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Is it common that when sending an application through the company's website, they simply don't respond? Should I consider this a sign of rejection, or that something went wrong and my application got lost? The application was through their website and there was an automated confirmation email that contained no contact details where I could inquire.

Consider a case when there was an ad for the position, and I believe I'm clearly qualified for it, so I don't see any obvious reasons for rejection, and I'd expect to at least be notified if I'm rejected.

I haven't worked in industry before and I'm not very familiar with the North American workplace culture.

  • 1
    I can't really add anything that hasn't already been said, but I will say that I've noticed the trend when I do online applications that I tend to get responses now notifying me that I didn't get the job. I attribute this to some sort of automated system that sends these out, but nevertheless it's a nice gesture. – pi31415 Nov 27 '14 at 10:18
  • None of the answers mentioned it, so I wonder: Is it so totally uncommon in the U.S. to simply give the company a call to ask whether the application has arrived (and thereby, of course, implicitly, ask for a sign in what state of consideration your application is), when you haven't heard back from the company for a week or so? – O. R. Mapper Nov 27 '14 at 13:20
  • @O.R.Mapper Contacting them again was of course one of the first thing I wanted to try, but what do you do when no contact details came with the job ad (no phone number or email, only the online form) and it's a large company (so it's unclear what's the best contact point)? – johnsmith Nov 29 '14 at 0:46
  • @johnsmith: If it's a large company, there should at least be some contact info for a central HR department that can forward you to however knows something about the job in question. If they do not provide any information on that, I'd consider the company shady enough that I wouldn't want to be associated with them, but the degree of contact info that can be expected of companies may be different in your place. – O. R. Mapper Nov 29 '14 at 13:38
37

Yes it is quite common. the company may not be immediately interested in you but after a search may decide they want to speak with you. If they send you a rejection letter outright then they are in a worse position. Also rejections seem personal to the applicant when often they really just mean you didnt make the cut this time.

The easiest way to handle an application is to consider it rejected until you get a call back asking for an interview. Always remember that the rejection is only until they decide they are interested. So treat the companies respectfully and don't let it get you down.

  • @JoeStrazzere Thanks for the answer and comment, very useful. I was applying mostly for academic positions but also to a research company. Other than the company, most applications could be sent to people directly (and yielded quick feedback) instead of applying through a faceless website, so this was a different experience. – johnsmith Nov 26 '14 at 20:33
  • Assume if you haven't heard back in a week, you've been unsuccessful. Assume that up until the moment you've got a job offer in your hand - you've been unsuccessful. Few companies will be upset that you're 'in demand' provided once you say 'yes' that's the end of it. – Sobrique Nov 27 '14 at 9:47
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Yes, it is extremely common. HR departments see zero benefit in sending you a rejection letter, particularly when there has been no human interaction, therefore the majority of them will not do it. It is rare for an online system to even auto-notify you that your submission was successfully received. You will also notice there is almost never any contact info, if you wished to follow up. This is by design.

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    Understood and noted, but why is there zero benefit? Wouldn't at least sending a notice positively impact their reputation? As I mentioned in another comment, most of the applications were not in a business setting, but the type of responses I received did have an influence on my opinion of the people I wrote to ... I'm less likely to want to work with someone who proves difficult to communicate with already at the first step. Of course there's a difference between "communicating with an organization" or an actual person ... Once again, all useful responses, thanks! :-) – johnsmith Nov 26 '14 at 21:53
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    You are using logic, reasoning, and basic human decency. HR depts (at large American companies) are generally devoid of any of this. Applicants are viewed as annoyances, not potential future colleagues. You might receive a rejection letter if you've met someone in person and been invited to the company for interviews. But just to your online application? It was most likely robo-rejected by an algorithm. – ExactaBox Nov 26 '14 at 22:00
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    It's been my experience that any company large enough to have an HR department uses an applicant tracking system that will send automated emails. Smaller companies without a formal HR department may track candidates manually and can't always keep up with the inflow of candidates even if they wanted to send an email. – Johnny Nov 26 '14 at 22:58
  • Thanks to the internet, certain jobs get a truly absurd number of applicants. When you've got 10,000 applicants for 10 jobs, you may well decide it's not worth the overhead of replying. And then maybe institute a policy because then it excuses you personally being rude. – Sobrique Nov 27 '14 at 9:45
7

Is silence normal or a sign of rejection?

It can be either... Some companies never send rejections ever. Others send rejections only to those they've decided they never plan to hire. Some will send rejections to everyone who they don't hire "right now" and might even call you back on a later date to "see if you're still looking"

So what do I do?

Opinions may vary here, but generally speaking you shouldn't just wait for a response before you continue your search. When I'm pursuing work I don't stop looking until I have an offer in writing. Simply put until you have it in writing there is no guarantee you'll get the job, waiting to find out you didn't get a job is time wasted.

6

The few companies which do send an explicit letter declining your services (I hate the word "rejection") run a significant risk in doing so. Not just because they may want to call you back in, but because the office which sends the "no thanks" letter may not communicate well with the office which sends the "yes, we want you!" letter.

I received my "sorry" letter from IBM two days after I received my offer letter. It could just as easily have been the other way around. I did have the verbal offer, but I'd have had to call them back to make sure... and if I didn't realize that, I might have wound up accepting someone else's offer instead.

The hiring process is just plain messy. Always.

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    ouch... I will say the one or two times I did get a rejection it was very pleasant. Simply put they said "We were really happy with your interview, credentials, etc, but we've decided to go with someone else. We hope you'll apply again for a future offering" (no guarantees they meant it, but I did feel I nailed the interview and it was nice to know where things stood rather than silence.) – RualStorge Nov 26 '14 at 21:33
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    it's common to get a letter after an interview. The question is about after just applying. – Kate Gregory Nov 26 '14 at 22:11
  • How very nice of a company offering stuff from smart cities to smart planets to send you both answers just to please you! – Pavel Nov 27 '14 at 16:55
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    @PavelPetrman: This was <mumble> decades ago. I presume the process has been improved since then! – keshlam Nov 28 '14 at 4:19

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