Rejecting Prospective Employees

Don’t Ghost Applicants After the Interview

Kim McKinney
Nov 27, 2019 · 6 min read
Photo by Thomas Lefebvre on Unsplash

I’ve been out of work since January 18th of this year. Job hunting has been eye-opening and has taught me much about myself and corporate America. It’s also reminded me that manners matter.

The business world had always seemed a polite society as a whole. I have found that much of my belief was an illusion. Companies expect employees and prospective employees to be polite, but corporate culture often is set up to be the very opposite.

Completing applications has become routine to me, but all require time and effort. Interviewing in-person needs more time and effort.

Many positions also require exercises or analyses performed as part of the interview process. Tasks that they would pay significant money for in any other situation. After a few of these, it’s difficult not to feel that they are robbing you of intellectual capital, giving you nothing in return.

I live over an hour away from a metropolitan area (and most potential jobs). I have been successful both working remotely and commuting about an hour away (for around nine years).

Most employers I have interviewed for have been remarkably insistent that employees work in their office. Most will not even allow employees to occasionally work from home when the work warrants it (unless it is work done after business hours).

”We work as a team, ” they tell me.

I know the reality of the jobs. While I am all for a teamwork culture, there are multiple ways to accomplish that. If onsite teamwork is necessary, I am there, no questions asked. But if I am going to spend the bulk of my day on conference calls, how much time am I going to be interacting with colleagues? I can focus better without other employees around to distract me. Why would an employer believe I need to be in the office on those days?

Even after telling potential employers I am willing to make the commute, work in their office every day, and respect their policies (and I have thought about this at length), they don’t believe it. My track record of thirty plus years of employment in the industry with a flawless attendance record doesn’t seem to matter. The number one reason I have been told I have not gotten jobs is that they don’t believe I will continue to commute. While a long commute may prove to not be worth it to me, the alternative I would seek would be to move…not quit my job.

Recently a job became available in my hometown, about five miles from my home. It was for a company of approximately 1,000 employees, one of the few employers in my county with a workforce large enough to hire someone with my experience level to deal with their employee benefits.

I was beyond excited. I had given up hope of being able to live here and had opened my scope to jobs that would require significant re-location.

I love my hometown. I’m very involved in life here. My four siblings and their families live here, as well as my 81-year old mother. It had been looking like there was no possibility of staying here. To not only be able to stay here but not have a commute would be a godsend.

I was optimistic. I finally got a call for an interview. I went.

They told me a bit more about the job. My heart sank a bit. Though the position was as the manager of their employee benefits plan, it was very administrative. My skill set is more in managing vendors, negotiating renewals, plan design, and strategy. I realized during that meeting that I probably wasn’t the best person for the job. Their Chief Financial Officer does the tasks that are more of what I love. But I also knew I could perform a more administrative role.

I was still hopeful and thought the benefits outweighed the negatives. I didn’t get any feedback saying I did not get the job, but also no contact to schedule additional interviews. I followed up, and a decision had not yet been reached.

I left for vacation (yes, you can and should have them when job hunting), a trip that I had planned for over a year. I told this employer and other prospective employers that I would be away and only available by email.

The Monday morning I returned, I sent an email to the local company to follow-up. I received a quick reply that I did not get the job, and they had just extended an offer to someone else.

I’ve been quite positive through this whole job searching process, but I will admit that it stung, even knowing the job was probably not a good fit for me. I was happy to have an answer, though, since it took that option off the table and made me renew efforts elsewhere.

I fired off a couple of emails to other contacts, one to a company I worked for in the past and for whom I have tremendous respect. If I work for them, it will require a rather significant move, but it’s time for me to consider that possibility.

I wrote one more email to the HR Director at the local company. I thanked him for the opportunity to interview, but I also acknowledged I thought my skill set would be beneficial if they added another position.

His reply was short and to the point. He said the reason I did not get the job was what I had expected; they wanted someone with a more administrative background. But he said he would keep me in mind for the future. He added he thought my skill set would be an asset to their company.

I’ve been surprised and dismayed about the hiring processes of most American companies as I have gone through this time of unemployment. I haven’t even received a “form letter” rejection email from most, even some Fortune 500 companies. I’d say that 80% have ghosted me, regardless of the effort I put into the interview process. Of those for which I got final resolution, the majority were due to my follow-up.

Acknowledging my skill set and saying he thought I would be an asset to their company may have been a throw-away compliment to end an email. Still, on a frustrating Monday when I have been out of work for ten months, kindness especially makes a difference. Though I initiated all of the follow-ups for that job, too, it is significant that the small gesture left me feeling positive. And he had replied to my email.

With today’s system of automated applications, a large number of people often apply for each available job. Responding personally to each is not expected. But usually, you don’t even receive an automated rejection email when you are no longer in consideration for a job. To send a rejection email would be a kinder, gentler, more professional way to handle it and let people move on from limbo status. While some people may apply for jobs carelessly, I suspect the vast majority of us are doing so thoughtfully and because the employer we have applied to work for is one that we respect.

And for those candidates who took the time to interview in person? A personal phone call from the person who interviewed them, advising they were not selected, would be best. At the very least, an email thanking them for interviewing and acknowledged their time and effort would suffice. Any personal closure that would allow them to move on and not keep hoping they would be selected.

People count. That should be the mantra of every business. It’s a compliment to your company when someone interviews with you, just as it’s a privilege for them to be considered. Most candidates say thanks. How about your company?

Kim McKinney

Written by

I write about people and faith and travel and adventure and life in general. I love a good story. I blog at kimberleymckinney.com; Twitter @Olingrad 🌼

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