by Barbara Hewitt
During the last month I’ve received calls from three different employers complaining that they have not been able to get Penn students to return their phone calls. One wanted to invite a student for a second round interview. One only learned that two students no longer planned to actually attend their previously scheduled second round interviews when the employer took the time to reach out to reconfirm the date and time. The last complaint came for an employer who had extended an offer to a student, but could not get the student to return follow-up phone calls from either recruiters or a relatively high level senior executive who had taken time out of his busy day to call the candidate.
Students often think they are simply “cogs in the machine” of the recruiting process – one of many individuals traipsing through the halls of organizations across America to interview in an attempt to land an offer. They may not think that returning a phone call or answering an email promptly matters much in the big scheme of things. Let me assure you it does. Employers spend a tremendous amount of energy, time and money on college recruiting. They work hard to find individuals who will be the right fit for their organizations. They want to know that the students to whom they extend offers will be passionate about working for them and committed to the organization once they come on board.
If a candidate doesn’t have the common courtesy to return a phone call, it sends the message that he or she either does not know how to be professional, or really doesn’t care about the kind of impression s/he is making on the firm. Employers in this situation may very well begin to think that they made the wrong decision in extending an offer. Real concerns about the candidate’s ability to work with colleagues and clients may arise. I have seen employers withdraw offers after such negative experiences with candidates.
I understand why students sometimes hesitate to return employers’ calls. Often they are very busy. Perhaps they are worried that they will receive undue pressure to accept an offer before they are ready to do so. They may feel they have had all their questions answered and won’t know what to say when the inevitable “What questions can I answer for you?” comes up. Never-the-less, in order to be perceived as professional and courteous, it is important to respond and respond quickly to employers when they reach out. You don’t want to come across as disinterested in a position when in fact you might be.
On the other hand, if you have decided an opportunity is not the right fit for you, or if you have accepted another offer, let any employers with whom you have outstanding applications or offers know as soon as possible. They will appreciate your honesty and it will help them move forward to find alternate candidates for the position. You never know – a few years down the road you might again be considering opportunities with the same employer, and you certainly want to leave a positive lingering impression.