Some hiring managers need a lesson from Mom

When I was growing up and encountered someone who had no manners, my mother would always say, “They must have been raised by wolves.” Well, Mom, that may be the case for some of the nation’s hiring managers today.

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about how sending a thank-you note after an interview was not only a nice thing to do but could set you apart from other candidates.

But what about the flip side: Employers being nice to job applicants?

I got an earful from readers who thought employers are increasingly treating them like garbage when it comes to the whole job-seeking process and said many company hiring managers needed to do some brushing up when it comes to common courtesy.

It’s true: In this cyber age employers are inundated with resumes from around the globe for almost every job opening. However, while hiring managers may be under the gun and overworked, I think it’s rude to not follow-up with job applicants in some way. That's especially true if they went beyond the resume stage and actually had a phone or face-to-face interview with the individual.

One reader named Mary Anne offered her take:

While I strongly agree with your article on sending thank-you notes, I would also like to make a comment on the responsibilities of the interviewing company.

Three of my siblings have been out seeking new jobs. They all reside in different parts of the U.S. (so I’m going to assume this isn’t a locale issue). Of all the interviews they have had, not one prospective employer bothered to contact them after the position was filled (by someone else). Is it too much to ask for at least an e-mail that says “Thank you for interviewing last week. We have filled the position.”?

It is really cruel to just leave a person hanging about whether or not they’ve got the job.

And here’s a note from a job seeker, Seth Beer, who has only just gotten his feet wet in the whole job-seeking pool:

I recently graduated from Ball State University, which is located in Muncie, Indiana in May of 2006.

The job hunt is so terribly impersonal now it is frustrating and absurd.  Human resources, in my opinion, are the laziest group of slags in the professional world. I have a lot of aggression towards post-college life, resumes, job hunts and most of all H.R.  The problem is the online job boards that companies and H.R. use now to hire or interview employees.  This is the first step in making the job hunt more impersonal than a freshman History 250 class.  After a candidate applies for a position they get an automatic e-mail sent their mailbox that usually states along the lines of "Thanks for your interest. ... Do not contact us, we'll contact you."  So at the very beginning applicants are told "not to contact them." 

I wish these managers would sit back and remember what it was like when they were out in the job-seeking trenches, but alas, the reality is the job market can be a cold, callous place sometimes.

“The notion of ‘common courtesy’ in the job application process is outdated, at least from the employer's perspective,” BJ Gallagher, a Los Angeles workplace consultant and author of "Yes Lives in the Land of No."  “The competition is so intense for good jobs, often with hundreds of applicants to deal with, that the employer cannot possibly respond to each and every person in a timely, personal manner.  So most employers choose not to respond at all.  Their message to the applicant is, ‘Don't call us.  We'll call you.’”

Gallagher says it’s not personal,  “it's a business transaction.”

However, she adds,  “it is still important for you, the applicant, to be courteous,” just don’t expect the same in return. “They owe you nothing. It sounds harsh, but those are the facts of the job market today. The sooner you come to terms with that, the happier you will be. “

“Give up your expectations that the job-hunting process will be gracious and polite,” she stresses.

Now I wouldn’t go that far as to say “give up” on finding any manners in the zoo that is today’s job market, but if politeness is a priority for you then maybe you should be happy when a not-so-polite hiring managers doesn’t return your e-mails and calls. Chalk it up to a company culture that you’re lucky you didn’t get hired into.

Liz Bywater, president of Bywater Consulting Group,  an organizational consulting firm based in Yardley, Pa., thinks employers should play nice.

“There is a large gap here between what employers should do, as a matter of courtesy, and what they actually do.  For individuals responding to a job posting, a brief note or email from employers informing applicants of their status (even if they are no longer in the running) can spare applicants a great deal of uncertainty and anxiety.  It can also help to set the employer apart as an employee-focused employer of choice.” 

But don’t expect much either way if you’re sending a cold resume, she adds.

Here are some of your questions:

I agree that thank-you notes may work sometimes, but I would like your insight on what to do with a company that, late in the job offering works, goes completely dead on you?  I interviewed for a position with the largest organic foods retailer in the US, was offered the position, and we were well into reaching an accord on salary, etc., when communications started to become infrequent and then stopped.  Who does one call or send notes to then?  I thought I had been offered a job.  Now, it looks like I have been left in the lurch.  I have tried to e-mail the vice-president who was sitting in on the interview as well as the person in whose department I was to have been based, but with a complete lack of response.  Should I assume I have been abandoned?  It’s a good thing I had not given notice or even let on that I was attempting to move.

Should I contact the CEO and tell him he has problems lower down?
—Alex, Texas

It’s never a good sign when communications stop. It could be that the employer found another candidate or they decided not to fill the position. You just won’t know until they tell you, that is, if they ever do.

I feel you deserve an answer, though, so I would call the vice president instead of e-mailing to find out what happened. At this point, if you seem annoying to them, who cares.

However, Gallagher suggests you not contact the CEO. “That's called an ‘end run’ and it is strictly verboten in all organizations.  He will be perceived as whining at best, and a snitch at worst.  He will make himself look bad in the eyes of the CEO.  Don't do it.  He should just lick his wounds and move on.”

And she and I agree that you should never give notice or even tell your current employer you’re looking for a job until you have an offer letter in your hand.

I really enjoyed your article on sending a thank-you note or e-mail after an interview. It does make perfect sense, but would the same protocol apply if, while in your current position, you receive a written outstanding performance appraisal from your boss?

This happened to me last week and I was considering sending him a thank-you e-mail for the kind words and recognition he gave me. Should I send a thank-you e-mail in this instance? We don't work at the same office if that makes any difference.
—Joseph Mercado, San Juan, Puerto Rico

This might be a case of thank-you letters going to far. Your boss gave you a great review because you deserved it,and he knows you’re appreciative. Forget the note.