Why You’re Not Hearing Back from Employers (and What You Can Do About It), with Brenda Abdilla

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Find Your Dream Job, Episode 348:

Why You’re Not Hearing Back from Employers (and What You Can Do About It), with Brenda Abdilla

Airdate: May 18, 2022

Mac Prichard:

This is Find Your Dream Job, the podcast that helps you get hired, have the career you want, and make a difference in life. 

I’m your host, Mac Prichard. I’m also the founder of Mac’s List. It’s a job board in the Pacific Northwest that helps you find a fulfilling career.

Every Wednesday, I talk to a different expert about the tools you need to get the work you want.

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You’ve sent in a job application. 

Or even had an interview. 

And there’s no response at all. 

Brenda Abdilla is here to talk about why you’re not hearing back from employers and what you can do about it. 

She’s an executive and career coach. Brenda is also the author of Outsmarting Crazytown: A Business Novel About How Derailed Professionals Can Get Back on Track. 

She joins us from Lakewood, Colorado.  

Well, let’s jump right into it, Brenda. Why do so many employers not get back to job applicants? 

Brenda Abdilla:

Well, this is the primary concern. It’s the number one complaint that my clients who are searching in the market come back with. Why am I not hearing back? Well, you know, I thought I was qualified.

And so, I give them three reasons that I think it’s happening, and then three strategies that we can talk through. But the first and most important is that it’s not about you. It feels so personal. Right? 

Maybe you’ve been sending out your resume, or you’ve had a couple of interviews with a particular company, and you thought it went well. I can always tell my clients are kind of personalizing it and taking it very personally if they say I’m being ghosted. Right? Because that’s a reference to personal love relationships. Right? And this is about business.  

And so, I like to give my clients kind of a perspective of what’s going on the other side of that wall that you are so desperately trying to get through. 

Mac Prichard:

Well, let’s talk about that. 

Brenda Abdilla:

Yeah, so imagine if, like, the head of HR at a company or payroll processor comes and says, I’m giving notice I’m leaving, but I also have a bunch of vacation coming up, so really Monday’s my last day. Right? So now, the HR person is faced with having to find a payroll processor, and you would think that that would be her number one priority, but she still has to do her entire job. Plus, she has to do payroll processing now, which maybe she hasn’t done in a few years. Maybe she hasn’t listed for that position, so she needs to update the job description. Maybe she’s even, you know, it’s a month or two down the road, she’s had a few interviews, but then weird things can happen in companies, like maybe the legal department suddenly wants to review all of the offers, and so they’ve put a freeze on hiring because they want to make sure that it’s clean for diversity, equity, and inclusion. 

So, my point is that there’s a lot going on on the other side that really is not there to give you feedback about what a good candidate you are. It’s just that it’s kind of crazy town in the company. So, it is not about you. 

Mac Prichard:

But I hear that Brenda, but so many job seekers tell me they just want to get two communications: one, when they send in an application, they want to get an email back acknowledging that it’s been received, and second, they want to hear back when the position is filled, and so many employers don’t do that. 

Brenda Abdilla:

I would say that the majority don’t. 

Mac Prichard:

Yeah, and so I hear you about staffing shortages and turnover inside organizations, but this is a persistent problem, and for someone who is on the outside who just wants to get a simple acknowledgment of their application and to know that the position is filled, it just doesn’t seem that hard. What would you say to a listener who’s thinking that? 

Brenda Abdilla:

Yeah, I would say, you know, for the HR people and the companies that are listening, because you have a very wide audience, maybe they will change their habits, but it’s kind of a hair-on-fire situation, and they don’t seem to get to it. So, I try to help my clients get rid of that expectation. 

A few years ago, my own husband, who is an executive, was searching for a new role, and I said to him, you know, you can’t hold it against the companies who don’t get back to you when they are not going to hire you, and he said, “Yes I can, and I will hold it against them,” but it’s just not. It’s unfortunate, and it’s not right, but I think that expecting to hear back and be acknowledged is just not the case. It’s a rare thing when it happens.  

Mac Prichard:

And I’m curious because so much of how a candidate is treated during an application process affects an organization’s brand, and as you shared, your husband is still thinking about those employers, perhaps, or did at the time. Why wouldn’t organizations see it as an investment in their brand to do this kind of simple communication? Not only with applicants, but it’s even more shocking to me when it happens with people who have actually been interviewed, and they’ve had a business meeting with the organization, and they don’t hear back. Why doesn’t HR change the way it does business if only to protect and enhance the brand of the organization?  

Brenda Abdilla:

I couldn’t agree more, and maybe marketing should get involved in the hiring process. But I think that companies do not feel they’re being judged until the day of hire, and so, I think there’s this false idea that nothing matters up until the point that they hire the person and that they have too much business at hand. They’ve got quarterly numbers to hit, and reports, and board meetings, and shortages, and COVID, and they have so much to deal with that it does not get the prioritized attention that it deserves. 

Mac Prichard:

Some companies do a good job of communicating with applicants. Why do you think their HR departments do business differently, Brenda? 

Brenda Abdilla:

Well, I think it comes from the top, and the companies that are very good obviously stand out and may even have an advantage over others. But I think it’s the very clear intention from the top that we will acknowledge everyone who applies to work here and that we will tell everyone that we’re declining, as soon as humanly possible, that they didn’t get the job. 

Mac Prichard:

And do you think this has gotten worse during the pandemic – the lack of communication on the part of some companies with candidates? 

Brenda Abdilla:

Yes, and, you know, I can tell you – because I do both kinds of coaching – I work with candidates who are out looking, and I work with leaders, and in all my years of coaching, leaders have never been more overwhelmed, and so, I have compassion kind of going in two directions. I have great compassion for the candidate who’s out there trying to navigate in this messy time, and I have great compassion for the leader who is overwhelmed, and it would be great if they could hire that person who could hit the ground running.

But that can be a whole complicated mess as well. So it’s just, nothing is easy right now. 

 Mac Prichard:

Well, I want to talk about what candidates can do about this, but one final question. We’re in the middle of a labor shortage, as we record this in the spring of 2022, and companies are having to compete for talent, and it’s a big change as you know; it’s been an employers market for so many years. Do you think this labor shortage will lead HR departments that haven’t done a good job with communicating with candidates and finalists to change the way they do business? 

Brenda Abdilla:

Well, I certainly hope so, and it, you know, like you and I are in the business, it confounds us that companies are not doing a better job, or, you know, are trying to kind of solve the problem, the retention issue kind of in the wrong ways. But it kind of leads to my number two. 

So, my number one reason is that it’s not about you, that it’s a mess out there. But the number two thing that’s going on is that hiring is still a very risky proposition for a leader. I wrote down a few stories that I’ve heard just in the last couple of weeks. 

One is that a new hire came to their Zoom onboarding totally high, visibly, obviously, inebriated or stoned in some way. So, that didn’t work out. Another that finished their onboarding, so this is a two-week onboarding, and then found out that the company does time tracking because they’re remote and refused to time track, didn’t want to be time tracked. Another one that worked two weeks and then disappeared, like they were concerned about her well-being, but she was still active on social media. But she kind of, you know, ghosted them after working for two weeks and seemingly getting along fine. 

So, it’s a weird, risky thing to be the hiring manager, as well, and so, I think that even though companies are desperate to hire, it’s still a complicated task. 

 Mac Prichard:

Okay, well, let’s pause there. I want to take a break, and when we come back, let’s talk more about what candidates can do to communicate with employers when they’re not hearing back. 

So stay with us. When we return, Brenda Abdilla will continue to share her advice on why you’re not hearing back from employers and what you can do about it. 

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Now, let’s get back to the show.

We’re back in the Mac’s List studio. I’m talking with Brenda Abdilla.

She’s an executive and career coach. Brenda is also the author of Outsmarting Crazytown: A Business Novel About How Derailed Professionals Can Get Back on Track. 

She joins us from Lakewood, Colorado.  

Now, Brenda, before the break, we were talking about why you’re not hearing back from employers and what you can do about it, and you shared some stories about the risk involved from a hiring manager’s point of view in hiring and bringing on new people, and hiring is always a risky business, and for the candidate as well. 

Let’s talk more about the candidate and your ideas about how best to communicate with the employers when they’re not hearing back. I know one of your ideas is to pay attention to your message when you follow up with employers. Why is that important?

Brenda Abdilla:

Yeah, if you did get an interview or two, or sometimes it’s four or five, and then you don’t hear back, and it’s time to follow up, do not guilt the hiring manager or the HR manager or try to hold them accountable. This is not the way to get what you want, which is the job. Right? 

And so instead, be exceptional, and try to be compassionate and understanding, and maybe not mention the fact that you haven’t heard back in six weeks or that you’re confused about their process. You know, obviously, if you have some significant issues with the company, you should not, you know, continue to follow up. 

But following up in a way that holds them accountable is not really helpful, and, as a matter of fact, you can, now that, you know, you’ve heard this session, maybe if you can kind of predict the chaos that’s going on behind the scenes, then you can insert that into your interview process to say, is there anything I can do to expedite the process? Or how did I do today? Right? Try to get some immediate feedback so that you’re not looking for it afterward when you might not get it. 

 Mac Prichard:

How often do you recommend following up, Brenda, before how many attempts, and when should, in the end, you finally give up? 

Brenda Abdilla:

Yeah, well, it’s better to err on the side of not enough than too much. Right? Because you don’t want to push past that point of seeming desperate. Right? You don’t want to trigger the brain of the hiring manager or the HR person, or the recruiter. And so, you know, a decent amount of follow up, it could be, depending upon, you know, what dates were floated, it could be weekly. 

But even companies like we have some arrow space companies here in Colorado who are desperate to hire engineers, and I talk to engineers who are four or five months in the process. It just doesn’t make sense, but that is the reality. And so, one of my strategies for my clients is to try to think of the long game. Right? This could really take some time, and, you know, make sure you have enough money so that because it’s a weird market. It’s not an instant thing. Just because there is so much need, it does not necessarily translate to hiring fast. 

 Mac Prichard:

When you are in conversation as a finalist for a job, what tips do you have for getting information, both during and perhaps right after the interview ends, to help set expectations for timetables and communication? 

Brenda Abdilla:

Yeah, I think, you know, having the confidence to, before you leave, to ask some questions. You know, that’s a very standard, do you have any questions for me? You should definitely have questions for them prepared. What’s your timeline? How can I expedite it? How did I do today? Who are the people, you know, what kind of person excels? What were you looking for when you started this search? 

So, really try to glean as much information, and then while you’re in the interview process, assuming you are getting interviews, (I have some ideas if you’re not getting interviews too) while you’re in that process, you can kind of try to suss out the culture a little bit. Right? From somewhat from the response time, but also from the other clues that you’re picking up. 

 Mac Prichard:

You mentioned in the first segment that so many companies their HR departments are short-staffed now, and people are having to do multiple jobs, and that’s slowing down hiring. Some HR departments might not communicate that to candidates. How can candidates get an insight into how that’s happening and temper expectations accordingly?  

Brenda Abdilla:

Yeah, I think you can ask about, you know, hey, I know you guys are busy. I’m really excited about this role. What’s the time frame looking like these days? Right? And then the HR person can say, you know, it could be four weeks before I get this approved from legal, or we have eighteen people that we’re ready to hire, and we have a bottleneck with such and such department.

But no, otherwise, unless you are kind, and elicit, and curious, and elicit information, they’re not going to share with you their chaos. Right? Because they want to look good. 

 Mac Prichard:

Another step that I know you recommend in reaching out to employers is to go directly to the hiring manager. Particularly with large organizations, sometimes the communication comes just from HR, and you don’t have direct contact with the people you might interview with and eventually work with. Why do you recommend taking that step? And what’s the best way to do it, Brenda? 

Brenda Abdilla:

Yes, and I am not a big fan of playing a lot of games during the negotiation process, and the HR person or the recruiter is the go-between. You are going to be working for that hiring manager, and so, if you’re good and you can collect an email address, or ideally a phone number during the interview process for follow up or whatnot, then if you’re negotiating and let’s say you want twenty thousand dollars more salary, or two weeks more vacation, pick up the phone and call that hiring manager. That is who you’re going to have a relationship with, and that is the person who’s going to advocate for you in the future. So why not go right to the source instead of trying to play this back and forth game? If you can. 

 Mac Prichard:

Are there risks involved in doing that, whether you’re asking for something in addition in the negotiation or simply trying to get a callback and trying to understand what the timetable is and where you are in that process? 

Brenda Abdilla:

Yeah, I, you know, I think I’m always a big fan of negotiating unless the employer says, this is the best I could get you. Don’t even try for more. Then I think it’s expected that you negotiate for a professional role. 

I forgot part two of your question. 

 Mac Prichard:

For some candidates, they may simply be wanting to know where their application is, they’ve had an interview, for example, they haven’t heard back from the recruiter or the HR department, and they remember the supervisor they might be working for or they connected with them on LinkedIn. They have an opportunity to reach out. Do they risk upsetting the recruiter or getting in the bad side of HR when they reach out like that? 

Brenda Abdilla:

Yeah, well, if it’s in an entitled state or an, you know, an arrogant way, I think, yes. You put absolutely everything at risk. But to inquire eagerly, and you have to kind of be in the right headspace when you’re following up. Right? Because it does feel desperate, and you are tired of not hearing back. Right? But you have to do it when you’re in a good headspace when you’re feeling kind of light and airy about it, and then do your follow-ups on LinkedIn, or if you have a phone number or email, to just lightly inquire, and then remind them of your value. You should have some statement or something that you’re attaching to remind them of who you are. 

Mac Prichard:

Other suggestions or tips for following up with employers when you’re not hearing back or communication seems to have stalled? 

Brenda Abdilla:

Yeah, I would add that if you’re not hearing back at all, like you are not getting a response to your resume, I would say, get your resume redone. I know you’re a big advocate of that. That’s also what I tell my clients. I send them out to have their resumes done. I don’t do it. 

Also, make sure that you’re an experienced match. If you’re trying to change careers, or you’re trying to go from sales to operations, or you’re trying to do a little bit of a leap, then you’re going to need more of a network. But if you’re doing online strategy, Mac’s List, and whatnot, then your experience needs to match that job description, or you’re not going to get a lot of response. 

Mac Prichard:

Well, terrific. Well, it’s been a great conversation, Brenda. Now, tell us, what’s next for you? 

Brenda Abdilla:

Well, I am really focused this year on my book Outsmarting Crazytown; it is a business novel about a forty-one-year-old professional, a leader in tech, who’s having a bit of a career crisis, and it’s a quick read, and it’s ideal for people who are kind of in career question mode.  

Mac Prichard:

Terrific. Well, I know listeners can learn more about your book and your services by visiting your website outsmartingcrazytown.com. We’ll be sure to include that in the show notes. 

Now, Brenda, given all the great advice you’ve shared today, what’s the one thing you want a listener to remember about why you’re not hearing back from employers and what you can do about it? 

Brenda Abdilla:

Well, I like to think of a career as more of a puzzle than a path. I think we expect it to be a path- A to B, to C, to D, to E, and it’s really a puzzle, and part of that puzzle is figuring out what’s going on with employers and really trying to be patient and play the long game, and not take it so personally, even though it’s obviously a very personal thing. 

Mac Prichard:

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Next week, our guest will be Al Dea. 

He’s a talent development advisor, author, and speaker. Al also hosts The MBA Insider podcast. 

It’s Sunday night. And you’re dreading going to work. 

In fact, you’re not enjoying your career at all, and you’re not sure what you want to do instead.

Join us next Wednesday when Al Dea and I talk about how to get clarity about what career happiness means to you. 

Until next time, thanks for letting us help you find your dream job.

This show is produced by Mac’s List. 

Susan Thornton-Hough schedules our guests and writes our newsletter. Lisa Kislingbury Anderson manages our social media.

Our sound engineer is Matt Fiorillo.  Ryan Morrison at Podfly Productions edits the show. Dawn Mole creates our transcripts. And our music is by Freddy Trujillo.

This is Mac Prichard. See you next week. 

You need a job and you need it now. So it can be frustrating when you apply for positions, maybe even have interviews, and then don’t hear anything back. What do you do? Find Your Dream Job guest Brenda Abdilla is here to tell us how to reach out to hiring managers in a way that shows you’re on their team. Brenda shares the chaos that some companies are facing due to the labor shortage and why that delays hiring practices. She also gives specific questions to ask so that you know how long you can expect the hiring process to take. 

About Our Guest:

Brenda Abdilla is an executive and career coach. Brenda is also the author of Outsmarting Crazytown: A Business Novel About How Derailed Professionals Can Get Back on Track.

Resources in This Episode: