Let’s say that you really want to work at Microsoft.  Or Boeing.  OR T-Mobile.  Or Starbucks.  And you keep seeing numerous positions listed on the “employment” pages of these companies that fit you like a glove, but that you can’t seem tp get a response around, for the life of you, even after carefully tailoring and submitting your materials for each of the opportunities in question.

Could it possibly be that you’ve been (cue the ominous music) permanently BLACKLISTED from the organization?

Recently, there’s been a lot of buzz out there in the job market around this concept, as opposed to years past, when I can’t remember anybody even talking about this issue or using the famous “McCarthy Era” term in this particular context.  Candidates are understandably worried about the possibility that the lack of results/response from a certain company (especially one they’ve interviewed with in the past) might be due to the company adding them to a “do not hire” list of some kind — effectively blacklisting them from any future interviews.

Does this phenomenon really take place, however?  Is it a legitimate concern for today’s job hunters to worry about or just a boogeyman concept that masks the multitude of other potential reasons (e.g. competition level, imperfect credentials, corporate waffling, etc.) that might lead a person to not hear back from a given organization, even after multiple attempts to get on their radar screen?  And if it does exist, how prevalent is it?  And is it of a “formal” variety where companies literally make database notes barring people from further consideration — or more of the “informal” variety where recruiters might just happen to remember a person’s name and some negative experiences from an interview they conducted previously?

I’ll confess, I don’t know the exact answer.  For all the increased discussion about this topic, I still find it pretty hard to believe that companies would engage in wholesale discrimination against certain candidates based on a single bad interview in the past or an unsuccessful bid to land a different position within the organization, earlier on.  I also don’t get the sense (at least when talking to many recruiters and HR people) that most companies are even ORGANIZED enough, on average, to track and disseminate this kind of information throughout the entire network of recruiters and hiring managers within their organization.  Hard to say, though.  In a day when applicant tracking systems (ATS) are becoming more and more mainstream, at least among mid-to-large-sized employers, the technological capability certainly exists for most companies to share detailed information and hire/no-hire recommendations on individual candidates.

At any rate, in an effort to increase my own knowledge about the truth/falsity of this phenomenon, I recently posted a question on the LinkedIn “Answers” section that I was hoping would attract some insightful feedback from people in a position to know the answer.  You’ll find the question posted here along with the nine answers that it attracted during the week it was available for comment.  As you’ll note, the answers were all across the board.  Some people were 100% certain that companies today were flagging people as being permanently ineligible for hire, while others said the phenomenon either wasn’t happening or was happening on such a small, informal scale that it wouldn’t likely ever be an issue for most professionals in transition.  And others, still, claimed that the idea of “blacklisting” in any form represented illegal discrimination — which I’m not sure is the case, legally.  Doesn’t a company have the right to say “we never should hire this person” as long as they’re not basing this decision on illegal factors such as age, gender, or ethnic considerations?

Again, I wish I could be weighing in with a clear-cut answer on this issue for all of you, but alas, it’s still eluding me.  I know that I DID talk to a few recruiters I know personally, including a few over at Microsoft, and they all said that while they obviously had a way to take notes about their experience with various candidates, there certainly wasn’t a “magic button” or “special field” they could fill out that would instruct other recruiters within the company to permanently disregard the individual from hiring consideration.  In fact, they were pretty offended by the very suggestion of this!

HR and recruiting personnel out there — can any of you shed some light on this mystery?  Is there anybody who has any direct evidence that various companies do or don’t engage in “blacklisting” practices (or whatever we might choose to call them) to any degree?