. Quietly get even.

    My friends and I get called about the same “outstanding hot opportunities” all week long. We share all the information we can about these openings with each other.

    Not receiving a Thank You note is the least of our problems. We’ve seen employers try and pull the following stunts:

    Low-Ball offers. If an employer tries this, that offer has been shared with all of us before the candidate leaves the parking lot. When this happens, we do what we can to get the word out.

    Personal calls from company founders to talk about working for them, only to be blown-off on follow-up appointments with the founder. Not even a call to apologize. Again, we get the word out on this employer.

    Receiving rejection notices from applicant tracking systems for openings we had never agreed to be submitted for. A couple of days after the rejection, an in-house recruiter finally calls to see if we might be interested in their hot opportunity.

    Posted job openings that haven’t been filled in 6 to 24 months. We keep track of companies. We have no other choice, since we’ve had 200 recruiters call about these openings. We make sure everyone knows about these ‘non-jobs.’

    Employers that are interviewing as part of an H1-B justification. If we suspect this, we get the word out.

    Inflexibility. We’ve had employers call us, desperate to find a candidate after 18 months. In one case, an employer wanted us to drop everything and relocate 100 miles away. We’re not going to do that, but we’re willing to come halfway to try and help you until you can find the candidate that will work for you. What do we get? Total inflexibility. Next.

    Location. Location. Location. If you’ve made the mistake of placing your Millennial Day Care Center in a Downtown area & can’t find talent… it’s your own fault. We’ve had a few employers cop an attitude when we politely pass due to a shitty commute. We make sure everyone knows who you are.

    Stupid brain-teaser interview questions that have nothing to do with the job. I have one good friend that was told at the end of his on-site interview: “It’s clear to all of us that you can do the job & we all like you. However, we can’t hire you because you flubbed one of our brain-teaser questions.”

    We do get calls from 3rd-party recruiters that have been retained to fill openings at these employers. We’ve started to point out to these recruiters that there’s no profit in trying to fill openings at these employers & they should spend their time on candidate sourcing for other (profitable) opportunities.

    We watch whatever goodwill these employers have with candidates get destroyed every day.

    • There is no such thing as a person without job skills. Most jobs require very little skill, in actual fact, at least where I come from in the corporate world. What we do have is some labor market attitudinal clangers that no-one will address at a legislative level:

      1/. ageism
      2/. overqualifiedism
      3/. specialism
      4/. employment statism
      5/. genderism
      6/. disablism

      That and the mechanisation of the work force has to be overcome before long term unemployed,eg, are permitted to work. I say permitted because it is state sanctioned demonising that allows companies to get away with not employing them.

  14. Great article and so timely!
    I recently had a 3rd interview with a Fortune 100 company that included homework, presentations on the homework, timed data analysis and presentation on results, and a panel interview that totaled 3+ hours at their offices. I sent thank you notes all along the way with positive feedback until the end when it was nothing but crickets.
    That treatment,after puttiing 8-10 hrs work into the process, changed my mind about the company and, of course, I tell the story to others. All they had to do was send me a ‘thanks, but no thanks note’ to keep me as an advocate instead of a detractor.

  15. @Citizen X,
    I can guess what Nick is going to say – why send out hundreds of resumes instead of concentrating on a few good prospects where you can get in front of the line?
    I’m not and have never been an HR person, but let me speak up for them. First, they have borne the brunt of layoffs in the last 30 years. Back in 1980 our center with about 200 engineers had 3 HR people full time on recruiting, and they definitely responded. And made travel arrangements. I suspect the ratio is 10 – 100X worse today.
    In my company auto-responding is not going to work. Student resumes coming from college recruiters get sent to dozens of hiring managers – I can get over a dozen a day. When should they auto-respond? When we post a job we get dozens of resumes, 90% of which are from people who either didn’t read or understand what we are looking for. We non-HR people get to look at them. (Which is good, but time consuming.) I don’t feel much of an obligation to respond to a job seeker who was basically spamming us. Anyone who is a good match gets an email and a phone screen and a response.
    Here is a modest proposal: start requiring all resumes to be printed and mailed. Those who apply would have to pay a lot more attention to the job they are applying to and HR would have the time to respond to each application. And Monster would be right out of business.

  16. Thank you for this. I have forwarded this to my old boos . She always gave me a hassle about sending rejection letters. I did them anyway. When I left my previous company it paid off. I ended interviewing with one of the very applicants I had sent a rejection letter. It made for an interesting interview. I know that that previous nicety led to me getting a job offer at that company. I didnt take that jon but that no thank you gave me a good rep that has helped further my career.

  17. Interesting topic, as always.

    I recently temped, for a year with a company (non-IT) that likes to hire temps, and interviewed for a job in a different dept. than the one that I worked in, with the hiring manager, the person who would be my direct supervisor, and another individual that I would work with closely if I were hired. I could tell, from the conversation, and everyone’s body language that they liked me. Additionally, I asked: “After interviewing me is there any reason why you wouldn’t hire me for the position?” …In sum, I was told “No,” and that while there was one applicant who had industry experience that everyone else, myself included, had varied backgrounds that made them interesting or a good fit for the position.

    My biggest asset going in was that I had already worked for the company for a year, knew, worked with, and got along, with many of the employees in other dept.’s, and understood the company’s business.

    I wrote Thank you notes to my interviewers, the same day, and left them in their mailboxes. I was also told they were looking to hire immediately (that was a month ago when I interviewed), and asked to complete a brief assignment as part of my interview.

    Ironically, my temp assignment ended the same day I interviewed, and the job remains posted on the company’s website, and they are pretty good about keeping it up-to-date. Nevertheless, I have moved on, as I want to work somewhere where The Golden Rule isn’t just a nice maxim posted on the wall. I want to work with people who actually embrace, and incorporate it, into their professional lives just as they would their personal lives.

    Finally, I believe that because there is an oversupply of Millennials with skills(that many mid-career or long-term unemployed do not have), and little experience (in depending on the career field) we will continue to see salary suppression and I do not see HR, Hiring Managers, or companies, returning to a more civil, personal interaction with employees for years to come.

    2. And just because one works at a company and has so-called “insider” status does not make one an insider or give one the edge.

  18. @Myth buster: “Finally, I believe that because there is an oversupply of Millennials with skills(that many mid-career or long-term unemployed do not have)” —

    I’d say it’s more a case of as long as employers hold on to the same stupid nonsense stereotypes about us experienced-but-older “rejects” as you do, we will continue to see salary suppression.

    (Nick, I’d be curious to hear your $0.02 on the age discrimination spotlighted in Dan Lyon’s recent book, “Disrupted: My Misadventure in the Start-Up Bubble,”

  19. Because of so many applicants and so many companies, HR has fallen into a retail mindset – put out the merchandise (jobs), place the ads and they will come. Retailers don’t personally thank each and every customer that walks through their doors or buys products online, except for a cursory thank you on their sales receipts. It’s a sign of our times and just something more we have to get used to. So, toughen up and hope you choose the right employer, and if not, just move on along.

  20. “If you don’t inspire good people to say nice things about your company, you can’t hire good people.”

    Treating job applicants like dirt is no way to build word of mouth among the sort of people you need to hire. And if by some odd chance you do wind up offering a job to someone really good, they may take only if it happens to be a bad time for them to hold out, or if you catch them in a moment of weakness. In that case, they’ll probably be looking elsewhere pretty soon.

    More likely, you won’t have the sense to hire the best of the people who apply. But if you decide, sooner or later, that your hiring criteria for that position aren’t working, you may want another shot at them, or at people like them whom they may have told about the treatment they got from you.

    Here’s a slogan: Retention and recruitment begin with the hiring process.

    The problem is, though, that most HR people and professional managers really do believe that their own “skills” and credentials are the only ones demanding enough to be scarce, and that rabble like engineers, cutting-edge IT people, top sales people in specialized fields, and the like, as well as people with any conceivable combination of hard skills and specialized knowledge, are all pretty much the same and turned out in droves by the schools. (In other words, that they’re like HR people and professional managers.) So all they think they need to do is get enough resumes, and they’ll be sure to find so many suitable people that they can afford to blow off most of them with a stupid and rude hiring process. When it doesn’t work out that way, they can virtually always find some excuse that will be good enough to answer to the low level of accountability to which they are subject. (There aren’t many companies at which HR people and professional managers have to answer to people with scarce and demanding skills.)

    Once upon a time, stockholders made sure that boards of directors were elected who would keep this sort of idiocy under control, to ensure that real and sustainable profits were made so that real and sustainable dividends could be paid. Nowadays, most stockholders, like many or most executives, are in it for the short-term, and on a purely speculative basis. (Which is one reason that small companies, and closely-held companies, though they may be quirky in other ways, are often worth a second look.)

  21. @Scott

    Thank you for reminding me of rule two, but I wouldn’t make it a rule, more like a recommendation for a competitive advantage in alleviating the “talent shortage”.

    Besides people like me who are hiding in plain sight, I believe there is a substantial number of people biding their time while holding their talent hostage. The quickest way to get their attention is to put an ad in the Sunday paper.

    Then, as you point out, previously effective processes provide valid dialogs which beget effective hiring, most likely with a much higher retention rate than most businesses are experiencing now.

    Think global, hire local has been my thought as of late, as the focus on skill set has been greatly confused with the need for mindset.

    And mindset is what “old folks” have in abundance. And half of us are hiding in plain sight; the other half are holding their mindsets hostage, awaiting rational managers and fair compensation.

    As Nick mentioned way-back-when, once upon a time someone with some intelligence would hold a printed resume in their hands, reading between the lines to ascertain the possibility of a fit, or even a future need. There was no penalty for “testing the waters” on either side of the hiring table, as long as manners and mutual respect were in play.


    Thank you for reminding me about Disrupted. It’s on my to-read list. I think I’ll bump it up the list a few notches. There is a science fiction series out there somewhere called Old Man’s War; I think I’ll look that one up when I’ve finished Disrupted.

  22. This week’s topic is not a new phenomenon. In 1991, a potential employer had me travel 200 miles one-way and stay overnight at one of the better hotels in the area (all at company expense) for two days of interviews. Subsequently, each person that I had spoken to face-to-face adamantly refused to speak to me over the telephone. This is how I was able to figure out that they would not be hiring me.

  23. @ Omar & you also got good intel that it wasn’t a place you’d want to be. How you treat outsiders is a great clue as to how you treat insiders. People who stonewall you don’t offer a good working environment. count yourself lucky.

  24. Speaking of stonewalling, a great apropos story just came to mind.
    Back in the day when I was on one of my out-of-work job hunting adventures, I went to a job fair.

    Met an agency recruiter, on the IT side and thought I’d struck up some rapport. Gave me his card etc. Took my resume. The usual drill.

    I heard zippity squat back from him. Called, left messages, emails etc. zero.

    Small world. a year of two later, via some networking and change of direction I turned myself into an IT recruiter. Was cut loose from my 1st recruiting job and moved into company #2.

    And guess who was sitting across from me? My elusive recruiter! Face to face. By that time I knew how the business worked and wasn’t angry or such. But it was gratifying to smile, refresh his memory as I thanked him so much for getting back to me as he promised.

    That’s one reason I put a lot of time and effort into getting back to people.

    Not that I wish ill of anyone, but there’s a lot of hiring managers and recruiters (and CEOs) whose character would gain from being unemployed once in their lives, so they could relate to what applicants are going through so they’d appreciate and deliver respectable treatment.

  25. @John Krytus: Thanks for the insight about what makes a headhunter respond to a resume. But I think the complaints have more to do with how employers treat applicants after the employer expresses interest.

    @Mona: “all rejected job applicants are deliberately left hanging”
    I’d love to talk to that HR manager, who prohibits staff from notifying rejected applicants.

    @Olger: “I don’t apply for jobs at employers that aren’t willing to put in some effort.”

    @Tony: “I guess my long penned point is, I do not see this process changing much in the near future.”
    I disagree. It’ll change if job applicants start growling.

    @KISS Manager: “We employ a couple of simple rules, that would make our moms proud”
    THANK YOU! See, folks — there’s a higher standard out there. It’s rare. But it’s worth looking for, and rejecting all the jerks.

    @Bob: “we get the word out’
    That’s what will change bad employer behavior. What’s funny is, employers don’t really understand how easy it is to get the word out today via social media and other e- methods. I suspect you’ve cost some companies quite a few hires. Good.

    @Scott: “Here is a modest proposal: start requiring all resumes to be printed and mailed. Those who apply would have to pay a lot more attention to the job they are applying to and HR would have the time to respond to each application.”

    Great idea. I think many managers use another version of this. They interview only people who are referred through trusted contacts. But I’ve said for years that the problems with applicant disrespect started when it became too easy to apply, and when the price of job ads came down to almost zero.

    @Cam: “I ended interviewing with one of the very applicants I had sent a rejection letter. It made for an interesting interview. I know that that previous nicety led to me getting a job offer at that company.”

    Thanks for sharing that one — great story! What goes around…

    @sighmaster: Thanks for the link to Dan Lyons’ book — I’ll take a look!

    @Mary Davin: “Because of so many applicants and so many companies, HR has fallen into a retail mindset – put out the merchandise (jobs), place the ads and they will come.”

    Ouch! That’s a GREAT insight! A retail mindset!! I think you’re right – that captures it!

  26. My father used to ask “was he raised by wolves?” to mean someone who was rude, disrespectful, and lacked good social skills. As I read this week’s Q&A and the subsequent comments, I am now convinced that far more people were raised by wolves than I had previously thought.

    The thing is, we’re really talking the basics of the social graces, such as acknowledging when résumés are received/reviewed, thanking people for taking the time to meet with them (I think it goes BOTH ways, as applicants may have to take time off from work, travel, etc. for interviews), and use the social skills that mom taught you when you were a kid–greet people, say please and thank, be polite and respectful. It isn’t hard.

    I think people are lazy because it is very easy to set up an auto-generated email to let applicants know that their résumés or applications were received. Employers could even do what most colleges do now for the admission process: email applicants a user id and password so they can track the progress of their applications. But I think that with the job market being an employers’ market, they think they no longer need to bother with such niceties.

    I like the idea of requiring a printed, paper résumé–granted, many employers will only spend 3 seconds looking at it, but maybe some will spend more time, and when you have to read it yourself instead of letting an ATS do the thinking for you, maybe you’ll actually find good applicants who would be good employees. An ATS is never a good substitute for human eyes and brains.

    This past winter I saw a help wanted sign in one of the local stores (they were looking for seasonal help). I spoke with an employee, who pushed to me to their online application. I asked to speak with a manager, said I’d come back when he’s in, and was told “corporate requires all applications to be done online” and when I asked what happens when someone like me comes in, sees the sign in the store, and wants to have a conversation with the manager? What if I don’t have access to a computer and don’t have a smartphone? The employee didn’t know, and just repeated that they’re not allowed to take applications (she didn’t know what a résumé is) in person. When I went back to talk to the manager, he reiterated what the employee told me the previous evening–and said that corporate forbids them from interviewing anyone who doesn’t apply online.

    That sign was up for a long time, and I later heard employees complaining that there wasn’t enough help during the holiday shopping season. Well, duh….no big surprise as to why.

  27. Nick, I can only up-vote your statements and sentiments. I’ve interviewed at various big-name places, including Goldman Sachs, where my treatment was such that I wouldn’t do it again if they paid me. I’m glad I’m close to retirement.

  28. @Mark: It’s a sad story all over. I’ve been writing about this problem for years, and if anything, it gets worse. The only way to stop it is for people to deliver a big, fat NO to employers who behave like this.

  29. Funny how these poor social skills are on display daily as we all drive on the public roads anywhere in the country. It’s a daily dose of assault w/o provocation. Is this behavior common in other countries, as well? Anyone?

  30. @marilyn: You’re preaching to the choir. I see bad to non-existent social skills every day (I work at a community college). So many of the students can’t communicate, much less communicate well, to save their lives, and I mean the native-born students. And that goes for some of the staff too (one of my colleagues is 26 and has ZERO social skills–I’ve given up greeting her because when I do, she will look at me, say nothing, then pick up her phone and start playing with it). They’ll text eachother, but god forbid that they talk to eachother (or observe such niceties such as saying hello, please, thank you, etc.). The faculty have given up (beaten down and worn out trying to teach students social skills), and I understand it. And yet, if we don’t model the kinds of social skills we want to see, how will they learn? They’re not learning at home, and we’re overextended trying to teach them the subject matter and research skills.

    I don’t know where you live, but I see all kinds of bad social skills when I’m driving into work. No one can leave their phones alone: as soon as they reach a stoplight, they’re looking down, scrolling, texting. MA passed a law making it illegal to text while driving, but I see people do this every day. There aren’t enough staties to issue citations to people if the state was really serious. As for other habits, well, I live in MA–just google driving in Boston or MA drivers.

  31. @marybeth: Amen. I live in Oregon.

  32. Google is a prime example of a company with a completely dysfunctional set of hiring practices. I know a person who knew the President and the VP of engineering personally (from a previous job) who was rejected for a managerial job because he didn’t know anything about search. (His resume didn’t lie, and he warned his friends coming in that he was a manager and no longer a technologist). Google’s long, drawn-out and mostly illogical hiring practice is legendary here in Silicon Valley. Sadly, they have been so successful that it hasn’t come to bite them back. Yet.