A reader writes:
I interviewed with a company last week for a HR generalist position. Their HR manager and I interviewed for 2-1/2 hours!
I got a call back for a second round interview and was told that I had the first choice of interview times. Before my interview, the HR manager brought me into her office and prepped me for the interview with the VP of Operations, literally giving me key points to discusss. I met with him, touched on all the points, and after our hour-long inteview he shook my hand and said that he looked forward to working with me.
I then had a 30-minute phone interview with the VP of Talent Acquisition, who was feeling me out for my recruiting background. He said that it was a great interview and thanked me for my time. I then met with the HR manager again and she went over benefits, rates, pulled out an employee handbook and started telling me about projects that she wanted me to start working on, asked me about salary and vacation time, and walked me downstairs and through the network engineers area, introducing me to people. We passed a guy in the hall who had an H1B visa issue, and she started telling me about it. Everything was great!
But I got an email last night saying that they went with another candidate. What went wrong? I sent personalized email thank-yous to each person and cc’d her on them so she was in the loop, wore a suit, and engaged in the interview. I’m just dumbfounded. She had even gone as far as to say, “Your office will be next to mine, let me see if it’s been emptied out yet so I can show you.”
You never, ever have the job until they make you an offer. Never.
It doesn’t matter how well your interview goes. It doesn’t matter how much you click with people there, or how enthusiastic they seem. It doesn’t matter if they show you where your office would be, or introduce you to others, or tell you that they look forward to working with you. Hell, it doesn’t matter if they invite you to their family Thanksgiving and wrap you in a long embrace before letting you leave.
You don’t have an offer until you have an offer.
There are all kinds of reasons why an employer might seem really enthusiastic about you but still not offer you the job, but the most common is that they genuinely did think you were fantastic, but someone else simply ended up being better. There’s generally more than one strong candidate for a position, especially in this market.
(It’s also possible that they’re simply warm, friendly people and treat all candidates this way.)
Not getting an offer doesn’t mean that something went wrong, or that they misled you, or that you read their signals wrong. It just means that someone else was the better fit. You might have been fantastic, someone they’d have been thrilled to hire if Candidate B didn’t happen to be better for the role. But that doesn’t guarantee you an offer. Getting a job isn’t just about being a great candidate — it’s about being the best candidate, and it’s pretty impossible to know from the outside whether you will be or not. (Which is one more reason not to beat yourself up when you don’t get a job — you have no idea what the rest of their candidate pool looked like.)
Never, ever assume you’re getting an offer until you’re reading the email that contains it.