Why is it now considered acceptable for employers to ignore you?

11th March 2021

30% of applicants received the silent treatment after applying for a job in 2020. Since when did this become okay and what can be done about it?

A survey we conducted found that out of 231 people questioned, over half had applied for at least one job in 2020. And out of them, one third received absolutely zero response from the employer.

This radio silence from companies who are recruiting appears to be a growing trend. It seems that almost everyone we interview comments on the lack of responsiveness from employees and is pleasantly surprised to find that we get back to everyone.

Although COVID has no doubt made this situation worse due to the increased numbers of job seekers, it was happening way before then. It’s common courtesy to respond to people, even if you’re turning them down. With automation now, it isn’t difficult to let people know where they stand, and people would rather learn they’ve been rejected than be left in limbo.

Christina Murphy from Sussex knows this all too well. She’s been looking for a job for over six months and is yet to secure an interview, despite applying for jobs that pay just 10% of her previous wage.

“I’m looking to return to the work force now my son is older,” says Christina. “In my previous job I was in charge of an entire insurance team for a blue-chip company. As I’ve been out of the loop for a while, I have accepted that I’m unlikely to be able to re-enter the work force on the kind of salary I was on, so am applying for much lower paid roles. I’m still waiting to hear back from a school dinner lady position I applied for weeks ago, as well as a junior insurance clerk role. The application for that took me three hours, and I am yet to receive any kind of response.”

Christina’s experience is unfortunately not at all unusual. Until the lockdown, Tamara Nasser had her own successful company, running kids’ clubs. Realising her business was unsustainable due to COVID, she closed down and started looking for work in early summer 2020.

“I was applying for up to 20 jobs a day for a period of six months. I’ve never been out of work before over the last 20 years, since I began working at 16 years old. I was, however, realistic about the opportunities that would be available in the current climate, and the roles I applied for included waitress, cleaner and shop assistant.

“All together, I applied for hundreds of positions, and only received responses from approximately a quarter of them.”

This shameful response rate is despite Tamara holding a first-class design degree and having 12 years’ experience in the events and communications industry.

Tamara’s story has a happy end, thankfully, and she has just started work as communications officer for Worthing homeless charity, Turning Tides.

For many others, however, the soul-destroying experience of job hunting and being continuously ignored, goes on.

So, why is it now considered the norm to ignore applicants–so much so that a growing number of companies seem to deem it acceptable?

I think digitalisation has a lot to do with it. It’s an impersonal process so the employer may feel disengaged with the applicant. That shouldn’t be an excuse, but it is one possible reason.

Another could be the behaviour displayed by some candidates, which might be ruining things for others and making the employer less likely to feel inclined to communicate. You may be surprised how many people don’t bother turning up for their interview (around one in four) with no prior warning. An additional 15% cancel by email with less than an hour’s notice. The most common reason given is ‘a family emergency’. If you want to avoid a family emergency, don’t set up an interview–it seems your chances of experiencing one will be heightened!

However, there are things you can do to increase your chances of receiving a response. Here’s five top tips from our hiring team:

1. Only apply for a job if you fit the criteria

If you don’t have the skills or qualifications the job description asks for, or you’re not in the right location, then don’t waste your time or the employer’s time by applying. You won’t get it. And you most likely won’t get a reply either. But then, if you’re a time waster, do you really deserve one?

2. Submit what the job advert asks for

If you’re asked to send a cover letter, then do so. If you’re asked to list your relevant skills, do that too. If you don’t even attempt to make a decent application, the employer will think of you as careless and lazy. Why would they bother replying to someone who can’t be bothered to even apply properly?

3. Tailor your CV according to the job role

Blanket-sending your CV in the hope of getting lucky will not win you any fans, and nor will it earn you any response. Most employers will start by scanning your CV for mentions of keywords. E.g. if you’re applying for a job of social media manager, but don’t mention social media in your CV, guess what will happen? That’s right. Nothing.

4. Follow up

It is perfectly acceptable–and often seen as a positive–for you to follow up if you haven’t heard anything after submitting your application and the closing date is nigh. Consider doing this by phone rather than email. If they haven’t responded to your first email, why would they be likely to respond to a second?

5. Make it easy for the employer

Faced with hundreds of applicants, an employer is less likely to get back to you if you’ve made it difficult for them. Not providing your contact details in a clear and obvious place, for instance, isn’t going to win you any favours. Nor is a CV that’s longer than two pages and requires wading through. Keep it clean, clear and relevant!


Good luck with your job search and don’t be put off by ignorant employers. If you’ve done everything right, and they still haven’t responded, perhaps it says something about their ethics. Consider it a lucky escape!

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Gina Hollands - Commercial & PR Director

Gina has 16 years’ marketing and media experience, and demonstrates real creative flair with every client she represents. Gina’s worked with brands across many industries, including health and beauty, charity, education, insurance, travel and retail.

She knew from a young age she wanted a career in marketing and even did her work experience at a PR firm aged 15.

A published author, when she’s not at work Gina loves writing fiction novels. She also enjoys dancing in a variety of styles, and likes to dazzle and amaze her colleagues with her adventurous dress sense, often including some vertiginous heels and even the odd wig.

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