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Does Lack of Response Mean Discrimination?

Does Lack of Response Mean Discrimination?

Alison Green | Ask A Manager

A reader writes:

Our local Goodwill here has been posted a good number of hiring ads in the last 5 months and I’ve honestly applied every time and never got a call back. I followed up by calling and even this last most recent time followed up in person. The day after I followed up in person, they posted yet another ad… Now what I’ve realized just a few days ago is that every worker there is female, so is it possible I’m being discriminated against or something of the sort?

If so, what should I do, if anything? One of my friends who has been a hiring manager at a few places said I should call up the corporate headquarters and (of course while not being rude) talk about it with them. I don’t really know how to go about that though, honestly.

Sure, it’s possible that you’re being discriminated against, but it’s also possible — and probably more likely — that you’re not getting called for an interview for other reasons, such as: you don’t have the qualifications they’re looking for, you do have those qualifications but so do 100 other people who applied and they can’t interview everyone, your cover letter isn’t very good, your resume has typos in it, someone there worked with you previously and didn’t think you were very good, or any of a number of other reasons.

Most importantly, keep in mind that lots of very qualified people aren’t getting interviews in this economy, and that’s a function of plain old math: There are five times as many job-seekers as job openings. That means that to get an interview, you have to really, really present yourself well.

My suggestion is to email one of the hiring managers you’ve applied with over there and explain that you’re really interested in working for Goodwill because _______, and ask them to do you the favor of giving you advice on how you can present yourself differently to be a more attractive candidate. You may not get a response — but you might get useful information.

(Do this in email, not by calling or showing up in person. Email allows people to answer at their convenience, think about their answer before responding, and so forth.)

I don’t suggest calling corporate headquarters to complain, unless you really have evidence that there’s some sort of discrimination going on, because if you’re just speculating, you could harm rather than help your chances. If there’s no discrimination going on, and it’s actually just that you’re in an extraordinarily competitive market, a complaint would be like waving a flag reading, “Hey, if you hire me, I’ll misinterpret things in the workplace and sue you!” Rightly or wrongly, companies don’t hire people who they fear might be litigious.

Redo your cover letter, proofread the hell out of it and your resume (or have someone else proofread them), and ask for feedback since this is a company you’re really targeting. Good luck!