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Job Seekers Ask: Where Has All the Courtesy Gone?

Wednesday, 20 Feb 2013 | 11:31 AM ET
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Maybe you weren't expecting to land the job. But if you've been applying for jobs recently, chances are you hoped to hear something back.

And chances are, you've been disappointed at least once.

A new survey finds that 75 percent of employed people who applied for a job in the past year never heard from at least one potential employer.

The results were part of a broad survey of more than 3,900 workers conducted last November by Harris Interactive for jobs website CareerBuilder. Of the 1,083 workers who said they had applied for a job in the past year, more than 800 reported never hearing a peep at least once.

Miss Manners might not approve, but experts say it's not unusual these days for jobseekers to find their job applications ignored. Blame a combination of the still-tough job market, which can mean that hundreds or thousands of people are applying for the same positions, and technology that makes it all too easy for people to apply for dozens if not hundreds of jobs.

"It is pretty common, unfortunately," said Lynn Taylor, a workplace expert and author of "Tame Your Terrible Office Tyrant," who was not involved in the CareerBuilder survey.

The CareerBuilder survey found that overall, about one fourth of the full pool of 3,900 workers had had a bad experience as a job applicant. Those experiences included never hearing the decision after a job interview, finding out the actual job didn't match the original description and having a job application ignored, according to CareerBuilder.

Not surprisingly, more than 4 in 10 workers said that if they were treated badly they wouldn't seek employment with that company again.

Taylor, the workplace expert, said ignoring resumes or not following up after an interview could harm a company's reputation. But in the current job market, with unemployment still hovering around 8 percent, she said most employers probably figure they can get away with it because so many people are desperate for work.

With hiring so tight, she noted, companies also may not have the manpower to follow up with each applicant.

"Yes, it's the right thing to, but .. the reality is that it's not going to happen as much as it used to," she said. "That's the harsh reality of today."

Instead of sulking about not hearing back, Taylor said that jobseekers who really want the job need to be proactive about following up with the hiring manager themselves.

That can be true later in the hiring process as well, she said.

If you make it to the interview stage, Taylor recommends asking during the interview what the time frame is for filling the position and what the next steps are. You could even consider asking how you stack up against other applicants, she said.

After sending your thank-you note, she said it's also appropriate to follow-up again in a week or so, to check on where things stand and perhaps to offer another tidbit of information about yourself.

Still, she noted that it's a fine line between following up and harassing. If you check in three times and never hear back, it's probably best to stop pestering them – and wonder if you really want to work for a company like that in the first place.

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