The Employer’s Responsibility To Applicants

I’d be willing to bet that at some point or other you’ve applied in good faith for a job opening and then waited for some kind of acknowledgement from the employer that your application has been received. Confirmation that perhaps never came. You may even have had an interview and then waited without ever being contacted to advise you that the position was filled – and obviously not by you.

So why is this apparent poor behaviour common and growing? Wouldn’t this reflect poorly on a company’s image and reputation? It was them who posted the job and asked for applicants after all!

Well, let’s look at that seemingly rude and inexcusable behaviour but from their point of view. First, let’s give companies some credit for putting in the line that reads, “We thank all those who apply but only those who meet the criteria will be contacted for interviews.” This is their way of making sure in advance you know that only those who actually meet the requirements move on. Those who don’t meet the identified skills and qualifications test will not be contacted.

Now this might not equate with a phone call or letter advising you that you didn’t make the grade, but it is a courteous notification and warning to make sure you are so well matched on paper that you stand a good chance. Can you imagine a phone call to everyone who applied and was not successful in getting an interview? If 70 people applied for a job and they narrowed things down to 6 candidates, that’s 64 people to call! While some applicants might say something nasty and hang up, the majority would express disappointment and ask for some kind of feedback.

So now you’d have someone tied up letting some down gently who appear upset, others wanting feedback they don’t know about first-hand, and being yelled at and told off by at least a few less than ideal candidates. Who would you have make these calls were you the company? An entry-level employee who may not have the discretion and wisdom to refrain from saying anything that could be later used in a lawsuit launched by an unhappy applicant, or a person well-trained in what not to say costing a small fortune? Neither is a good business decision.

What of an email or a letter you ask? Oh you could do that if you are the employer, but now your decision is in writing and you’d want your lawyers looking over such correspondence so that again, you aren’t sued.

I myself remember many years ago having an employment lawyer come in where I was working. They schooled us on what we should and could say to avoid lawsuits just on providing references. We were told about some companies that were initially providing honest references and then getting into trouble because someone didn’t get hired and sued them. So they changed. They’d say things like “you’d be lucky to have Susan work for you.” This could be taken as Susan is an asset and she’ll do great things for you, or you’ll be lucky if she actually does any work for you because she didn’t for us! That double-speak got messy.

So now in 2015, we’ve got companies who have policies stating they will confirm employment dates and nothing more; good or bad. Some really bad experiences ruined things for the majority. I think you can understand the employers predicament: in some instances, a really good employee gets a good reference and another company makes their hiring decision based in part on that reference. The 2nd company can’t get the same level of excellence out of the person and they fire them, suing the 1st company for wages and lost time in part caused by that glowing reference.

So now organizations who do acknowledge receipt of applications, and who do notify those who are not successful job applicants are becoming a minority. Even more a minority are the ones who provide feedback after interviews so the person can improve moving forward. Most won’t now again out of fear of reprisals and that feedback ties up an employee and their productivity halts while they spend time with someone who isn’t working there anyhow.

I believe employers who identify hiring needs have a responsibility to be genuine. They shouldn’t post jobs that don’t really exist just to gather resumes. If a job is essentially a given for an existing employee, then it’s not ethical to advertise a job prompting desperate people to hope a little for something they have no shot at. This erodes a persons dignity, self-image and confidence only to be told, “Oh sorry, not you this time either”.

Good organizations DO exist. Like most things, it’s a small number who taint the process for the masses. Maybe someone who is interviewed but unsuccessful could sign a document promising not to sue in exchange for honest feedback? Something legally binding? Of course that doesn’t address the productivity and salary issue for person tied up giving feedback does it?

Yes, if only all applicants only applied to jobs they really had a legitimate shot at, and if only applicants didn’t launch lawsuits when they didn’t get hired, we might expect more from employers. The next time you apply for a job, get someone in that field to go over your application and prepare you for the interview. Increase your odds!




4 thoughts on “The Employer’s Responsibility To Applicants

  1. I can understand what you are saying. A statement saying only those who are chosen for further participation will be contacted should suffice for those submitting resumes, but a lot of job opening ads don’t say this.. People who have actually had interviews should check back themselves. They should ask at the interview what the next steps are and if it is okay to check back. The only problem is when employers won’t contact applicants who have been interviewed and don’t want these applicants “bothering them” by checking back.


  2. Another interesting discussion, but I am left yet again with a feeling of ‘so?’ So what is next? What is a possible solution to this problem? Well from the employers’ view, there is no problem when it is framed this way, so I guess no solution is required. From the job seeker’s perspective though, the article leaves one feeling even more adrift, if you will. If there is nothing that can be done, then we should all stop wasting everyone’s time. I mean, this all seems to fly against the grain of previous pieces on the imporantance of seeking feedback! Talk about confusing! Again the ‘problem’ here, seems to circle back to the applicants! I agree that there has to be a way to ‘weed out’ those who do not even remotely fit the listed ‘criteria’, however sometimes that is also where a ‘gem’ is found and a good ‘screener’ (not recruiter) is worth their weight in gold in this regard. I would argue that although you are pointing out the employers’ perspective on why they don’t give a response or feedback upon request, when examined more closely, as you indicate. they are choosing not to (for the parade of reasons provided). Unfortunately they are also ‘shooting themselves in the foot’ by only looking at the short term. It is no wonder that people at all levels are stressed and turnover is often so high. You can’t build good relationships, trust or a mentoring climate under these conditions. And I think if readers think about it, they will realize that any organization that puts that ‘disclaimer’ (“only those selected for interview….”) in their notice is not really the healthiest of place to work and so do they really want to waste their talents in that type of environment in the first place? I am not a doomsday naysayer. It is reality. As the article notes, there are fewer ‘good’ organizations to work for these days so it is no wonder that so many are opting for a healthier lifestyle and peace by working for themselves!


    1. Anna I have read with an open mind and sincere interest your responses to a few of my blogs. First of all I value all the feedback you have provided, whether or not you agree with some, all or none of the points I make. That’s how we grow.
      Having said that, you should be aware that at least in my opinion, you are coming across -intended or not – as decidedly negative. Whether you agree or not, or want to do anything to support or counter that image, is entirely your prerogative. I personally think you might find more positives and perspective. Respectfully.


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