This week, I want to welcome Tony Deblauwe, founder of consulting firm, HR4Change.com. He manages www.workbabble.com, a blog that focuses on workplace topics. Tony is based in Silicon Valley and has over 15 years experience in corporate HR, leadership development, and talent management. I asked Tony a few questions about the job search process, specifically interviewing and follow-up, since so many job seekers are getting frustrated with the lack of response from employers when they send in an application. Here is what he had to say during our interview:
DR: Thank you for joining us Tony. So the big question – why does it seem to take forever for applicants to hear back from employers after submitting their resume?
TD: Well Dawn, unfortunately, it often has less to do with candidate fit as it does with internal recruiting processes. Many companies may be understaffed, requisitions suddenly go on hold, or just the way in which resumes coming in are vetted – it takes a long time to get through them. For bigger companies, they can rely solely on their applicant tracking systems that auto-select resumes based on keywords. Until they are chosen and move to the next phase, no emails go out to candidates beyond the receipt email.
DR: Is there anything job seekers can do differently to avoid internal process issues?
TD: Applicants should follow-up regardless of whether the company’s recruiting process is slow or disorganized. The key is to know when. Typically 1-2 weeks after initial resume submission is a good time to follow-up. If you don’t have a company specific email for job inquiries, call the main corporate line and ask to be directed to the recruiting or HR department. The main thing is to exercise patience and not automatically think because you didn’t get a call back in 24-48 hours you’re not a fit.
DR: No offense Tony, but often HR and recruiting is the roadblock, or at least that’s the perception.
TD: No offense taken – believe me I hear this all the time. That’s why it’s always good to have friends in HR because they know HR friends in other companies! Seriously though, while I agree that broken process and practices lead to poor follow-up behavior from companies, unless you have the name of the hiring manager, or a strong friend on the inside that can refer you, circumventing the departments that are in charge of sorting resumes and candidates will surely create more delays or roadblocks.
DR: Let’s talk about getting a foot in the door. Someone gets the interview, thinks it went well, and then hears nothing. What then?
TD: I always look at connection in the interview process. The connection not only for fit in a job but connection that it’s ok to call back in case schedules or other typical work “stuff” gets in the way. You can gauge that pretty quickly from body language. Interviewers who make a lot of eye contact throughout the interview, lean forward, start asking specifics about your work history – they tend to show a connection.
People who read from the resume the whole time, don’t dive too deeply into your experience, or otherwise seem to convey they are interviewing you because they have to, offer no connection. This is a broad brush of course, but working with hiring managers and recruiters, I am an insider in terms of when the interview is a “show” versus a true rigorous approach to finding the right talent.
The point is, after you establish the connection piece, and you don’t hear back, send a polite email or place a quick phone call to the recruiter and the hiring manager, reminding him or her of the pleasure you had in the conversation, and strong interest in the position. Believe me – most people don’t do that. They don’t get business cards or info, and they are stuck waiting for the email or phone to ring. In my career, I can count on my hands the number of people who actually sent a follow-up note.
DR: What happens if you do that and still no response?
TD: Well it’s still not necessarily a deal breaker, but at that point if you don’t get a courtesy call back you are probably not on the short list. The employer is finishing interviews with better qualified folks, but you were close so they don’t want to let you go just yet. While this is not a practice I condone from HR or recruiting folks, it does happen and you have to be patient and pursue your other leads.
DR: Seems unprofessional and unfair...
TD: It does – but again people are busy and processes may be convoluted. It’s an excuse, but I look at it as an indicator. If a company doesn’t have a fluid process for recruiting, including courtesy in follow-up, they probably have problems with other business processes. It makes you think twice about how happy you might be in the company.
DR: If a person does get a note that he or she is not a fit, especially after waiting a long time, should they bother to send a thank you note?
TD: Absolutely. One thing I tell applicants is that your personal brand is important. It doesn’t matter what someone else’s ineffective behavior or conduct is. You operate to a high level of professional at all times. That means you send a pleasant email or a handwritten note – whatever you think in appropriate – but you send something to close the loop on your end. You never know, another job could come up and you get a call. I have seen it before.
A friend of mine went through three rounds of interviews and heard nothing. He called, sent emails, and absolutely nothing was responded to. After three months, he got a call for another position in a different department. They acted fast; he came in, and after a few days was given an offer. That’s the thing – some departments in companies are better at recruiting than others. It’s not consistent and you have to expect these unorthodox actions to occur from time to time. Not that you should wait forever, but if it happens, don’t be surprised.
DR: Do you have any other tips to share?
TD: The main thing is not to get discouraged. After 9/11 people thought there were no jobs either. In many cases unemployment spiked worse than we saw in late 2008 and in 2009. If you have a plan for a targeted search then it’s easier to be flexible playing the waiting game with different employers. The market is picking up. I predict there will be a surge in jobs in Q2 especially in the technology and government sectors. Good talent is always hard to find, so stick to your guns and make an impact however you present yourself both in your resume and your interviewing skills.
DR: Tony, thank you so much for your time and perspective on the job hunt process. Where can people get more information about you and your services?
TD: Thank you Dawn. I can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org and of course the blog at www.workbabble.com. For those in your audience who feel stuck in their job and can’t quit but have the added headache of reporting to a bad boss, check out my award-winning book, Tangling with Tyrants: Managing the Balance of Power at Work on Amazon. I’m on twitter at www.twitter.com/hr4change.