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Persistence Can Help Rescue a Résumé That's Lost in the Ether

By Amy Joyce
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, January 7, 2007

If a résumé is sent to a company with no one to check it out, does anyone hear the job seeker scream?

Apparently not, according to many who want to know why they never receive any sort of acknowledgment when they apply for a job. And what's the deal with never hearing back from potential employers after an interview? I mean, would it kill the human resources department to just call back to say thanks but no thanks?

When Colette Fozard was looking for work in the fall, things started off great. A partner at her law firm handed her résumé to a friend who was hiring. She was quickly called. Fozard, a legal secretary, took the requisite tests and had an hour-long interview with the human resources director. "It was very positive," Fozard said. "I told my husband I got a very good vibe."

Fozard was told she would hear the next day or early the next week. Fozard put her thank-you note into the mail and then . . . nothing. She called a week later. No call back. She e-mailed. The firm never resurfaced.

Thankfully, she soon got a job at another firm.

But really.

Sure, companies receive a boatload of résumé spam, but many have figured out a way to at least acknowledge receiving the applications. Others, however, have forgotten what their moms taught them when they were 6 years old: RSVP.

For eight years, Kris Hannah helped cull through résumés and respond to people who applied to the popular District-based nonprofit where she worked. She sometimes received as many as 130 résumés for one slot. "I made sure everyone had an answer within two to three weeks," she said.

Unfortunately, when she was looking for a new job in graphic design, many times she was not extended the same courtesy. "In my job hunting, my résumé went out in the atmosphere often to never be heard from again," she said. "It was disrespectful and reflected poorly on those companies. If someone takes the time to send you something, you can at least send them a rejection."

In fact, Hannah was not-rejected by four companies. "Okay, did the people die? Was I that awful? I can take it; just tell me no," she opined.

Sometimes there's a little crack in the system. For some, it has to do with sheer volume. Consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton of McLean receives 15,000 applications in a typical month, said Elizabeth Miller, recruiting director. Applicants receive an automated response when they apply, and when they interview (and there are 1,000 of those each month), a recruiter follows up by phone.

But with about 50 recruiters to handle all of that, "it probably doesn't happen 100 percent of the time," she said.

Her advice to job seekers? Don't worry about being too persistent. Ask everyone during the interview process for a business card. Follow up by e-mail, sending a copy to the recruiter, thanking them and making yourself stand out. Remind them who you are and tell them about anything new that you have accomplished, while reiterating exactly why you're interested in the job.

And then? "Be patient. I know that it is really frustrating to be in that job search mode, but be persistent, considerate and cognizant that as many jobs as you are applying for, recruiters are probably interfacing with four to five times as many applicants," Miller said.

Don't hear back from the recruiter? Track down your hiring manager or another recruiter. Sometimes these recruiters do disappear. Don't let yourself do the same if this is a job you want.

With an "active database" of 5,000 to 7,000 résumés and 15 to 75 résumés received per job opening, Michael Beckmann, director of talent acquisition at McLean-based Freddie Mac, also has a system in place to keep job candidates informed.

His team of recruiters mine the database about every four to six hours. Job seekers receive an electronic acknowledgments when their résumés are received.

Recruiters have the requirements for a specific job in front of them while they look through résumés. If enough of the requirements are matched, that résumé is forwarded to a hiring manager. Usually about 50 percent of those who apply make it that far.

Then they are prescreened by phone and six to 10 are brought in for interviews. They come in for an initial meeting with three to five leaders in the group where they applied. Then if they pass that round, they come in for a final interview.

And do candidates really hear back? "Recruiters are trained to keep candidates live," Beckmann said. "They will be e-mailed through each round of interviews about what's happening. You can always gauge the level of competency of a company by how engaged recruiters are."

It also behooves companies like Freddie to be nice: If someone isn't hired for the first job for which he applied, he might be brought in for a second or third job. And with a low unemployment rate of about 3 percent in the Washington area, it is important to keep candidates happy. "We call them our external cheering section," Beckmann said. He knows that one bad experience by a job candidate at Freddie can reverberate.

Kristina Baumler, employee communications manager at Freddie since June, went through the hiring process during the spring. She started looking for work in February and, not including her experience at Freddie, found it frustrating.

"With Freddie, it was a very smooth process. There was always contact with a recruiter. She was touching base with me, as well as making herself available by cell and e-mail if I needed," Baumler said. "Other places, I would run in to black holes or would not hear back at all. Nothing is more frustrating than applying for a job and not getting any response. Even if it's an automated response, it makes a world of difference."

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