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Why don't employers call me back?

  • Story Highlights
  • Anthony Balderrama goes to the source to learn why employers don't call
  • With so many applicants in the current market, employers can't contact them all
  • Employers don't bother contacting applicants who are way off the mark
  • Using application tracking systems frees employers' time to contact candidates
By Anthony Balderrama writer
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When employers don't call you back, they could be too overwhelmed reviewing applications.

When employers don't call you back, they could be too overwhelmed reviewing applications.

Is there any worse confidence killer than rejection?

I think it goes back to childhood, when you want a new bike for your birthday but you end up getting a pack of tube socks instead. You immediately wonder if you did something wrong and that's why you didn't get what you wanted.

Go forward a few years when you end up taking your cousin to the prom because everyone else turned you down. And the college years? Basically a parade of rejection that feels like an endless line of Rockette kicks to your confidence.

Or maybe that was just my experience.

Still, that same game of "Is it me or them?" continues well into adulthood as you begin searching for a job. You make a list of your best qualities, send them to employers, get dressed up and try to woo them in an interview. Then you wait. And wait. And wait. The phone never rings.

Job seekers want to know why they can seemingly do everything right, and yet, still they don't hear back from employers. We're not talking about getting turned down for the job -- we're talking about not even hearing a "Sorry, but the position has been filled." So we went to the source to find out.

Submitting the application

For a job seeker, the application process is full of anxiety and excitement. When you're looking for a job, each available position represents a possible new beginning.

Before you've submitted an application, you've already daydreamed about your first day on the job. The problem is that to some employers, you're just one in a dozen. Or in some cases, one in 500.

"In the current market, if you post a job, you will get buried with résumés," says Matthew McMahon, partner at staffing firm McMahon Partners LLC. "Maybe 5 percent are in the ballpark."

This means plenty of hiring managers spend their time reading irrelevant applications that don't help them find the right candidate. As a result, they have less time for you. "You simply don't have time to respond to [all applicants]."

To many job seekers this attitude may sound cold and impersonal. After all, behind each of these applications is a person waiting for a return call. McMahon cannot possibly respond to each one individually, but he does take the time to reach out to applicants who show promise.

"If somebody is close, but slightly off target, I will usually take the time to give them a call, learn about what they are looking for, tell them about the sort of roles I fill, and keep the notes for future use," he says.

How about the ones who miss the mark completely?

"If the person isn't even close (or has not read the description), I don't bother spending the time because they are obviously applying for everything," he says. Take that as further proof that throwing your application at every open position and hoping to have some success is not the way to conduct a job search.

Can you expect any changes soon?

OK, so that's how things are now, but can job seekers expect to have a more personal interaction with the hiring managers in the future? Possibly, says Caitrin O'Sullivan of iCIMS, a provider of software for HR companies to track recruiting activity and applications.

"If an organization, especially a medium or large one, were not leveraging an applicant tracking system, it's difficult for job seekers to understand the magnitude of applications flooding recruiters [and] HR managers' desks -- especially during a period of high unemployment," O'Sullivan explains.

"Just visually scanning through all of these résumés can take hours upon hours of manpower," O'Sullivan said. "To have to communicate with every one of those applicants on top of that would be a truly formidable task."

That's not to say things will always be that way. As someone on the forefront of tracking technology, O'Sullivan sees an increase in interest among companies who can and do keep job seekers updated at regular intervals.

"As more and more organizations are investing in and leveraging HR technology and [applicant tracking systems], it is much easier for the HR team to automate and streamline that process and enable applicants to be aware of their status within the review process through those CRM tools," O'Sullivan says.

Although not all employers currently use tools that allow for such tracking, it's something that iCIMS has provided to human resources departments to benefit job seekers.

Until everyone gets on board, don't expect to hear back from employers and know where you stand. You're always free to call an employer to check on the status of your application or to see if the position has been filled. As long as you are courteous and don't pester them, most companies will let you know one way or the other.

Copyright 2009. All rights reserved. The information contained in this article may not be published, broadcast or otherwise distributed without the prior written authority

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