How to be Jobless says: “Don’t ignore us, at least send a rejection” A massive HR department responds

Published 09/04/2013 on GoThinkBig

Is there anything more soul destroying than spending loads of time on an application, only to hear nothing back? Blogger How To Be Jobless thinks not. Her heartfelt plea to potential employers is, however, answered by Andrea, who works for O2, one of the biggest companies in the UK, and knows how problematic the seemingly simple mass rejection email can be… 

Image by GoThinkBig

Image by GoThinkBig

Dear Employers,

My name is @howtobejobless and I’m writing on behalf of my pyjama’d people. We are the jobless, the ones who repeatedly respond to your offers of jobs. And after all your requests for CVs, covering letters, ideas pitches, 300 words on this and 500 words on that, well… if you don’t mind, we have some requests to make of you. We would like you to respond to us, please. Automated will do.

We’re not asking for sympathy, we get that from our mums. We’re not asking for cuddles, we get that from the postman. We’re not even asking for what we really need, feedback. We don’t need you to ask after our grandmother’s health or promise we’ll still be friends. What we are asking for, respectfully, humbly and with slightly crazy eyes, is:

1) an acknowledgment of our applications; send a robot if you like;

2) to be notified when the position has been filled.

“Due to the high volume of applications, we are unable to respond to unsuccessful candidates.”

Let’s start with “ouch”, shall we? “Unsuccessful”? When you call us that we feel like 5ft balding divorcees with muffin tops, flop sweat and kids who send us hate mail. “A high volume of applications” was a great excuse before mail merge was invented. But right now, in an age where you can broadcast anything to anyone in less time than it takes to tell the postman he’s being inappropriate, perhaps it’s not the real reason.

Your newsletter, for example – mail merge. The way one person tells everyone on your floor that there’s yet another cake in the break room – mail merge. What’s one more? If you don’t know how to set one up, go here

Save your rejects from months of wondering, hoping, and checking their emails while you welcome the new guy with his new shoes and his fob and his stupid smug bastardly face. Why should you bother?

1) Manners – we just poured hours into that application. Some of you asked for ideas and actual copy on top of the cover letter and CV, which we already had to tweak in order to make you think we only have eyes for you. A simple “Thanks but no thanks” is only polite.

2) It’s quick and easy – a mail merge takes minutes to set up (see above) and seconds to execute.

3) It means a lot to have our efforts and existence acknowledged – let us paint you a little picture. You know when someone asks someone out on a date, and before they say no there’s that awkward pause, during which the asker goes red and dies a little inside?

Applying for a job is essentially applying for a high-maintenance long-term relationship. When you don’t reply, you’re putting us through a three-month awkward pause, before we finally give up hope and carve “Brooks was here” into our mum’s walls. And our mums don’t find that in the least funny, let me tell you.

A mass “Your application will not be taken any further” would be highly appreciated, and I mean highly. Rejections are so much rarer than being totally ignored, you might actually make a few people weep with joy. Think about it, dear Employers.

Get back to us.

Love, @howtobejobless

And Andrea’s response?

Dear @howtobejobless,

Firstly, great name. Secondly, just for a bit of perspective, I am a team leader for UK resourcing at O2, looking after retail stores, contact centres and graduate and internship programmes. We get around 50,000 applications a year, and I know how hard it is not to hear a response.

It’s a tough market out there, and obviously some people are really frustrated by the abyss, or the black hole feeling of never hearing anything back. It’s important to at least close off an opportunity in their heads, and move on, so you can continue the job hunt.

At O2, we have a very sophisticated applicant tracker systems which means we can respond  to everyone, even at the first stage. Yes, we’re a large company, but some other large companies still have to do it manually, through things like excel spreadsheets. Unfortunately this can mean some applications get lost and often how long people are waiting to hear back is not monitored.

If you haven’t heard back from somewhere, don’t be afraid to call the company to check. And if you’ve been “unsuccessful”, they may have valuable feedback to help focus your next search!  We have that option on all our automated emails, and we provide full feedback for anyone who meets us in person.

I agree with you… and also, it’s in the company’s interest to send a response because you might be perfect for another role but you might not be as likely to reapply if they’ve frustrated you by not replying. Hopefully your experience can change in the future, but it is quite hard for the larger companies without the software.

Mail merging is a good point, though…

Warm regards & best of luck in the search from the team at o2! GoThinkBig

Andrea, UK Resourcing at O2

7 thoughts on “How to be Jobless says: “Don’t ignore us, at least send a rejection” A massive HR department responds

  1. Great post! It only hit me last week that I haven’t done any chasing up on my applications. It makes me think of Journalists chasing their sources until they get some sort of response. I hate not hearing nothing back, if only there was a read button on e-mails. Good luck with the applications.

  2. Thanks! I agree, it’s awful, and chasing up is a good idea. I’ve recently realised that my having a hotmail address and having a slightly…shall we say ‘exotic’ name may have sent me straight into a few junk boxes, so do check your applications were received!

  3. As a Mum who has watched her kids spend hours filling in application forms and then been angered by the lack of sheer courtesy on the part of employers who don’t even bother to acknowledge their efforts, I would like to say that back in the dark ages when I worked for a fancy magazine, we used to type individual replies to all job enquiries – even those on spec. More recently, when working for a small, cash-strapped charity, I made sure that all job applicants were informed politely of the outcome of our recruitment process. It couldn’t be easier these days: you have a stock letter on file – and, yes if you must, use mail merge – to send everyone a message. So, please employers, think of the human beings who made the effort to respond to your job ad and give them, at least, the dignity of a response.

  4. Thanks for this, what a fantastic comment. I wonder, exactly what has changed? We’ve already established, the problem isn’t “can’t” reply, it’s “won’t reply”. My best guess is, they simply don’t care about the people on the other end. So what’s changed?

    • Well – it’s not everyone – as I said, smaller voluntary and private organisations do make the effort, despite limited resources. And I know, from experience, that the public sector has processes in place. So – for the rest – do we live in a more callous, careless age? I hope that’s not the case – but it’s probably true that many workplaces have become much more stressful, with huge emphasis on reaching ‘targets’ and far less job security, so maybe people feel they have to focus on their own interests to survive. This is not their fault but the culture set by their managers.

  5. Pingback: Jobseeker’s toolbox: what’s the use of hope? | howtobejobless

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