Applying For Jobs And Getting Ignored

A major source of frustration for some people is firing off a resume to an employer, waiting for the phone to ring and hearing nothing. I hear this complaint quite often from job seekers I speak to.

My normal response to the people who tell me their frustration with this situation is to request a look at what they are sending the employer in the first place. Sometimes it’s obvious to me within two minutes or less what the real problem is. I start off asking to see the job posting to see if they kept it. Without it, I’ve got nothing to gauge how much or little they’ve matched the resume to the job.

Next I ask to see the resume they sent. If it’s a general one they’ve sent off that’s actually been saved under the name, “My resume 3”, I’m right on to the problem and it isn’t at the employer’s end. And then I ask two remaining questions: 1) Can I see the cover letter you sent it and 2) What follow-up did you do after you applied? Again if there is no cover letter, and they’ve done no follow-up, the problem isn’t with the employer, it’s 100% the applicant’s issue. Yes 100%.

Are you taking issue with me blaming somebody whose already out of work and seemingly hitting them when they are down? That couldn’t be farther than the truth. It’s critical to determine what the problem or problems are with someone who never gets a response from employers in order to best assist them in changing those results. If it’s clear to the employer that you’re putting out the barest of effort in applying for a job, that translates into you’ll put out the barest of effort when on the job if hired.

But what about people who do target their resume to specific jobs, write cover letters and still get no reply? Identifying issues here needs a closer look. Some basics are to make sure the cover letter is addressed to the specific person where some effort on their part could produce a name. Then the cover letter needs a review to see if it would prompt the reader to be interested in reading the resume. The resume itself must address the employer’s needs. Does it tick off all the boxes for the employer or is it just regurgitating worn out standard resume statements that list your past responsibilities in past jobs?

Perhaps the most significant piece of data a helper however is the answer to the question: “Did you follow-up and if so, how?”

You’re either applying for jobs where you’ve identified the employer, or you’re using ads or temporary services where the employer is not immediately known. Play detective and ask yourself what you could do to find out who the employer actually is. Some people put out no effort at all and defend a lack of action by saying the employer doesn’t make it easy to find out who they are for a reason – they don’t want contact with applicants. That’s partially true. They do want contact with qualified and talented applicants however.

In years past, employers sent out a form letter to all applicants who didn’t make the interview stage thanking them for their interest but rejecting them. That cost money for envelopes, stamps, and the time someone had to go to in order to address and mail the letter. That money is no longer being spent. Hence the ads often say, “We thank all who apply but only successful applicants will be contacted”. I think we can all understand that polite way of saying it costs too much time and money to reply to everyone who might apply.

Following up on a job application is one of the best things you can do in order to pursue a job and show your enthusiasm for the position you are applying for. Now someone can hear your voice if they receive a call, they can see you and get a strong first impression if you walk through the door, or they can see your dogged determination and professionalism if you follow-up with a thank you note for an interview, inquire after your initial application etc.

Of course it works the other way around too; they can hear your poor verbal skills on the phone, get a weak first impression if you walk through the door, and hear guess your apathy if you do no follow-up at all.

Some ads specifically ask you not to contact the employer. So don’t walk in their door and bug them. But what if you walked in the door and just stood there soaking up the atmosphere. When someone says, “Can I help you?” you say, “Why thank you but no. I’ve applied for the position of __________ and it was clear no follow-up contact was desired I decided to drop in to just get a feel for the atmosphere, check dress codes etc. but I don’t want to jeopardize my application by asking to see anyone.” What could happen next is someone takes your name, buzzes your through to meet someone based on your availability and theirs, or at least takes your name and comments on how smartly dressed you were. Why you could even get an interview. Hey, it happens. How might that compare with the results you’re getting now doing it your way?

5 thoughts on “Applying For Jobs And Getting Ignored

  1. I like your last paragraph on what to do if they say absolutely no contact. Thank you for addressing this. I have always worried about being blacklisted if they thought I was bothering them but most employers wouldn’t take offense if we approached them as you suggest. The wouldn’t be disturbed that an applicant just wants to look the place over.


  2. This is an excellent blog and I agree with everything you have said. I also like your approach on what to do if the employer says ‘no contact please’.


  3. From a general perspective I agree with you Kelly — the burden is on the applicant to perform the basic tasks correctly. I too have heard of individuals who didn’t provide the requested information, or did so only in part, or sent the requested details using the wrong format (Some employers specifically request PDF. If so, why send a WORD file?).
    Spelling errors, grammatical mistakes, mentioning the wrong company or position in the cover letter, all sink some applications.
    But what of those situations in which the application process was performed properly, an interview was conducted (phone or face-to-face), a thank you note sent, then nothing results for two to three weeks. Even after placing phone calls, leaving voice mail messages and sending emails to the person with whom one met and no reply results. What then?
    I have to admit, in such cases I succumb to a “sore grapes” attitude, “if that is the prevailing attitude then the job/company/hiring manager and I wouldn’t fit well together.”
    Nonetheless, have employers become so callous, so rude, so unfeeling that they find it appropriate to ignore someone with whom they spent hours? Their behavior doesn’t aid the job searcher one iota.


    1. Michael I sympathize with the applicant who as you say does everything correctly and still gets no response. My advice would be to still try and not paint all employers with the same brush due to the bad behaviour of a few.

      The person who really does all the right things is really making an attempt to maximize their chances and there will always be poor employers or interviewers who treat their applicants badly.


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