Put The Human Back In Human Resources

I walked into work one morning in October 2015 and, within moments of firing up my computer for the day, found out we were being acquired.

When I found out in early January there were no marketing positions with our new owners, I began my job search in earnest. Having more than four months until my work-through date, I had a sense of urgency to my search but not a feeling of panic. I could afford to be picky and apply only for positions that were a natural progression in my career or were virtual lateral moves where I could hit the ground running and make a great impact.


With national and regional unemployment figures falling and organizations ramping up their hiring, many people are looking for jobs. Most of us count on the networking/social media/web search cycle, knowing that these days the number of people who find positions through networking can be as high as 60% in some industries.  The only thing I hadn't counted on was the complete lack of customer service in the modern job search.

There's the much-recognized travel and tourism organization who couldn't be bothered acknowledging my resume. Or returning two calls and an email following up. Or letting me know the position had been filled. But they were nice enough to send me eleven different emails in the past month letting me know about events I should look for, hotels I should stay at, or restaurants I should eat at.

And then there was the highly respected university. Two different positions that seemed like the job descriptions were written by copying and pasting parts of my resume. I had to login to their system, upload my resume, then manually enter all the same information into a form. Their automated response, I assume, was meant to be personalized but somewhere along the way, someone stopped caring and allowed the salutation to simply read "Dear      " (that's a blank space where, I'm guessing, the applicant's name is supposed to appear) on an email telling me not to call, not to email, and to login to my account to check the status of my application. But at least they were nice enough to share my phone number with their medical research department, who graciously reached out to see if I was interested in participating in a medical research study.

Oh, and I can't forget the suburban bank who sought me out and brought me in for an interview. After submitting my resume and then having to write all the same information on their application before the interview, they were nice enough to send me an email letting me know they went with another candidate. To the wrong email address. Yes, even though they had my resume (which prominently featured my email address) and my application (which also featured my email address), they sent the turn-down email to the wrong address. When, however, they got the notification that the email had bounced because the email address was wrong, rather than maintaining a shred of humanity and copy/pasting the body of the turn-down into an email with the correct address, they simply forwarded the prior, incorrect email to me with one simple sentence: "Please see below."

Of course, that's better than the credit union which sought me out, brought me in for an interview twice, and then disappeared in spite of my weekly calls and emails to follow up. To date, they still haven't officially said I didn't get the job, so maybe they're just moving at a glacial pace with their hiring (or consumed with having The Brownstein Group work on new cartoon characters for their ads).

One of the resumes I submitted for a great-fitting marketing position with one of the largest health insurance companies in the region finally got back to me after almost two months. By sending me the same "We chose another candidate" email 19 times in 3 minutes. I almost wanted to reply to each one with how someone with my skills could help them make sure their message got out in only one email but something tells me that would've been lost on them (or the computer running their communications).

According to a study by recruitment consultants CareerXroads, only 28% of Fortune 100 companies email the applicant pool when a position has been filled (that percentage is the highest rate in the past 10 years of the study). 64% of the companies didn't acknowledge the resume at all. Even with follow-up phone calls or emails to those companies I could actually track down a human being to reach out to, I still to-date have not received any communication from more than 50 organizations.

All, however, is not lost. Comcast advertised a number of positions which were good fits with my experience and career path. While I didn't make it (yet) to become a Comcast team member, they are committed to keeping the "human" in human resources. Every application received a response email and most received a follow-up phone call from one of their recruiters. During those calls, the recruiters explained why that position may not be the best fit or positions I should give more consideration to. They were very consultative but, more importantly, they all seemed to have remembered what it was like to be on the other side of the door and have kept those memories to treat their applicants with respect.

Sadly, though, they seem to be the exception in these days of cost-cutting when it comes to non-revenue generating departments like human resources. When did it become acceptable for organizations who profess their commitment to customer service decide it was okay to forego that commitment when it came to job applicants, the very people they will be counting on to serve their internal and external customers once they find their way through the maze where good resumes go to die?