Open Letter to HR Departments: What’s the Deal?

Greetings, all you HR and Recruiting types out there!  I’m writing because I need your help.  For years, my clients (professionals looking for work) have reported an increasing lack of communication, professionalism, and courtesy in how they’re being treated during the hiring process — and I’m worried that things are starting to reach the boiling point.  While I’ve done by best to defend some of the behavior I’ve heard about, I’m becoming more and more at a loss to explain why certain things are happening, such as why it appears to be so difficult (even if your department is overworked/understaffed) to keep your TOP CANDIDATES updated, even briefly, on the status of the decision-making process.

Now don’t get me wrong here, I’m not stuck in the past or under any illusion that HR practitioners can engage in deep, meaningful dialogue with each and every candidate who approaches them for employment.  Heck, I even understand if you can’t take the time to send out “thanks but no thanks” postcards or e-mail responses to people, based on the hundreds of resumes that often flood in from a posted advertisement.  But why is it seemingly so hard to communicate honestly and directly with the short list of folks who have made the cut, after hours of interviewing with you, and with whom I’d hope you’d want to walk away with a positive image of your organization?  Even if they’re not selected for hire?

I’m usually a pretty good Devil’s advocate in these situations, but I’ll admit, this one’s got me baffled.  I just can’t see behind the curtain and understand why so many companies go completely dark — and exhibit such flaky behavior — when it comes to treating job candidates with a modicum of respect.

As a case in point, here’s a note I received from a client of mine just the other day.  This individual has gone through multiple rounds of interviews with a local company, was wooed at every step along the way, was asked to submit references, and was then assured that the company would be making a decision within 48 hours.  Over a week later, she has received zero further communication from them, despite several attempts to follow up and get a status update.  And just to clarify, we’re talking about a normal, mature, well-adjusted person here — I know this person well and she’s not somebody prone to griping or getting angry at things.

At any rate, here’s what she sent me:


“Hi Matt.  Still no word from [company name] and I’m getting nothing but voicemail for the company recruiter, the VP who was supposed to contacting me with their decision, and the front desk of the local office.  I am so disgusted with this process by now I couldn’t even bring myself to leave a message and probably for the best b/c it would not have been a polite and courteous one.  This is BEYOND ridiculous and worse than the on-line application process or an automated rejection because with both of those situations, you never even communicate with a live person so there’s no attachment and no one is misleading you or lying to you.

In your experience, is this seriously how companies operate these days?  Is this “the norm” and do employers think it is acceptable to leave people hanging like this because, in their minds, they have the upper hand since, after all, this is an *employer’s* market?  So that makes it OK to simply ignore those who have spent CONSIDERABLE time and effort pursuing them?  I just can’t fathom how the people I’ve been working with on this opportunity aren’t the least bit mindful of those who are waiting to know the decision.  Apparently they just think that I should just assume they’ve selected another candidate because I haven’t heard from them? What kind of way to handle this process is THAT?  I am SOO sick of this job searching and of the time I spend going down dead ends. No, I’m beyond sick. I’m disgusted.”

This note parallels a recent Yahoo! Finance article entitled 5 Ways Companies Mistreat Job Seekers that has been making the rounds on the Internet lately and discusses some similar experiences that are causing many candidates to get fed up.  So again, if there are any HR or Recruiting professionals out there who are brave enough to comment, and help the rest of us understand why such a profound communication breakdown seems to be taking place, epidemically, across all sectors of the hiring world, we’d love to hear your thoughts!  (and speaking at least for myself, I promise to stay open-minded…)


2 Responses to “Open Letter to HR Departments: What’s the Deal?”

  1. Dave: As always, your insights are much valued, and given your years of direct expertise in the recruiting field I’m hoping my readers/clients read your words carefully and take your advice to heart! There’s no question that sheer “busy-ness” is the main culprit behind the reported problems in my original post. Priorities change like wildfire, projects fall through, budgets get unexpectedly cut, etc. Even when these things happen, however, it still doesn’t explain (to me) why a simple phone call or e-mail couldn’t go out to the affected candidates, letting them know the timeline has been extended — or that other issues have cropped up. Most people would understand these things, if kept in the loop, but it’s the sudden vacuum of communication that takes place after four positive rounds of interviews (for example) that is driving many of my clients bonkers! That’s the part I still don’t understand, quite frankly, and that I believe could potential cause companies some problems in the long run. It will be interesting to see what my following post, with the poll in it, reveals… 🙂

  2. Matt:

    What a very brave post! I bet you don’t get many on-the-record replies!

    I have some conjecture, and it’s offer at what conjecture should be valued at. 😉

    First and foremost, with Unemployment rates hovering around 10%, it’s fairly obvious to everyone, and that means hiring managers & execs, that people are not in short supply. Those things in business that are not in short supply which are also important to getting things done do not get much attention. Important but not urgent. By contrast, Cash is important and urgent right now.

    Second, and this is a longer-term trend, HR & internal Recruiting Orgs have been slowly slacking off on candidate follow-up over the years. It’s a simple matter of measurement – very few of these orgs measure candidate follow-up, even with all the talk of building an Employment Brand in the HR world.

    Third, how many executives outside the HR world really pay attention to the leading-edge of HR & Recruiting? Let me ask this: How many CEOs, COOs, or VPs of Finance read ERE? Read a good book or magazine article about recruiting?

    Finally, it could just be that among all the priorities this business is facing, she is among those items that can be back-burnered while other more important issues get addressed. And let’s be fair, this happens all the time in other parts of the business. An almost-signed deal with a given Service Provider gets pushed while the Exec team deals with a request from their most important Board member. The company just had their biggest customer catch a cold and the contract conditions need to be renegotiated. The CEO’s mother-in-law got into a car accident and is in the Intensive Car Unit. The VP who was driving this decision just got caught embezzling funds.

    The best piece of advice I can give this candidate is to do two things. First, relax, and let things flow. She has done all she can do, and either it will happen, or it won’t. Second, if she is really committed to change, then keep looking. Nothing makes a candidate more attractive than knowing they might be unavailable soon!

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