I remember back in the day (and my days don’t even go that far back) in the world of job hunting, one would scour the want-ads, agencies, and weekly publications for potential jobs. Then after spending due time updating, revising, and reordering the resumé, construct the best sales pitch of themselves, and print the final products on quality-grade resumé paper before snail-mailing off the documents in letter-sized envelopes. Within a week to two weeks one could expect a response from prospective HR departments, confirming receipt of the documents, and giving a general picture of the hiring process. After, say, another month, one might then receive an invitation to interview, or receive a discouraging letter containing some sort of “thanks for applying, but we’ve selected another candidate”. Although those letters were never fun to receive, something unexpected was also contained within the paper walls of the envelope — closure. The knowledge that either a door had been opened along with an invitation to step inside, or the confirmation that the door had been closed, and the push to continue searching. Nowadays, with the presence of technology (among other factors), the job-hunting process has changed.
One can still scour for job openings, but instead of having to “pound the pavement” and make the rounds to prospective companies, or travel from one free employment circular dispenser to another, one can now surf the employment opportunities worldwide with a computer, Internet connection, the right sites, and dedication of time. The process still requires a resumé that captures attention and properly sells the candidate; cover letters still need to be constructed just so, however, in addition to printing them out on textured papers and mailing them off, job hunters now also have the option of sending their documents almost-instantaneously to HR representatives by email. In addition, many organizations also have online applications which require the near-recreation of one’s resumé, however, with more detail. Now it’s in the steps after applications have been submitted where I have experienced the most changes in the process.
For the most part, after I have thrown my hat in the ring, whether electronically or by post, I will receive some sort of “we have received your application” email from HR departments. I appreciate this message at least to know that my documents have not gotten lost in some sort of unemployment black hole. The content of the message might vary to include a general idea of the process, or even to provide a timeline for the particular position in question, but for the most part it will at least thank me for applying, and let me know that I will be contacted if I am being considered, but to otherwise refrain from following up with the HR department. In rare cases, I will later receive a follow-up communication thanking me for applying and letting me know that the position has been filled. Sometimes I get these within a couple months of applying, but I have had cases where I receive this closure as late as six to eight months after submitting my documents.
I have to say, I really miss the concrete fork in the process of “sorry, but the position has been filled” or “we’d like to schedule an interview with you”. With the many advances we have in technology, it seems like one could create an email list and send off a mass communiqué updating applicants on the successful filling of a position. For those HR offices that find themselves swamped with applicants, and consider the idea of sending out mass emails to bring closure to applicants as an undue burden, they could also try another approach. I have come across some institutions which regularly (on a weekly or semi-monthly basis) update and publish their list of open positions with job search notations — open until filled, reviewing applications, interviewing, closed, etc. This puts the responsibility back on interested job searchers to go back and visit the organization’s site if they want to know how the search is going, but also provides the most-powerful gift of closure. Ironically, for me, this closure not only closes the door, but also helps provide the fuel for me to continue. Without the communication, one way or another, it can often feel discouraging to go through the process yet again with no apparent results. Now, logically, in my head, and also in my heart of hearts I open up the files, and go through the process one step at a time — over and over again, because I am filled with the hope and belief that it will eventually pay off.
So, to those who have impact and influence in your organizations, check in with your HR folks — let them know how valuable those few keystrokes can be to bring hope or closure to applicants. And to my fellow unemployed, I hope that you, too, can sustain a sense of hope, and if you don’t hear it from potential employers, hear it from me — Thank You for applying. Keep it up. I believe it will pay off.