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Q. Over a long career, I have worked in 26 different enterprises (I have been laid off four times), and I have always wondered about how employers respond to prospective candidates. I feel that if there is an ongoing communication, candidates have a right to expect a call or e-mail back about their candidacy. What is the generally accepted protocol?

A. The reality is, the volume of candidate inquiry for jobs has become overwhelming to recruiters and human resources staff. Technology has given applicants the ability to apply for many more jobs than they might otherwise, and that same technology can be used to acknowledge applications, discourage them, and screen people in or out.


If you want the job, dispense with protocol and don’t wait for potential employers to contact you . People expect job search communication to include taking turns. But most job search activity is not conducted like a tennis match where the applicant lobs a great resume over the net, and the recruiter makes the return shot by calling back to schedule an interview.

The most effective applicants realize they are playing both sides of the net. At the risk of being “pesky,” candidates send resumes, call and confirm receipt, e-mail to affirm their interest, and get a network contact to help them arrange a meeting.

If candidates have phone interviews, protocol says they should get a call to let them know their status, but a stronger candidate will close the call by arranging a time to follow up.

After an in-person meeting, candidates send a thank-you and expect to hear what the next steps will be, so they wait for the company to take its turn.

Stronger candidates show their eagerness to help move hiring forward. When there they don’t get a response, they send another note or message.


Smart candidates recognize that hiring managers face are other demands. Make it easy to get the invite back in. Don’t stand on protocol; play both sides of the net.

Elaine Varelas is managing partner at Keystone Partners, a career management firm in Boston, and serves on the board of Career Partners International.