Tuesday, November 11, 2014

In Defense Of Companies That Don’t Respond To On-Line Résumé Submissions

I have a confession.  Occasionally, I post jobs on one of the job boards, almost always anonymously and always very specifically describing the background we are looking for.  I am shocked at the responses we get.  Most are totally irrelevant.  

When we do a listing and say people must have recent advertising agency experience, 90% of the résumés received have zero agency background; another 9% might have worked at an ad agency back in the early 1990’s.  Our listings always post the salary, yet when the résumés we receive have some  relevancy, most will be too senior or too junior.

I have written before about people who are too senior stepping back to take a more junior job.  Generally, these people are desperately out of work.  Stepping back rarely happens because most of the time the person applying for the job is more senior than the person they will be reporting to.
A few weeks ago, someone came to see me who had a great advertising background. In the course of her conversation with me, she complained that she applied for several jobs listed on the job boards and received absolutely no responses.  She was very angry about the rudeness of companies.  I went back and looked in my files.  She had actually applied for one of my few listings about five months prior, but there was nothing in her background that had anything to do with what I was looking for at the time, so I had not responded.

And why should anyone respond to an irrelevant submission?  We all know that the candidate simply presses "submit" on their computer and hopes for the best.  When a company gets hundreds of responses, a polite auto-response, "we have received your submission and if your background is appropriate, we will get back to you" might be in order, but failing that, responding individually takes valuable time.  In addition, it is disruptive to work flow and takes time to answer each person who sends a resume; especially if the resume is irrelevant.  

Unfortunately, screening résumés is a job given to the most junior person in the human resources department.  It is difficult for them to make connections to determine the relevancy of the responses, so they are only able to put exact square pegs into exact square holes.  If someone is looking for a summer intern and the job listing asks for specific experience, it is difficult for the résumé-screener to determine the relevancy of experience at companies they may not know.  (I always advise people I meet who are working at a company that may not be familiar to put a descriptor after the company name on their résumé.)

Now, in fairness, some companies do job board listings that are so generic that they invite a huge response.  I can only assume that in those cases the screener knows what he or she is looking for. On the other hand, job descriptions on the job boards are perfunctory at best;  and just because the listing asks for specific background doesn't mean the candidate actually has what the company is looking for.  I remember once looking for someone who worked in advertising who had soft drink experience.  I received a response from a sales person who had worked for one of the major beverage companies, but had no ad agency experience.  He must have sent me three or four follow-ups and was very angry at my lack of response.

However, when applying on line, I understand that the people who submit resumes are playing the odds and hoping that there is always a chance that it might result in an interview. It is easy to press “send” whether one’s background is appropriate or not.  But when one does that, they have to know that the chances are slim that there will be a response. 

That said, there is absolutely no reason to be angry at the lack of response.


  1. Thanks for the honesty in your confession. Despite the drivel I hear from so many recruiters who liken their craft to spearfishing, it's refreshing to hear that even a well-respected professional such as yourself must occasionally resort to trolling the waters.

    1. @Anon: Thanks. That is nice of you. One of the great obstacles faced by recruiters is that we lose contact with people we like. Very often, by posting on line, I hear from candidates I already know, who over the course of time have picked up experience which qualifies them for jobs I didn't know to call them on. I appreciate your nice words.

  2. Whether it's the best-of-class like Spencer Stuart, Heidrick & Struggles, Boyden, Russell Reynolds, or independent recruiting contractors, it's still the same old and now iconic Saturday Night Live (SNL) Dan Aykroyd/John Belishi diner scene ... "Cheeseburger, cheeseburger, cheeseburger. No Coke; Pepsi". Round pegs in round holes rule the day. Bill Crandall

  3. I appreciate your candor, but disagree with your conclusion that there is 'no reason to be angry at lack of response.' First, applying usually requires completing a customized cover letter and often lengthy and tedious application. Second, often companies that have invited you for an interview--showing obvious interest--don't close the loop. Third, people who apply are potential customers and influencers. Would you just ignore customer inquiries?

    1. @Anon: There is some justification for your response. If you have completed an application, at the very least, as I pointed out, there should be an auto-response acknowledging your application. I have posted several times that lack of feedback after an interview is callous and uncaring. As to your third point, I cannot disagree; companies need to be customer-centric.

      However, I stand behind my conclusion. Every HR professional I speak to tells me that 95% of the responses they get to job listings are completely errant. I do believe an auto-response should be developed. Buy I have had one person tell me that they can literally get hundreds of responses to a listing and cannot respond individually to all the inappropriate people.

  4. Hi Sir, I would like to ask , what if the candidate had met the minimum requirements for the position you are hiring?Would that be given a consideration? Aside from the skills you are looking for , are you also checking his/her passion from his/her interest and hobbies that would tell a story that you think has relevant or has the potential for the person you are looking for? I would appreciate your response. Thank you.

  5. @Anon: While you may think you meet minimum requirements, whatever they are, it is difficult to know what a company is looking for. Certainly on a resume it is difficult to convey passion. Many large companies use scanners to select key words and your CV just may not have then. I do not forgive those companies and, as I said, you should at least receive an auto-response acknowledgement.


I would welcome your comments, suggestions or anything you would like to share with me or my readers.

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