Job Seeker Desperately Seeks HR Feedback

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Job Seeker Desperately Seeks HR Feedback

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Sometimes writing this blog just hurts.  I see people in their weakest or must vulnerable moments who are compelled to share their inner most thoughts, fears, and situations because I have a blog.  I hate to see people struggle and living their lives from paycheck to paycheck or even worse with no paycheck at all.  This is one of those times.  Over the weekend, Samuel sent me an email.  He’s from Alaska and is desperate to find work.  He’s applied to over 200 positions and is frustrated because even for positions he is told from HR that he is “perfectly qualified” for, but he doesn’t receive a follow up all, email, or any communication back.

Lack of Candidate Experience or Human Compassion?

This is one of many emails I receive from job seekers every single week.  It breaks my heart.  Hurts me that recruiters, hiring managers, or HR can’t or won’t take the time or effort to engage Samuel through an automated email, phone call, or conversation like a decent human being.  Some call this the candidate experience. I call it human compassion.  This man is looking for answers that we, as professionals are not providing.

Samuel sent me a 700+ word email outlining his frustration, looking for help and asking for advice.  He wants to do better and understand what the hiring manager wants, but at the same time, he’s bitter and angry.  I know, because it shows.  And yet he reached out looking for some assistance into his job search and understanding the HR psyche.  Here’s my response to Samuel who’s “Desperately Seeking Feedback.”  What tips, tricks, or suggestions can you add to help the millions of Samuels unemployed or actively looking for work in the US?


Dear Samuel,

First off, I understand your frustration.  I’ve seen both sides as a job seeker and as an HR person.  If the HR person is not calling you back or returning your calls, it is likely one of three things:

  • You are not qualified for the job or selected to interview, and she/he is too chicken to tell you.
  • They are already interviewing for the position and you were not selected.  Most HR folks will not give an update until the position is filled.  This is just common practice.
  • They have filled the position and failed to send any type of communication.

My suggestion would be to work with a friend or someone you trust that can give you honest feedback on your resume, cover letter, and interview.  There is likely something that is keeping you from getting a job.  Sometimes HR folks are turned off by desperation similar to dating.  They are attracted to someone who is confident and sure of themselves.  I’m not saying that is how you are presenting yourself.  It’s a common hurdle that job seekers face.

Blindly applying for positions doesn’t always work and if you have applied for 200 positions with no results, it is time to try a new approach.  Might I suggest getting out there and networking and playing the game.  This means crafting a story or pitch that is planned and confident explaining exactly the type of work that you are looking for.  Attend networking in person events 2-3 times a week handing out professional business cards and try to make connections.  Job referrals and recommendations work better and are warm leads than blindly applying for positions.

I also have a job seeker community.  I recommend joining the site, (it’s free) and connecting and learning from others.  We are getting ready to relaunch some new features so this will be a perfect time to get established, connected with folks who are also looking for work and experts who are willing to help.

Weigh In: Job Interview Feedback

What other advice, insights, coaching and feedback can you provide Samuel and other job seekers like him?  Leave a comment below and give job seekers a fighting chance.

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  1. Back in my early, post-college job-seeking days I put together a one page bio and some calling cards with my name and contact info and called established business executives, business school professors, and sales managers and asked them if I could have fifteen minutes of their time to ask them for some personal advice.

    I told them up front that I wasn’t selling them anything or asking them for a job, but was just recently out of college and needing direction. It was rare when I wasn’t given an appointment. I would ask about their business and I would ask them about their personal story; how they got started, what they believed was key to moving forward in their career, and if they knew anyone they could recommend me to that would help me with the same type of direction. People love to talk about themselves and some people even like to tell stories about people who have helped them in the past. The college professors know successful students and network with local business leaders, so they were always a good source of contacts.

    Usually they would ask me if I had a resume and I would pull out my one sheet from a notebook I carried to take notes. I would hand them my card and tell them if there was anything I could ever do for them to please contact me. It was always a good experience, I learned a lot and even made a friend or two I continued to stay in touch with through the years.

    Doing something like this is a good networking exercise, it helps you practice interviewing, and the chances of landing a good job lead are greater than if you don’t do this sort of thing.

    1. Thanks Scott. This is key. It’s all about facilitating and fostering those real connections that will result in a job, feedback, or an interview. I think that sometimes job seekers focus too much on HR being the decision maker and forget that connecting with outside sources and other business professionals can lead to a job, a recommendation, or how the hiring process works.


  2. For most that are unemployed (and I was guilty of doing this as well when I was), they will apply to each and every position they see that they feel they are qualified for. The problem these days is that most employers have become particular with the “bullet points” on skills and qualifications they want so even if you are qualified, you may be over-qualified and that scares them too.

    To pull yourself out of frustration, first – take a breather. A job search is a full-time job and you need to take a break from it…even if only for a day. Then, re-strategize your search. Make a “wish list” of what you want your next job to be like, where you want it to be located, what benefits, pay, etc. and then only go after jobs that fit YOUR criteria. Craft cover letters and resumes specifically directed to those positions so you can really sell yourself…take the time to create the perfect pitch. Yes, this will mean less positions you are applying to – but more isn’t always better. Focus on what you really want so when you do land a position, it isn’t out of desperation and you aren’t miserable again…just this time with commitments and a paycheck.

  3. I just recently graduated from college (UVA 2011) so trust me I feel your pain Samuel! I also am in the process of applying to places as well.

    The main reasons HR people don’t respond is time. They barely have enough time to talk to the candidates that make it to the next round. They definitely don’t have time for people who don’t. One quick idea I would say, especially now that you have 200 applications out, is circle back. HR people are very “up and down” in terms of workflow. So if you don’t hear back from them, let it go. Then, after some time has passed, email them on an informational basis. Informationals are KEY to finding jobs. Once someone has no obligation to you, they are more comfortable being honest.

    So find an HR rep (hopefully one that you’ve talked to more than once) and just ask them if they would be willing to talk to you about the industry and ways to get in. HR people are just as frustrated with candidates as we are of them. Also remember, even HR people have to apply to jobs, and deal with other HR people. So they welcome the opportunity to talk to you when they can and help you build stronger resumes/cover letters/ etc. Think of it this way, the more qualified candidates they are, the easier their job is. But its so much easier to talk to you now, because you’re not a part of the process.

    Hope that helps!

    1. Sedale,

      You are correct that time is the big one here. We in HR and recruiting don’t always have enough of it. But how long does it take to send an automatic response to those candidates with an update of a position if you are already in the ATS? Under a minute and maybe less if you already have pre-developed email templates.

      Thank you for your insights here.


  4. I really like your advice and guidance. We all do better when we can put ourselves in the shoes of the hiring company, manager or HR exec. This from the standpoint of understanding what they want and packaging ourselves appropriately, but also understanding their role and set expectations accordingly.

    1. It is not the role of an HR manager to give me feeback on an application. they don’t have time, and the company is paying them to add value to their colleagues, not to add value to applicants.
    2. It IS the role of HR to winnow down the stack of applications to a manageable number for the hiring manager to consider. if good resumes go out the window – it doesn’t matter – as long as the short list includes enough good resumes.
    3. It is the role of trusted friends and advisors to give me honest feedback about my cover letter, resume et al – without risking their relationship with me. So I need to make it easy for them to be rigorously honest with me and not be defensive, fish for compliments, etc.

    I think networking is essential. I work “informational interviews” all the time. I get to know my network, because it could be even more useful AFTER I get the job. I’m a consultant now, but in my prior “salaryman” life 9 of 11 positions I held weren’t on the org chart before I created the roles. So informational interviews can be an opening to being entrepreneurial…

    Thanks for your post!

    1. Hi David,

      This is a good point. It’s not HR’s job necessarily to coach and give feedback to job seekers, but sometimes I wish that it was. These job seekers continue about their business feeling business and resentment because no one will give them any insights. Even just a I’m sorry we’ve filled the position would do for most.

      Thanks for your insights here.


      1. Hey Jessica,

        I agree that as a matter of professional courtesy HR managers should notify job seekers that were not selected. It would provide closure and resolution to the job seeker and would probably garner respect. I’ve followed up on job interviews that didn’t work out and was generally politely rebuffed. So I get insights about my competitiveness, appearance, etc. from trusted friends and allies instead. Not always easy to hear, but very valuable to know.

        Thanks for engaging in dialog.


  5. Jessica,
    Good advice to Samuel. I’d add job seekers who are in the “desperate mode”, harbor anger, or are depressed, may want to consider seeking talk therapy with a good counselor. I say this because (as a Job Search Coach, career blogger and Work Experience educator) I’ve heard all of the above–especially from the long-term unemployed. They have every right to feel the way they do. However, it can easily be conveyed in a cover letter or interview, which would sink their chances of being hired. Basically, they sabotage themselves.

    I hope Samuel has spent a great deal of his time networking–more than anything else–since that’s how the vast majority find jobs. He must tap into family, friends, neighbors, college alums, former coworkers, members of organizations he belongs to, etc. There, I certainly hope he finds kind people who will assist him in any way they can.
    We have to extend compassion to those millions still unemployed. Hand carry a resume to our hiring manager, role play an interview, and lend moral support by giving much needed encouragement.

    All the best to Samuel.

  6. Thank you for sharing this Jessica. We have all been in this situation at least to some degree. As an internal recruiter I spent nearly two months looking, applying, getting the interviews in some cases but not converting and it can be truly frustrating and demoralising.

    If Samuel is reading this I would be more than happy to provide some objective feedback on his resume and/or cover letter. Email me at It’s the reason I became a recruiter after all!

    Otherwise I do wish him the best of luck.

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