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Please, Acknowledge My Existence

by Deborah Aguiar-Velez

October 31, 2011

You’re in a meeting, and you’ve just shared an idea that was completely ignored. Then someone else says the same thing, and all of a sudden the group agrees it’s the greatest contribution of the meeting. You think, “Hey! I just said that!” and for the next few seconds, you feel invisible, stunned and upset.

Has this situation ever happened to you?

Many people have had the same experience. Why does it happen? Are we becoming faceless and indistinguishable from each other? Are we overloaded with so much data and brain noise that we cannot acknowledge our fellow human being? What are we doing to overcome that sense of anonymity?

Perhaps that is why Twitter, YouTube and Facebook are so popular. Finally, we have a way to make ourselves relevant (or, at least, feel like we are). We believe that by posting what we think, feel, or experience in our daily lives, we will not be ignored and someone out there will acknowledge us. Every re-tweet, “Like”, and view we get is telling us that someone out there cares - at least for a few seconds - enough to tell us that we have been listened to and that we matter.

Our voices and our presence are amplified by the social media megaphone.

But how do we use that megaphone when the party that is ignoring us is an organization instead of a person? Unfortunately, many organizations seem to have developed this poor habit, disguising it as a “best practice.” As a result, people find themselves ignored by organizations more often than they would probably like. Here is an example:

A friend of mine applied for a teaching job at a private school in Charlotte. She sent her resume and a cover letter and filled out the online application. More than six months later, she has still not received a response from the school. When she called a few weeks after submitting her application, they told her they had received the information but their policy is to only contact the people who they might want to hire. In other words, their policy is to ignore you if you are not chosen to be part of their team.

But what kind of message are they sending by behaving this way? The message that the candidate receives is that she is not important enough for the organization to acknowledge her application.

I do not understand this behavior. Some organizations argue they do not have the resources to acknowledge every job applicant. However, in the private school’s case, it does have the resources to answer prospective students’ and parents’ questions, promote the school’s curriculum and activities and fund football programs. Why doesn’t its budget include programming its online applications system to thank applicants for their time and effort when they submit resumes, and to let them know when they are not chosen for the job?

Regrettably, my friend’s is not an isolated case. Many companies, some of them Fortune 1000, behave the same way as the private school. It seems they think it takes too much effort to be courteous or to go the extra mile to acknowledge those who are applying for a job.

I would expect companies to behave differently, especially during these hard and stressful times. Instead they are treating some applicants like they do not exist.

Just as we can use social media to feel heard in our personal lives, we can certainly use the social media megaphone to get the attention of organizations. We can take action and tweet about our experience or post comments on our Facebook pages or theirs. We can create a YouTube video, with the hopes that it goes viral, describing our experiences and asking: “What kind of competitive advantage are companies gaining by not acknowledging job applicants, and how much money are they saving by doing so? Are they taking those savings and using those dollars to improve their brand so they can attract me as a customer? What if I could be a customer, and I am an applicant?”

Although we might not get all the answers we want, at least we can start the conversation. The ensuing dialogue allows us to take credit for making our voices heard, creating change and making ourselves quite visible.

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