Thursday, April 15, 2010

How Job Seekers Can Get Answers

Candidates are frequently frustrated at the lack of response from hiring managers, recruiters and HR reps. Candidates can use these simple tips to get more answers and see if they are still being considered by a target company.

Have you ever had the frustration of not knowing if you were being considered as a viable candidate for a position, or if you were progressing to the next level of evaluation? Can you recall the aggravation from no response to your resume, no response to post-interview follow up, or worst of all - no response to being a finalist?

To a candidate, much like a sales person, the worst answer is no answer at all. While you need more yes answers to get more opportunities in your pipeline (see:, you also need more no answers. Getting a no allows you to move on and concentrate on other opportunities. Non-answers just waste a candidate's time, attention, and hope.

As companies have cut staff and also had an explosion of applicants, you may have noticed that HR departments just aren't as polite as they used to be. While there are a number of reasons, there are also some tactics candidates can use to increase the feedback and responses they get from target companies.

There are a number of reasons candidates don't get much response from hiring companies:
  • Politeness has an expense - While candidates are frustrated with perceived company rudeness, it's simple economics. It's not that a company is trying to be rude, it's that their own staffing levels have been reduced, and politeness isn't the central job of a recruiter or HR department. As companies tighten their belts, many just don't have the budget or staffing levels for politeness today.
  • It takes more than just "5 minutes" - Frustrated candidates aren't looking st the situation from the understaffed hiring company's (or recruiter's) point of view when they comment "It would just take a few minutes to send me an update." While it's just "5 minutes" to update you, multiply that times the thousands of applicants a company or recruiter gets for each job they post online. All of a sudden, it's more than just 5 minutes, it's an entire person's job.
  • It's not a recruiter's, HR Reps, or Hiring Manager's job to give you feedback - Consider yourself fortunate if you get some. There are ways to encourage feedback - I'll go into a few in today's post.
  • Lawyers make it difficult to give feedback - Fear of lawsuits is the #1 reason that companies and recruiters don't like to give feedback. Maybe you aren't planning to sue the company, but if your target is larger than 10 people and has been around for a while, you can bet that they've been sued by a former candidate. Do you think they're interested in repeating the experience?
  • Candidates can make it difficult to give feedback - Hiring Manager, HR reps, and recruiters can be reluctant to give feedback because candidates sometimes respond giving a perception of being closed to constructive criticism - which appears to a hiring manager as someone who doesn't want to listen. The clearest example is disagreeing with the constructive criticism you are being given. It doesn't matter if the hiring manager got the facts wrong, they are giving their perception ... and perception is king. Your clarification isn't going to change their mind, and will be perceived as lengthening an unpleasant conversation at best. This is one reason that many hiring managers, recruiters and HR reps avoid these conversations. If you are able to get into a feedback call with a hiring manager, just listen without responding. You're not going to be able to talk yourself back into contention for this job, but you might learn something to make your next interview more successful.

I've found a few ways to increase your chances of an update or feedback. These techniques are not likely to change your fit as a candidate, but can be used to increase the chances of at least getting an answer.

Most candidates (who aren't trained sales people) just aren't good at this process - it's uncomfortable, it feels intrusive, and you'll get bad news more often than good. Many candidates avoid this pain, but sales people are trained to be thick skinned and unemotional about it. To experienced sales people, it's a numbers game - you have to get through enough rejections to get to yes. Sales people recognize that effective follow-up sometimes can make the difference between a non-answer, and a chance to move forward in the process. Some buyers (and hiring managers) may use follow up as a part of the decision process.

The only way to get better at this is to face the discomfort, and do it - gaining experience in these methods will make them easier and make you more effective:
  1. Create a schedule - Whether you use a calendar, a log, an excel spreadsheet, or special tools like JibberJobber, create a follow up schedule for calls and emails ... and stick to it.
  2. Don't expect callbacks - Recruiters don't expect callbacks - why should you? Understand that if you want feedback you're going to have to take it upon yourself to reach the hiring manager, HR rep, or recruiter. These are busy people in meetings or on the phone all day long - they get hundreds of emails and hundreds of voice mails. Experienced sales people realize it takes an average number of communication attempts to reach someone - this varies based on function and level, but it's always expected to me more than a few attempts.
  3. Utilize your network - Tap your network contacts within the company to gain inside information on the hiring manager or HR department. Don't ask them to do the follow up for you, but your contacts may help you understand if the position has been filled, when people are typically at their desks, and when their gatekeepers are away.
  4. Make it easy for them - Try the "Quick Question" email - Using the subject Quick Question, ask a one line question. "Am I still on your radar?" You'll be surprised at the number of responses you get, just because you've made it easy for the Hiring Manager, HR rep, or recruiter.
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