Editor's note: Inc.com columnist Alison Green answers questions about workplace and management issues -- everything from how to deal with a micromanaging boss to how to talk to someone on your team about body odor.
A reader writes:
I've been job hunting for about 18 months and I can't handle all of the broken promises. I've had people make offers of help and then disappear. I've had interview offers rescinded (mostly involving scheduling conflicts until I find that the job has been filled). I've been told to follow up and then, after having chased someone down, found that the job has been filled. I've even had one job offer rescinded (the person doing the hiring didn't have the authorization to hire me, which I found out three days before I was supposed to start a three-month gig). One company has called me on three separate occasions to talk to me about upcoming projects and how they want me to be a part of the team -- and then crickets, even after I follow up for an update.
I know that none of it is personal, but it has me screaming, "What is wrong with people?" Why is it so difficult to hit "reply" when someone has followed up after an interview? (I do not expect a reply to every resume I send out.) Why does no one understand how hard it is to look for a job, especially when you've lost one? I can accept hearing no, but the silence is painful. I feel completely invisible. Being unemployed is hard enough, dealing with this insanity makes it unbearable.
I just spoke with another company was told that I would be getting a technical test for a freelance position several days ago. I followed up with an email yesterday but so far no reply. I'll wait another week and call if I don't hear but I can't believe this is happening again. Do you have any advice for me?
You have a lot of company in this particular boat. Yes, it's rude, but you're right that it's not personal. It's just how hiring often works these days. It can seem less rude if you're prepared for it from the beginning -- if you go into interviews expecting not to hear anything afterward, and if you're vigilant about keeping in mind that no matter how interested an employer seems, you might never end up talking with that company again. Let employers' follow-ups be a pleasant surprise rather than an expected step.
It shouldn't be this way, but it often is, and so you'll do yourself an enormous service by approaching it with matter-of-fact acceptance rather than frustration.
As for why it happens, some of it is that employers have enough qualified candidates to choose from that they can get away with inconsiderate treatment, and some choose to. The good ones don't operate like that, but plenty do. Also, a lot of companies have fewer people doing more work, and when people have too much to do, things like sending rejections sometimes get pushed off the list. And sometimes interviews fall through because the position gets pulled or the employer finds "the one" and curtails other interviews, or all sorts of other reasons. That's just business -- things change. It's frustrating, but you're probably going to be happier if you see if as "busy people juggling high workloads with lots of priorities besides hiring." Most of the time, that's true. Very few hiring managers are trying to be jerks.
One reason this is so frustrating is because so much of it is outside of your control. So I recommend focusing on the pieces that are within your control -- primarily your own mindset about all this. You'll be far better off not taking it personally and simply moving on mentally after you apply for a job / have an interview / hear something potentially promising from an employer. Respond appropriately to those things, of course, but then move on. Don't sit around waiting for the next step to materialize; move on as if it never happened or as if you already heard a "no." If you're going to hear from that employer again, it's going to happen whether you're waiting and agonizing or not -- and if you're not going to hear from them, you might as well skip the waiting and the agony.
On the employer's side of things, this is all fairly impersonal, and there's no reason it can't be on yours as well. I know that's a lot easier said than done, but approaching it this way will give you a lot more peace of mind while you're searching. Good luck.
Want to submit a question of your own? Send it to email@example.com.