HR interview followup
March 28, 2013 7:30 AM   Subscribe

When a company invites you in to interview for a professional position, you spend half a day speaking with multiple people, and then they choose to not contact you in any way regarding the outcome of their search - - is that 100% douchebaggery, or are there legitimate HR/legal reasons they might behave this way? To be clear, I'm just talking about sending a quick email saying, thanks for coming in, we've made a decision, best of luck in future.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders to Work & Money (23 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Can't speak to the HR or legal aspect, but sometimes people are just damn slow. I had radio silence for months after one interview, and then an offer.
posted by bunderful at 7:32 AM on March 28, 2013

It can take months to hire people, and even when you do, people change their minds. Also, you don't know how many candidates there were for any given position, so following up with everyone may be logistically difficult.
posted by xingcat at 7:33 AM on March 28, 2013 [4 favorites]

In my experience, I've only once not gotten a rejection email when applying for professional positions, and upon conferring with other candidates for the same position it was universally agreed upon that that company was an asshole (turned out that they didn't hire anybody and failed to tell all of us). Sometimes the rejection emails come so late that it's been obvious for weeks that I didn't get the position, but they do come eventually.
posted by Phire at 7:34 AM on March 28, 2013

My company doesn't send out rejections. Yes it's uncool but relatively common.
posted by headnsouth at 7:35 AM on March 28, 2013

It is absolute douchebaggery.

If the hiring process is taking a long time, the least they can do is, within two weeks, email you to say "Thanks for interviewing, the hiring process is taking a long time, we will let you know one way or the other."
posted by tel3path at 7:42 AM on March 28, 2013 [7 favorites]

There are no valid reasons for not sending out an email saying "We have chosen another candidate. Thank you for applying." But it's not uncommon for that email to go unsent, because HR is far more concerned with taking care of the actual hiring, and no one's going to shoot up the place because they didn't hear back.
posted by Etrigan at 7:43 AM on March 28, 2013

If you're meeting with decision makers and they don't get back to you for spending half of your day with them, I do think it is a general comment on the state of their organization.

If it's just HR, well, HR doesn't have any soft skills with people they are not compelled to please.
posted by KokuRyu at 7:43 AM on March 28, 2013 [3 favorites]

They may be slow, but yes, this is douchebaggery, and most companies fail to realize this reflects very poorly on them.
posted by bfranklin at 7:43 AM on March 28, 2013 [4 favorites]

It is common, but inexcusable.
posted by dgran at 7:44 AM on March 28, 2013 [6 favorites]

I was flown out, put in a very expensive hotel, and had nearly everything else comped for my last interview. I had to keep emailing the recruiter about whether they were going to hire me or not. It's very common, unfortunately.
posted by hellojed at 7:48 AM on March 28, 2013

It can take months to hire people, and even when you do, people change their minds. Also, you don't know how many candidates there were for any given position, so following up with everyone may be logistically difficult.
posted by xingcat at 7:33 AM on March 28 [1 favorite]

A long process can excuse not hearing from them at first, but that should have come out in the interview. I cannot tell you how many candidates I have "lost" because of other people dragging their feet so long that the good candidates get swooped up by more agile organizations. We would always get back to people with a process update at least.

No matter how many there are, not following up with any candidate that you bring in for an interview is douchy to the max.
posted by Gungho at 8:13 AM on March 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

When I was managing a consulting team, I would often interview 100 people for an open position and would send every single person a short personalized email follow up because that's how I was taught to do it when I was a recruiter.

Even if you are not the right person at this time... if you are a good applicant you are in my "go to" pile of resumes. I often re-interviewed and hired people later that I remembered from earlier interactions.

This is much easier to do now because of LinkedIn.

side note:

I was always shocked that less than 5% of applicants would send any sort of follow up after their interviews.
posted by bobdow at 8:22 AM on March 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: It's extremely common. Contrary to what someone above said about "most companies fail to realize this reflects very poorly on them," that's not the case. They do not fail to realize it, they just do not care, because they have a legitimate business reason not to get back to you: it's the job of HR to minister to the needs of the company, and getting back to candidates who they are not hiring is not one of those needs. Especially in this economy, when there are sometimes over 100 candidates per opening, getting back to everyone - or anyone - with a "thank but no thanks" could take an hour that the company believes would be better spent following up with the insurance agent, moderating a workplace dispute, negotiating a better investment rate, or any number of things that HR does that actively brings in revenue or cuts costs.

Now, you might say, "But they spent a half day meeting me! I used up four hours of their time already!" But to a corporation, that's a sunk cost. It's already spent, they can't get it back. A smart HR rep would say, if they know they're not going to hire you, why would they sink more cost (time) into continuing? This attitude is pervasive at many large corporations, and is trickling down due to the economy. But you might say, "It takes them five minutes to say 'Thanks but no thanks' in an email!" In your individual case, perhaps that's true, but HR policies aren't written for you, they are written generally. If someone had to write that email to every person who ever interviewed with them, that time would add up. You were not the only person interviewing at some level of that company on that day.

Don't take it personally, because the company and the individual HR reps don't. Until you are an employee, you are nothing but a sunk cost.
posted by juniperesque at 8:54 AM on March 28, 2013 [6 favorites]

Best answer: Especially in this economy

It has nothing to do with the economy. Even in very hot industries during hot times this is standard practice.

And why not? Telling someone no is forever and your other, preferable candidates may fall through. Why close off an avenue when you can try to pull in better candidates A1 ...An before coming back to less desirable (but maybe still hanging on) candidate An+1. Having the actual "not interested" discussion just invites the "why?" Discussion which HR departments believe is so fraught with peril that no honest feedback is possible.

HR is an unsympathetic company-protection machine. Courtesy isn't actually part of their job.
posted by rr at 9:12 AM on March 28, 2013 [3 favorites]

It doesn't actually take an hour to respond to every candidate they interviewed. It takes less than five minutes to send a BCC-ed email to all of them. If they can't pull together a mailing list of all the candidates they interviewed, it's probably because they're too busy saying "I've fallen and I can't get up."

In my experience, the lower-tier companies are the ones that fall down on this incredibly basic courtesy. The higher-tier companies are the ones that get back to me one way or another, and *throughout* the hiring process, including replying to my application at the very beginning stage. Maybe if the lower-tier companies could pull together enough manners to send out a five-minute note saying "Thank you for attending the interview. Unfortunately, on this occasion you were not selected," they might go up in the world.

And saying "no" is not forever. It's always possible to contact candidates later and ask if they'd like to reinterview, as has happened to me.
posted by tel3path at 9:21 AM on March 28, 2013 [5 favorites]

It's not just discourteous; it's a symptom of the general attitude that employees are a commodity, can be treated as a disposable resource, and that treating employees and potential employees badly is okay, and is of no consequence. There are websites for employees to review employers, review them. Don't let potential employers and actual employers treat you like crap. If (potential)employees tolerate bad behavior, it will continue.
posted by theora55 at 10:18 AM on March 28, 2013 [4 favorites]

Some of the time the answer is the same as the answer to "I'm a guy doing online dating, and sometimes I'll have a first date with somebody and then they just go silent and stop replying to my emails, what's up with that?" -- there are a few job candidates out there who will go into a rage or burst into tears if you reject them explicitly, and their mere existence poisons the response well for everyone else.
posted by inkyz at 10:34 AM on March 28, 2013

It is common. It seems to be the new hip thing to drop interaction with people you don't actually need. I've gotten dropped in the middle of what I thought was a conversation more than once trying to buy stuff on Craigslist. It still seems rude, but it's not unexpected.
posted by mattu at 10:55 AM on March 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

In my experience, the lower-tier companies are the ones that fall down on this incredibly basic courtesy

Perhaps in some industries. But in the Fortune 100 and in the tech industry (Google, for example) this seems to be the norm. Perhaps it varies by particular HR droid.
posted by rr at 11:19 AM on March 28, 2013

rr, that doesn't match my experience.

In any case, it's not only the company that's spending time interviewing the candidate. The candidate has to spend time travelling and preparing for the interview, and some interviews require as much as 40 hours' preparation which, as a candidate, I have to fit around my regular job. I also have to take time off from my job to attend the interview. While I'm doing all this, I don't have time to send applications for other jobs - all my attention goes on the upcoming interview.

If, after all that, a company decides their time is too valuable to send me a two-line email, it speaks volumes about them. It might say "we don't have enough resources to afford this and therefore aren't going to be in the Fortune 100 for much longer," or it might just say "you're beneath contempt and we're certain that we're never going to need anything from you again." Which, considering their high turnover, they can't truly be in a position to know.
posted by tel3path at 11:36 AM on March 28, 2013

Best answer: As mentioned, all companies big and small have more important things to do than communicate with rejected applicants. One thing for sure, it is nothing personal. There are only so many hours in a day, and HR and Recruiting needs to be sourcing candidates, not sending rejection emails. However, every company understands that this is bad business, especially consumer goods companies (Campbell Soup didn't email me back after my interview, so I'm buying Progesso from now on!) so companies are building or have rolled-out recruiting websites where the interviewing candidate builds an interview profile.

This profile website is not built for the thousands of applications for one job, but built for the round of candidates who are brought in for interviews. This profile website is in addition to the initial application process that weeds through the hundreds of applications for a position, though the initial application website information can scribe to the profile website so information doesn't have to be entered twice. The candidate profile is a second, separate website, if you will. You’ve made it through the palace gates.

Companies can then generically communicate to their candidates under this candidate profile, removing the need for time consuming individual communications to all candidates. Also, it stops phone calls. Dozens and dozens of phone calls, for good and for bad. Each call, or VM, is a big time sink to the company and to the candidate when there is no update available. All messaging about interview times, who the candidates are interviewing with, schedules, reimbursement for travel expenses, etc flows through the website, not via email. No delays, no lost emails, no ambiguity. It allows all verbiage to be fully vetted and approved by Legal, eliminating a recruiter accidentally saying something wrong or something that could be misconstrued in a rejection letter. Because that happens. (Sorry, we're going with other candidates. Best of luck to you and your sick kids, hope your divorce goes well.) You'd be surprised what people will say after a long work day, or after what one could feel has grown into a personal relationship.

The profile also stores all the internal interview notes from the company so that each company interviewer can review questions to be asked, research questions asked by the candidate in other interviews, and most importantly to Recruiting, leave their notes, comments and recommendations on the candidate. When all the interviewing is done, all the information is viewable by the decision makers and offers are presented.

Important to your question, however, is that rejected applicants get that important rejection email or communication, or a notice of continued interest, after each round of interviews.

It’s all very slick and clearly the future of recruiting. As costs scale down you will see this technology at smaller and smaller companies, so everyone gets that important rejection letter.
posted by lstanley at 11:38 AM on March 28, 2013 [2 favorites]

I would like to emphasize that candidates fall through all the time. When my department was scouting for a new Director, we made multiple offers. Some decided to go with another offer. Some were just trying to leverage a higher salary with their current job. One did not make it through the final background screening. One decided they did not want to relocate.

This went over a six month time frame before we had someone actually show up the first day. Given our track record, we weren't sure she was real until she hit the three month mark.

At exactly what point should HR have sent out rejections? It's not a clear cut answer, and given the never ending possibility that they will need to dip back into that candidate pool, it makes perfect sense that they don't want to taint that relationship with a rejection. I don't remember the companies I never heard back from. I remember the companies that specifically told me they didn't choose me. And while I can rationalize that decision, it's hard to completely ignore that irrational part that is hurt and holds it against them.

So while it is not a good solution, I think it's the less bad solution.
posted by politikitty at 11:55 AM on March 28, 2013 [2 favorites]

confirming lstanley-- lots of big companies are screening through web sites. The online application/profile building process is detailed and comprehensive. For individual jobs, additional modules are activated, some with radio buttons for technical experience, some with essay questions. "Describe a situation where you solved X problem." The web sites generate courteous responses which are oddly comforting, even when you are rejected. Uncertainty and doubt can eat you up inside.

Technology can aid a civil society, who'd've thunk it?
posted by ohshenandoah at 1:57 PM on March 28, 2013

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