Thursday, August 29, 2013

Are You Responding To People? And Additionally, WHY NOT?!

Seriously guys.

I feel like this should go without saying, because it really should be obvious, but if a recruiter, networker, eager college student, former co-worker, or whatever contact you with an opportunity, or to ask a favor, you should respond to them.

I'm not saying you have to do whatever they ask. I'm just saying you should shoot something back.

If a recruiter contacts you wanting you to apply for a job, you certainly don't have to apply. But unless you're getting dozens of contacts a day (and perhaps even if you are), you should write them back anyway, thanking them for the offer, and telling them what you do want (whether that's other kinds of job opportunities, or just to be left alone for now, or to be left alone forever).

If a networker wants a favor, again, you totally don't have to do it. But you should write them to let them know (and if you have the time or inclination, let them know why).

Like I said before, this is something that I think should go without saying: sticking with a basic level of business etiquette not only preserves your reputation, but keeps doors open for peeking your head through  in the future. You don't know what 'future you' will want. And that eager but annoying college student could be the next

Or they could just not realize that they're being annoying, and you've lost a great opportunity for a one-email mentorship: showing them that professionals respond to people, and maybe telling them what they're doing wrong.

But I'm writing this because this is not happening now, at least as far as I can tell.

I coordinate hiring for my workplace, and I've reached out to a decent number of people about available positions and internships. This includes people I know, and people I don't know. The vast majority are more or less entry-level; either current college students, recent grads, or people with just a few years experience.

And most of them (yes, most of them) never respond. Not even a "Thanks for thinking of me!" Not even people I know personally, not even on messages sent via Facebook where it tells you that the other person saw the message. 

This boggles my mind. Is this normal? Am I the weird one? Is it just that we young people consider it OK to ignore any type of communication, since we can freely screen calls and ignore IM's in ways our parents never could?

It can't be. Because that would be silly.

If it's a sales pitch, sure, it's standard to dump those (especially ones that can reasonably be considered spam). Or if it's a recruiter that you've interacted with before to negative effect (though I'd still argue it's better to send them a "I'm not interested, please don't contact me again" at that point), fine. But a real message from a real person?

What do you think? Am I a total nutter to want a "Thanks, but I'm set!" instead of radio silence?


  1. I believe the general rule is to respond within one business day, out of politeness and all. At least, that is what I was taught. I'll be the first to admit that I don't always do this, especially when I am feeling overwhelmed or otherwise down. It takes guts (and I mean that in a bad way) for a person to read that message you send on Facebook, which is now marked as "seen" to you, and then never respond.

    That said, I am considering job-related correspondence I have ignored in the past. To my knowledge, everything I have ignored has been impersonal, sent to a mailing list of people who once expressed minute interest. But in light of your post, I wonder if I have ever inadvertently ignored an actual person who was singling me out. I sincerely hope not. In any case, I appreciate your advice about how to respond! It looks like you have some really helpful resources here.

    1. Linda, I'm so glad that I appear to not be crazy, and that other people think responding is important. I totally agree about the mailing list thing; while sometimes it can be hard to tell, it is to some degree the job of the writer to make sure you know whether or not they want to talk to you, or if you're just being broadcast at.

  2. I think a lot of people (of all ages) feel overwhelmed by the amount of communications they receive and perhaps feel like there is only time for them to address the most urgent of the messages they receive.
    This should not be construed as me condoning rudeness. I've just noticed that when contacting donors to get necessary information for me to send them a gift, response rates are pretty darn bad. Even with a tangible, nearly-immediate reward involved.

  3. I am frustrated by this too! I think it's basic courtesy and it's an issue across the age spectrum.