By Paul McDonald
Quartz at Work, March 27, 2018 —
You nailed the interviews, submitted great references, and were told the hiring committee would make a decision soon. As days—and maybe weeks—drag on without any word, it’s common to ask yourself questions such as:
- Why haven’t I heard back yet?
- What’s holding up the decision?
- Did I say or do something that’s causing them to rethink my fit for the job?
- Was someone else hired and they haven’t told me?
- Will the company follow up with me at all, or have I been ghosted?
As someone who’s counseled thousands of job seekers over the years, I’ve had many conversations with people who have faced a long and mysterious wait after the interview. And in a Robert Half survey of more than 1,000 workers, 57% of respondents said the long wait after the interview is the most frustrating situation in the job search.
My advice to them is to remember that when you face a long silence after an interview, it’s not always about you. Hiring managers should keep you posted on delays, but they don’t always follow through. Here are some reasons you may not be hearing back.
The budget has changed: The hiring manager may have had approval to hire when you applied and interviewed, but something may have changed since then: The firm didn’t meet sales targets. A major client departed. Another department has a more critical need and is now taking the headcount.
Decision makers are out of pocket: Most candidates meet several people at the firm in a series of interviews. One of the interviewers may have been called away for urgent business out of town. There may be an unexpected absence because of illness or family emergency. If a crisis is brewing that impacts the firm, the interview process may be on hold until the situation is resolved. (Some examples: a cybersecurity breach, lawsuit, or natural disaster that hits one of the firm’s locations.)
Something—or someone—was left out of the loop: Before opening a search, I advise firms to bring all the decision makers together to agree on the job description, commit to the hiring timeline, and set the salary range. When that doesn’t happen, surprises can crop up that stall the process. Suddenly, there’s one more person who needs to interview candidates, a skills test that the candidate must complete, or a couple of requirements that are added to the job description.
They’re having trouble making a decision: Companies sometimes get nervous before making the final decision, as they don’t want to make a costly hiring mistake. They may be struggling to decide between two great candidates. Or, late in the game, they may decide to open the search to consider more people.
What to do while you wait
The good news is that silence does not mean a “no” on your candidacy. It also doesn’t mean you should stand still. Focus on what you can control to keep your momentum and spirits high while you wait. Here are some ideas.
Check in with the hiring manager: In our survey of more than 300 hiring managers, 100% advised candidates to check in after the interview. Sixty-four percent recommend contact by e-mail; 36% said the ideal time to reach out is between one and two weeks after the interview. If you’ve received other offers or are nearing final interviews with other firms, let the hiring manager know.
Talk to your mentor and referral source: If you’re feeling anxious, talk with your mentor to get an objective view on the situation. If a networking contact referred you for the role, reach out and ask if he’s aware of any developments. Don’t vent your frustration in writing via email or on any social media site—it’s not productive and will come back to haunt you.
Step away and recharge: Spending all your free time on a job search can be draining. Make sure you spend time with people you enjoy doing things you love.
Believe in your talents and don’t let long waits chip away at your confidence. In this market, talented people are in the driver’s seat. Companies that give prospective candidates the silent treatment are sending a clear message about their corporate culture and ability to make decisions. If this is how they communicate with prospective hires, what will it be like on the job? It’s something to think about.
Paul McDonald is senior executive director at Robert Half.