When you’re job hunting, it’s important to realize that Human Resources people are not your friends. (I used to quip that “Human Resources people are neither,” but I guess I’ve mellowed in my old age.)
Human Resources departments are staffed with gatekeepers – people whose job it is to keep you away from the hiring process. They’re not there to help you navigate the system. They don’t want you to know anything about how the job will be chosen, or what the real criteria are for the ideal candidate. Because if job-seekers could just talk to the hiring manager directly, and have a more active role in their candidacy for the job, what would be left for Human Resources people to do? Nothing.
To avoid disappointment, don’t expect even basic human decency from HR. Will they let you know that you’re no longer being considered? Probably not. Will they answer questions to help you understand more about the job? Don’t count on it. Will they, if asked, allow you to speak to the person who’s actually hiring, or even tell you who that is? Hell no.
So passive is out. Do your best, without being a jerk, to stay in touch throughout the process – they won’t tell you anything unless you are politely persistent. Try to find out, without asking anyone in HR, who the hiring manager would be, and see if you can speak to them directly.
If you manage to get that jackpot phone call, don’t waste it. Have some questions ready that show you are trying to figure out if you can help this person with their problem (see “It’s not about you”). Be polite, engaged and interested. That will go a long way toward moving your application to the front of the line.
Once you’ve had an interview, another dance begins. Will there be a second interview, and if so, will you get one? What will they be looking for in a second interview? HR doesn’t want you to know. They will dole out the information like pellets to lab mice, at their leisure. So again, just be persistent but unfailingly polite, and limit your followup to a decent interval – once a week, say.
The point of all this is, they want you to play their game, by their rules – rules they want to keep to themselves. So try taking a step to the side, and only play the game when there’s no other choice.