— Reader 1: I feel like my job applications — both online jobs portal and direct e-mail submissions — are falling into a black hole. Only one organization let me know my application had been reviewed. Is this the way it works? How should I follow up?
Reader 2: I have interviewed for senior-level communications jobs — making multiple visits, giving formal presentations, and taking writing and personality tests. Many of these organizations turn down top candidates with a short, form-letter email from a low-level HR person. Or, worse, they don't communicate their decision at all. This inattention to basic courtesy is appalling and damages the organization's image. What gives?
Reader 3: I interviewed with a tech startup, and, after two great conversations and a job offer that I accepted, communication ceased. The promised formal offer letter never came, and the co-founder who offered me the job failed to reply to four emails I sent in three weeks. Should I send all the founders a polite email about theirco-founder's unprofessionalism? I don't want to burn bridges, but I feel hoodwinked.
A: I've been hearing from enough jilted job-seekers to start a Miss Lonelyhires column. Being turned down is hard enough; can we at least establish a baseline of common courtesy?
As with dating, a clear "no, thanks" generally beats dead silence, and the nature of a rejection should mirror the nature of the relationship. At a minimum, mass applicants are due an auto-reply confirming receipt and another when the position is filled. Candidates who have been through interviews are entitled to a personal call or e-mail from the interviewer, expressing thanks for their time and regret that things didn't work out.
Job-seekers, like suitors, must remember their manners, no matter how discouraged they feel. If a few follow-up inquiries reiterating your interest — over days or weeks, not hours — go unanswered, assume the answer is "no." If that "no" is confirmed, leave a good impression with the aforementioned thanks + regret formula; demanding an explanation simply confirms that "no, thanks" was and is the correct reply. If you've quit your old job or declined another offer because you relied on a bad promise, you might have legal recourse. Otherwise, write it off and be grateful you learned about your would-be employer's lack of character before entering a dysfunctional commitment. (Bonus: No blood test required.) And if someday you're on the other side of the table, make an effort to afford others the respect you desired.
Thanks to Sharon Snyder, of the Ober Kaler national law firm. Miller has written for and edited tax publications for 16 years, most recently for the accounting firm KPMG's Washington National Tax office. You can find her on Twitter, @KarlaAtWork.