Sunday, October 3, 2010

The Death of Common Courtesy?

For almost 18 months now, I have been either under-employed or unemployed. (I’ve previously blogged and complained about the fact that, while synagogues are not required by law to participate in state unemployment systems, they can voluntarily opt-in to those systems-yet few do. Thus unemployed synagogue workers like me can’t get unemployment compensation. But that’s not the focus of this post-though I still feel this, too, is a matter of moral and ethical failing on the part of Jewish religious institutions.)

This time, my complaint is about the apparent lack of common courtesy and standard business ethics on the part of Jewish institutions. In the past year and more, I have sent out many email and letters, to potential employers, many of them via, the free service offered by the good graces of Hillel and JCSA.

Of the dozens, perhaps hundreds of submissions I have made, only two-yes, that’s right – two – potential employers had the common courtesy to 1) acknowledge receipt of my submission 2) follow-up letting me know the position was filled, or they were pursuing other candidates, or whatever.

I’m incredulous. I simply can’t imagine not having the common courtesy to acknowledge the receipt of an application or letter of interest in a position. It’s a lapse of both common and Jewish ethical standards. What is going on here?

Now, I’ll be the first to admit that a person seeking employment from someone should follow-up on their initial submission. That, at least indicates sincerity and interest on the part of the applicant. Nevertheless, I don’t feel this common sense process removes the obligation on the part of an employer to acknowledge the submissions of job applicants, and to let members of the applicant pool know when they have been dropped from consideration.

I’m not talking about unsolicited applications, but applications for listed or advertised positions, and ones for which I felt I could meet the desired experience/skill level, etc.

“We get too many applicants.” “It’s too much of a bother.” “If someone wants a job with us, it’s up to them to follow-up.” That’s certainly a change from standard business practice as I was taught it. Potential employees should be treated just like clients or customers. They deserve the same common courtesies. I’ve written plenty of letters and emails like that to people who had applied for positions for which I was hiring.

It’s not just Jewish institutions. They are plenty of secular businesses that no longer have the common courtesy to acknowledge. (Some larger business have totally automated systems to deal with this. while it’s a bit impersonal, at least it lets me know my submission has been received and whether or not it is still being considered.) So it’s obviously a trend. Yet it seems to me that, as far as religious institutions, there is a particular onus on them to adhere to standards of courtesy and ethics, even when secular society seems to be abandoning them.

There could be technical or process issues involved. Perhaps submissions made through 3rd-party systems (like or come from the company’s email address, and it’s an extra step for employers to then extract the applicants email (or phone) from the submitted information and send them an acknowledgment. Perhaps they simply and automatically reply to the email which goes back to or and never gets seen by the applicant? (If and when I hear back from about the mechanics of this, I will update this post.)

However, a large number of positions listed ask the applicant to email or otherwise contact the employer directly, and not through or The track record of these directly sent applications is no better than the others. In point of fact, only one of the two companies that actually responded was a direct contact.

Maybe I’m all wet about this. Maybe times and standards really have changed, and I’m wrong to expect a company to acknowledge an application for a listed open position. If that’s the case, it’s a sad state of affairs.

Adrian (aka Migdalor Guy)

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