Don’t Try this At Home

As a career counselor I often hear the frustrations of job seekers who send out applications, who interview, who network…. and despite all these efforts, get little response from certain employers for their invested time. Particularly heartbreaking are stories from people who get through the interview process only to feel themselves in a “black hole” as employers delay (or avoid) letting them know their status in the search for candidates. Typically in this situation, no news isn’t good news, but there are some constructive tips for handling the ambiguity that is inherent in the job search process. I will share those ideas below, but first, a humor-filled moment (if you think shows like MTV’s Jackass are funny).

I recently read a fun article from the New York Times about a man who got his revenge for all the agonizing silence we job seekers have collectively experienced. Read his story here:

Now, that was action packed! But… I don’t recommend it for job seekers who are more interested in landing a job than pulling off a crazy stunt. Here are some effective, and reasonable actions you could try on your own:

1) Think ahead – if you are interviewed, find time at the end to ask the question “what is your timeline for making a decision?” and to state something like “I’ll get back in contact with you if I haven’t heard anything by this time, are you the best person to call?”. It is critical to have this information before leaving an in-person interview or putting the phone down for phone interviews. Asking about “next steps” means you are indicating your genuine interest in the job and puts a bit more control into your hands regarding the communications you have with the employer.

2) Exercise patience – remind yourself that ambiguity really is part of the job seeking process. Keep putting yourself out there, get feedback from a career advisor regarding your job search strategies if that would be helpful.

3) Be proactive in a polite way – whether or not you interview, it generally is fine to follow up your application either by phone or email, to see how the employer’s search for a candidate is going, and/or to let them know you remain interested in the opportunity. (A caveat: if a job application says “no phone calls please” then you ought to follow the expressed preference of the organization.) Ultimately, if an employer is unresponsive to your effort to check in, then stay open to hearing from them, but move your job search energies into other endeavors.

4) Remember, it isn’t all about you – sometimes employers don’t get back to you because they are busy, because they have been inundated with applications, because they have many people who are involved in the decision making process, because there are formalities that prevent them from responding to your inquiries. You might be their first choice, but they haven’t had a chance to get back to you in a timely way. You might be the second choice – which means you still have a chance at the job if their initial offer is turned down. You may not be selected at this time. The point is, you do not know what is happening on the employers’ side. Give them the benefit of the doubt, but don’t take it personally.

5) Remember, it isn’t all about this one opportunity – as hard as it is to put effort out in the form of applications and interviews, the measure of success is not all-or-nothing: getting an offer of employment is not the only way to measure a successful job search. Each time you write an application, go through an interview, and meet people in the field, you are strengthening the skill sets that will serve you well in your future. Don’t forget, many people change jobs every 3-5 years. You will be using those job seeking skills again and again.