No Reply: The Dying Art of Closing the Loop

My 18 year old son decided to reject his college acceptances and enter the workplace for a while. (I know, I know, I know!) I talked with him about the importance of a college education, the state of the economy, how tough it is for people with college degrees to get jobs nowadays—the list goes on. He politely listened to my concerns, but his mind was made up. (You just can’t put an old head on young shoulders, can you?)

Against the odds, my son scored interviews with two companies in Boston recently—not retail stores, not fast food chains, not manual labor—professional companies looking for a responsible, moldable, flexible, entry level employee. (I thought, even if he doesn’t get a job, the process itself will be a good life lesson for him.)

Company #1 asked for a phone interview to get the process going—yikes! (He’s a teenager and I’ve talked with him on the phone many times. Need I say more?) My son was nervous, but he held his own and was invited to their Boston headquarters for an in-person meeting the following week. The interview date and time was scheduled. (He was proving me wrong!)

My son meticulously plotted his course for the voyage into Boston. He traveled the commuter rail, decoded the subway maze and traversed the streets of downtown Boston to the high rise building of Company #1. He announced himself to the receptionist, shook hands (with the perfect amount of firmness, not-to-sweaty palms and eye contact, I’m hoping) and was interviewed by two people for more than an hour. They asked if he’d return the following week to meet with one more member of their team. (Beginner’s luck? The next Bill Gates, maybe?)

This was a really unique opportunity and my son was so excited (in his laid-back, composed, unaffected way, of course). He followed up with an email thanking Company #1 for the interview, re-expressing his interest in the job, addressing a specific issue he was questioned about and conveying how much he was looking forward to meeting “John Doe” the following week. No reply. (Hmmmmm?) I told him that it was probably the craze of the holidays and to wait a few more days.

Those few days passed with no reply. So, my son sent another very nice, respectful email to follow-up on the status of the “John Doe” meeting. No reply. He patiently waited another week or so and sent yet another email. Yup, you got it, no reply. At that point, I told him to stop following up—it was over!

Company #2’s opportunity came along about a month later. The interview was scheduled; he arrived on time (a pro at navigating Boston now) and was interviewed for one-half hour. At the conclusion of the interview, he was asked to provide a reference. Later that same day, he followed up with a thank you email and included his reference’s name and contact information. No reply. No reference checked. He plans to follow-up again this week. (I’ll keep you posted.)

I told my son that I was going to blog his story—protecting his identity, of course. He was really amused by how passionate I was about no reply. So, I asked him to take a risk and tell me how he really feels about it. He said that the worst part was not getting a straight answer—any answer. He assumed that Company #1’s no reply was their way of avoiding having to say they weren’t interested anymore. When it happened with Company #2, he concluded that no reply must be a customary, perfectly acceptable way to communicate “no” to someone. (OMG! Is this the good life lesson I’d hoped for?) 

Don’t we all want—need—closure? It’s not always easy to hear “no” or “I’m not interested,” but nowadays you don’t even have to face the person to say it (that dying art is a topic for another day). Email is at our fingertips—literally. Company #1 and #2, feel free to cut and paste here: “Thank you for your interest, <insert first name>. We’ve decided to go in another direction at this point. We understand how valuable your time is and appreciate the effort you so obviously put forth during our process. We wish you all the best!”

Could I get some help out there? I am trying to teach my son, a member of the workforce’s next generation (the ones we say are so entitled), the importance of good communication, being courteous, respectful—responsive.  I’ve always believed (and still do) that effective relationships and communications are a two-way street—no matter what the vehicle. More and more often, it feels like a one-way, dead end.

For my son, I guess he’ll just bang a U-e and head down another road. He’s still young. A bit more cynical, maybe—or is that me?

Kindly reply…

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