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Ask the Headhunter: I Didn’t Hear Back After a Phone Interview, Should I Call?

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Nick Corcodilos is an expert on how to get a job. We ran into him while doing a story on the relative futility of Internet job boards and asked him to post his own job search secrets. It became a palpable hit, so we asked Nick if he wouldn’t mind taking some questions from our readers. It turns out that in addition to giving interviews to PBS, Nick hosts a website called asktheheadhunter.com, and publishes a free weekly — the Ask The Headhunter© Newsletter.

Andra: I never heard back following a phone interview, during which the employer informed me that the company would be in touch within 10 days. Two months have passed, and I assume that they will not be calling. Can I contact them to ask for constructive feedback?

Nick Corcodilos: While some employers are very good about getting back to job candidates, I find that employer behavior in the interview process is abysmal in general. Some chalk it up to the fact that companies get thousands of applicants — so why should they waste their time explaining why they rejected someone? They’re too busy interviewing others. In another of my columns, “Loopy Feedback Failure,” I discuss why this problem seems to have gotten out of hand.

Meanwhile, career experts (and personnel managers) advise job hunters to be polite and respectful and to send thank you notes after interviews, for that personal touch. In other words, behave professionally. They tell us that our behavior speaks volumes, and that we will be judged by it.

My advice is to judge this company, just as employers judge you. One phone call from you is a reasonable follow-up. If they won’t return your call or provide closure, forget about them. I know that sounds harsh in a bad economy, when you really need a job. But consider the ethics of a company that doesn’t do what it says it will do. Imagine how it treats employees. Then move on to your next target company.

There’s a test I like to use. When I finish up a meeting with a company, I suggest a follow-up or decision schedule. I ask them if they are comfortable with it. Then I tell them that I intend to respect the deadline we’ve set — or to notify them if something changes. And I ask them if they will commit to the same. This sets the stage for everyone to understand that we have a mutual obligation. I will never break my word to that company. But if they break their word to me, I call once to remind them. Then I’m done with them. I will not do business with them.

Sure, you might say — Nick, you’re not looking for a job. Yes, I am. Every time I try to sell my services to a new client, I’m looking for a job. But begging to work for a company that doesn’t behave respectfully will cost me more than it will earn me in the long run. I’d rather invest my time in companies whose word is good. I suggest you do the same. And remember: Your experience turns into a bad reference for that employer. Don’t hesitate to tell others in your professional community about your experience. References work in both directions.

Allen Montgomery: My skill set clusters around what would be needed for a shipping/receiving position. But nearly every such position I have found is off limits to anyone with a felony within the past 7 years. I’m past the 5 1/2 year mark. I have started my own business, http://www.hereticles.com, but it doesn’t pay the rent yet. In the meantime, I wouldn’t mind just washing dishes or something. But even those jobs are hard to come by these days, except for those who lie, and I’d rather not do that. I’d like to just grab something quick. Any ideas?

Nick Corcodilos: Employers worry. You need to get them over that, because they might not risk hiring an ex-felon on their own judgment alone. It takes references who will actively speak up for you. No matter what job you apply for, ask one or two people you have worked with, who can speak up positively about you, to call the hiring manager directly and recommend you. Not when they are called, but in advance. This is very powerful. It won’t work every time, but a recommendation like that can help you overcome problems from your past, because it’s a referral as well as a reference. Of course, you must come clean when you apply. Check my article, “Take Care of Your References” for more about effective use of references.

This is a very assertive approach. Consider whether it’s right for you. But I’d do more than note the felony on your forms. I’d bring it up with the manager when you meet. Be frank and matter-of-fact, but don’t dwell on it.

In my PDF book, How Can I Change Careers?, I offer many “How to Say It” tips about how to make an effective commitment to a manager who has no idea whether you’re worth hiring. I’ve re-worked one of those ideas for you.

How to Say It: “I made a big mistake over five years ago. I was convicted of a felony and I did my time. I don’t expect you to hire me unless you’re confident I’ll do a good job for you. So I’ll offer you three things. First, references from respected people who have worked with me since then, and my commitment to total honesty. Second, I’d like to show you how I would do this job [efficiently, profitably, masterfully– whatever is called for]. If I can’t show you, then you shouldn’t hire me. Finally, if in a month’s time you’re not pleased with anything about my performance, I’ll leave. No hard feelings. No questions asked. But I make you that offer because I know that won’t happen. That’s my commitment to you.”

That speaks volumes. Just be ready to back it up, whether the job is dish washing or logistics.

To read several more wise tips (and I don’t mean mine) on this topic, check this story about someone who worked in human resources, then committed a felony and couldn’t land a job. I especially recommend the suggestions from “S Kendall.”

I wish you the best.

Bob Wieland: You have mentioned the obstacle presented by recruiting software. How do I cope with applications that won’t let you close a page unless you provide such data as: Day, month, year of employment; telephone numbers of companies that no longer exist; exact dates of schooling; and social security number?

Nick Corcodilos: Don’t you love it when employers recruit you with ads that say what a great culture they have, then demand that you jump through hoops and do it exactly the way they ask? It’s what’s wrong with the employment system. The most pointed criticism I hear about this recruiting method comes from human resources professionals — when they’re looking for a job themselves. They hate it. So, why do they do it?

If you’ve been reading my columns, you know that my first advice is to not use the forms to begin with. Find better ways to apply, like tracking down the hiring manager and getting introduced. That’s how you’ll avoid competition from everyone else who fills out those forms.

But if you’re forced to fill out the data pages, then you need to consider forcing the employer to respect your own wishes. Provide only the information you’re comfortable sharing. Most online forms are pretty dumb. They distinguish between numeric and alphabetic characters. So, a box that asks for a date will only let you enter numbers. Try entering all 9’s or all 1’s. Likewise with phone numbers and your social security number.

To show you’re not intentionally misrepresenting any information, when you get to the first text box, add a brief note saying you entered 9’s because you’d prefer to provide that information only after you’ve met the manager.

Which brings us to the most serious problem: disclosure of your social security number. It’s one of the first things an identity thief loves to get hands on. I’ve never encountered the employer that needs your SSN when you apply for a job, except as a lazy way to track your application.

Some employers will boot you off the applicant list for not providing the exact information they demand. That’s the risk you take when you agree to apply using those forms. If you’d like to see how some other people handle those forms, check this posting on my Ask The Headhunter blog. You might be surprised that lots of others feel the way you do.

Nick Corcodilos: I started headhunting in Silicon Valley in 1979, and I’ve answered over 30,000 questions from the Ask The Headhunter community over the past decade — and I’m glad to share what I know with you. I offer no guarantees — but I’ll do my best to offer you useful advice — so please feel free to post your questions about your personal challenges with job hunting, interviewing, resumes, job boards, or salary negotiations. I am the author of three “how to” PDF books, available on my website: How to Work with Headhunters…and how to make headhunters work for you, How Can I Change Careers? and Keep Your Salary Under Wraps

Questions will be collected from here and we’ll post my advice on a series of Ask The Headhunter columns here on Making Sen$e. You’ll also find my comments sprinkled throughout this discussion forum about various topics. Thanks for participating!

Copyright © 2012 Nick Corcodilos. All rights reserved in all media. Ask The Headhunter ® is a registered trademark.

This entry is cross-posted on the Rundown — NewsHour’s blog of news and insight.

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