overly nice hiring managers are sending me mixed messages about my chances

A reader writes:

Over the past several months, I have been lucky enough to make it to second and third round interviews.

At one recently, I was told unequivocally that I was one of two remaining candidates. Everyone was so nice that I was shocked when I wasn’t offered the position.

Currently, I am awaiting another decision. I have been told it will be today by close of business. The final interview was out of town. I was the last to be interviewed and was told no more rounds. I had to prepare a very detailed presentation based on some research along with a writing sample. They seemed to be super super impressed – so much so I was a bit embarrassed. I drove the two-hour drive home and anticipated a wait. On that following Tuesday afternoon, I received an unsolicited email from the hiring manager. He wrote: “Thank you for coming in and doing such a fine presentation on such short notice. You did very well.” He also wanted to say that I was “very much still being considered for the position” and they were reaching out to references. They did, as I know one for certain has responded. He also said I would have my final decision by “close of business on Friday,” which was very specific. He also apologized for the wait and hoped I would understand.

When Friday comes and goes with no reply as stated… Is this just a nice hiring manager who may be sending mixed messages to a candidate in an effort to be kind and keep a candidate informed?

How would you approach this? Would you be so complimentary and add superlatives when you might not intend to offer?

Well, the thing is, you should never, ever, ever assume that you’re getting an offer. It’s just too hard to know from the outside, no matter how interested a company seems, and besides, all kinds of things can change: A stronger candidate can emerge at the last minute, the needs of the job can change, an internal candidate can emerge, the employer can simply decide they prefer someone else, and lots of other things.

As for whether these interviewers have been too nice and too encouraging to you … this is one of the things that’s really frustrating to employers. Good interviewers want to be nice and encouraging, especially to candidates who we think are strong, since we want them to be excited about working with us. After all, if you were choosing between two job offers, and one employer had been warm and kind and enthusiastic about working with you and the other had been reserved and hard to read, wouldn’t you prefer the first one? Plus, many interviewers understand that interviewing is stressful and try to make it a less nerve-wracking experience for people, and part of that is giving people information and being as warm as possible.

What happens, though, is that some job candidates then interpret those things as signs that an offer is forthcoming.

These things are not signs of that.

The only sign that an offer is forthcoming is when an employer says to you, “We’re offering you the job.”

That’s it.

Whenever you find yourself sure that you’re going to get an offer or shocked that you didn’t get one, you have forgotten this rule.

A warm, kind, informative interviewer does not equal an impending job offer. It only equals a warm, kind, informative interviewer.

Also, just to complicate this further, not getting an answer by their self-imposed deadline doesn’t mean you’re not getting an offer. It just means it’s taking longer than they thought, which is also super common.

As always, the best thing you can do is assume you didn’t get the job, move on mentally, and let it be a pleasant surprise if you did.

Related:
what your interviewer says / what you hear / what they mean
you can’t predict your chances of getting a job — really, you can’t

{ 93 comments… read them below }

  1. Mina

    As a hiring manager who currently has two very strong top candidates, I have actually been worried about the other side of this (that I’m sending mixed messages by being warm and encouraging to both when I know I will ultimately have to reject one). I’ve been checking both their references to see if that will help our search team make a decision. But I know that many candidates assume a reference check is nearly a guarantee of a job offer.

    It’s also hard because you don’t know if your top candidate will accept, so you don’t want to send negative signals to someone you may hire if the first person falls through.

    In sum, being on the other side of this for the first time gave me a brand new perspective. Before being in a position to hire, I could have been the OP. Now I get it a bit more…it is really hard, but I think Allison’s advice is spot on. You just don’t want to assume anything until they say, “We’re offering you the job!”

    1. Rachel

      I do wish employers would be more disciplined in their communications. I wish they would not say “I will get back to you by end of business on day X” unless they planned to stick to it. Saying that and then letting a week or two go by with no communication is unprofessional, imo. It’s not that I think I might get the job in those cases – I’m certain otherwise – but honestly, after a fairly involved interview process that required a not insignificant amount of my time (and lost wages), it just seems like the bare minimum of respect to send along a timely “no”. Yes, things happen, but that’s true of everything. I don’t promise clients firm dates if I know it’s likely to be a little bit more indefinite. It definitely doesn’t leave me with the best opinion of those companies that operate this way in their hiring.

      1. INTP

        Yep. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with being open and friendly. Some people do assume they’ve got the job in the bag when that happens – I’ve heard people express confusion when they didn’t get a job because “We got along so well” and that’s an issue on the candidate’s end. But it bugs me when people say concrete things like “Jane will contact you about scheduling an onsite interview” if it’s not going to happen. When I was an HR assistant and recruiter I tried to foster chemistry with everyone and I never told candidates “Sorry, I know already you aren’t a fit for the job” because I was expected not to, but I also avoided wording anything as a definite. IME it’s usually the hiring managers that do that, not HR, I guess because they feel like it would be awkward to end the interview without saying something leading (the way some people end dates with “I’ll call you” whether they plan to or not).

    2. jag

      “(that I’m sending mixed messages by being warm and encouraging to both when I know I will ultimately have to reject one)”

      If you are upfront about the process – letting them know they are one of the top candidates but not the only top candidate, then you shouldn’t worry.

      1. Job-Hunt Newbie

        Agreed; I appreciated knowing I was a finalist for a position, and being aware that there were other people in consideration as well. There’s no need to go into detail, but just making the person informed at what’s on the table can help them be prepared if they ultimately aren’t selected.

        1. puddin

          Yeppers. Let me know I am doing well and also tell me that you are deciding between my brilliant self and another brilliant person. That changes the decision from a ‘will we hire you,’ which lead to people thinking they are hired prematurely, because after all they made it through the 17 rounds of interviewing to a ‘which candidate will be hire?” The latter leaving plenty of room to understand that its not a done deal.

        2. This is Me Not Being Me

          The phrasing “you are considered a serious candidate” (while discussing timing of next steps) was used by a company I interviewed with – I thought that was nicely phrased.

    3. TootsNYC

      I tend to err on the side of openness, and I have sometimes said, “I have a couple of people to consider, and it’s going to be a touch decision. You are all so very good. So you should feel confident of your skills, and know that you’ve made a good impression. I hope to be getting back to people in a week, but I can’t promise.”

      I always hope that means they’ll be willing to work for me, because I’m honest and supportive at the same time.

      1. TNTT

        I like this. As an applicant, this would make me feel warm and fuzzy but also not guaranteed the job. A+

      2. Reader who asked

        I liked hearing all the comments, and based on some of the things mentioned…I am not the only job candidate who is often left puzzled by hiring managers who are somewhat misleading. After thanking two of the managers who “didn’t pick me” I learned the position was offered to individuals with far more experience and expertise. I was happy to learn my likability factor was high and therefore I made it to top candidate dispite having lesser experience. They saw potential and that is very satisfying. Happily, I got a job. And as “Ask A Manager” has often said… I landed the best job after losing the just so, so ones.

      3. Afiendishthingy

        Yes! I’m sure I would still manage to analyze that to death if I were one of the candidates but I think it’s as kind and honest as they can really hope for. Bottom line, waiting to hear back when something’s totally out of your hands sucks, and there’s no way to fix that- but your approach is a very good one.

  2. This is Me Not Being Me

    What Alison said. Also, is there any chance that one of your references (either that you provided, or that can be found by reaching out to your former jobs) could be bad? That might be worth a check too.

    But it may be as simple as “in a tie of great candidates, the tie-breaker went to the other person”. Which bites, but happens.

    1. Disillusioned Minion

      Been there many times. As foreign-born US Citizen, I know very well that the tie will always go to someone who was born in the US.

      And I know that many time I have been outright discriminated against. Proving it, of course, is next to impossible.

      1. 42

        I want to say this without minimizing your feelings: how can you possibly know that 1) you were in an absolute dead heat with another candidate, and 2) that it was an otherwise ‘eenie-meenie-minie-mo’ choice, but 3) the hiring manager threw everything to the wind and based their decision solely on your place of birth? And, as you say, done that “many times”.

        I don’t know how you can possibly know, unequivocally, how you are stacking up against other candidates in any given pool. For all you know, they hired a foreign-born citizen. I wonder if you go to interviews exuding an expectation that you will not be giving the offer, right off the bat.

        I’m sorry you’re having a difficult time; good luck.

        1. Disillusioned Minion

          1. There were quite a few times when I was told directly that it was “close” between me and another candidate.
          2. In the majority of cases when I was successful (including my current position), the hiring manager was also of foreign origin.
          3. Quite often as soon as I handed my resume to a hiring manager at a job fair, I literally had it thrown back at me with a statement: “We do not do visa sponsorship!”. I am a US Citizen, but the hiring manager did not even bother to ask, just assumed.
          4. The statement in your second paragraph is not true. I do not get many interviews and I always go to one very excited about the position and always do my best.

          1. 42

            #3 is terrible. I’m sorry for you and Rachel (below) having had to go through that.

          2. Ted Mosby

            Close between another candidate still means you only have a 50-50 shot. Not awesome odds. I’ve been rejected from about a dozen in the past two years where I was told I was a top candidate. They’re not being overly nice; you’re being overly optimistic if you assume you’re getting a job when you know there is at least one other candidate just as qualified as you.

        2. Rachel

          You don’t know necessarily know in individual cases, but once you have a lot of individual cases you can start to spot trends. Don’t you think it’d be easier if it were just a personal failing? Having been on the other side of things, as an American in the UK, I cannot tell you how frustrating it was after *two years* of looking for work that maybe I was just imagining it and it was really just me by well meaning British friends. After having people (who did hiring) tell me that non-eu applications tended to get filed in the figurative circular bin, after only getting call backs from under the table jobs, or the rare job that could only hire Americans, after being aware of the political climate around immigrants…. It didn’t take a rocket scientist to read the writing on the wall, and no, there was no “proof”, but c’mon. Especially when there was a million other expats (excepting those who were international transfer from american offices) with the same stories.

          1. Cheesecake

            while disilussioned minion’s problem is a prejudice “with this last name he probably does not hold US passport!”, your problem is different. And it is not political climate as such, it is existing rules and bureaucracy. if you don’t have a super unique skill or profession, it is very hard to prove a british or eu national can’t do the job and they need you and only you. some hr guys were burnt a couple of times, some are just lasy to do all this paperwork. i am sorry for your experience, but let me tell you, i have a friend who finished a very good university in the states and could not get a job in the us because of the work permit; he had to come home.

    2. Michele

      I have noticed that people don’t always understand what references have to say about them. Last week I did a phone interview with someone who mentioned knowing someone in a different department. I was going to invite him onsite, but I knew the guy that he mentioned. So I asked and was told some not-so-flattering things about his work ethic. Obviously, the candidate wouldn’t have been throwing the guy’s name around if he knew what he really thought.

    3. Artemesia

      Someone close to me had this happen several times in a row — top two and then nothing. Just about the time paranoia was ramping up about a possible negative reference, she got a great job — one of the people who had not hired her when she was one of two finalists reached out for a contract and then hired her full time a few months later.

      It is a tough world for job seekers – it is worth checking if you have several close calls that lead nowhere, but it is probably just part of how tough it all is.

  3. Connie-Lynne

    Oooh, I really like the showing of “related” posts on the main page. Please tell me that’s a deliberate change and not a glitch.

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      I do it on occasion when there are some specific ones that I want to show up there, but I’m putting it in manually. I’ll have to look into whether there’s a way to have the automated “related posts” listing show up on the main page!

      1. My 2 Cents

        Love that too, because as I ready the question my thought was “Dear God, haven’t we already covered this a thousand times already?”

  4. Dr. Johnny Fever

    I was recently lucky enough to land a new job (after being displaced), and it was one of those situations where they called me to apply because they knew my work and wanted me to join them.

    Yet Alison speaks the truth – the process took much longer from start to finish that they – or I – had thought. So many HR hurdles. So many interviews. And even though I *knew* they wanted me, it was still nerve-wracking! Did I read too much into the interview chemistry? Was there a stronger competitor? My offer was eight days later than promised. I sweated the whole time because there’s never a guarantee.

    Rock the interviews, make the personal connections, and thrive on the energy – but understand that while that engagement increases your chances, it doesn’t make your candidacy a sure thing. This time, it went my way. It very easily could have gone differently.

    1. Windchime

      Yes, here’s the thing….we recently interviewed a half-dozen people for two open roles we had. Everyone was internal, so we treated everyone as valued colleagues (which they are). So we were warm, friendly and encouraging to all of them. There were a couple that we made really strong connections with and either one will be a great employee. Both are still very much in the running so we want to keep them both in the queue until a decision is made.

      Even the candidates who were ultimately rejected, though, were treated with warmth and friendliness and professionalism, because that’s just how we do it here. I would hate for people to think that an offer is forthcoming, simply because we were kind to them.

  5. AntherHRPro

    You should never, ever assume an offer is forthcoming unless they have specifically told you that it is. Interviewers should be nice. Just like you are, they are putting their best self forward during the interview process. And it is possible to think a candidate is great, but to select another candidate that is just a little bit better. After all, there are a lot of very qualified and talented people out there. As Alison has said many times, do not try to read into interviews comments. Take them at face value. If they said they like you, they like you. That does not mean you will get an offer. They will offer you the job if and when they are ready to. t

  6. Long Time Reader First Time Poster

    I don’t know… obviously you can never be SURE of an offer until they say “we’d like to offer you the job” but I’ve been in situations where I was pretty darn confident I was getting it, and I don’t think I was being delusional. For my last job, when I reached out to the hiring manager to check on status, he said that I’d “knocked it out of the park” and that “We just got one [more resume] last one in last night. Reviewing now, but I like your chances;)”. After that kind of response I would have been quite surprised to not get an offer.

    1. Long Time Reader First Time Poster

      Whoops, that should have read: We just got one last [resume] in last night. My edit for clarity was not clear!

    2. Kat M

      I’ve been one of the top three finalists and ended up not getting it. To me, until I have the offer in writing, I don’t have it. It prevents me from getting disappointed.

      1. JM in England

        I have the exact same mindset, Kat. To paraphrase a key concept of the regulations governing my field “If it isn’t documented, it didn’t happen”………………

    3. Christian Troy

      I’ve had situations like this too and even if someone really wanted to hire me, stuff happens. Positions get cut, funding doesn’t come through. Things can change quickly. I learned my lesson to keep applying until I get an actual offer.

      1. TrainerGirl

        So true. I almost had one offer get fouled up because the recruiter kept trying to get the hiring manager to interview more people, and then lied about my salary requirements. It turned out that he was trying to help a friend and ensure the other person got the job. Luckily, the hiring manager reached out to me personally, and after we discussed it, she let the recruiter know that she wanted the offer to be extended to me. Very fortunate, because I’m sure that doesn’t happy very often.

    4. Ask a Manager Post author

      I agree those are good signs, but I get so many letters from people reporting signs exactly like that who then didn’t get the job. Things change, other candidates emerge, etc. I think it’s fine to think “hmmm, my chances are pretty strong” as long as that’s paired with “but I know that’s not a guarantee of anything, and I’m prepared not to get it.”

      1. Long Time Reader First Time Poster

        Yeah, that’s a totally reasonable and healthy attitude to have. Don’t count your chickens and all that.

      2. TootsNYC

        I also like to focus on, “did I present my skills as strongly as I could? did I make a great case for myself? do I feel good about the interview, about myself as a worker, etc.?”

        That’s really all I’m going for. If I was meant to get the job, I’ll get it. If I didn’t get it, then at least I know I did my best. That’s the only thing I can control.

        (I’m spending some time learning how to live with not having control over things.)

      3. A Bug!

        I think the line gets crossed when the thinking goes from “I felt really great about this interview so I’m disappointed that I didn’t get it,” and to “My interviewer shouldn’t have been so nice to me because that got my hopes up.”

        There’s a very important life skill in learning how to be confident about situations while still managing your expectations. It’s normal and understandable to feel disappointed at not getting something when you were really, really sure you would, but it’s not really appropriate to blame someone else for not being discouraging enough to keep you from getting your hopes up.

    5. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec

      As the hiring manager, I’ve been in the position of having two candidates I was absolutely thrilled with – but with the budget for only one position. I’m sure the one that wasn’t hired was at least a little surprised. At some point, you just have to pick one or the other, even if you’d be equally happy with both.

    6. John

      Well, sometimes stuff happens. Like the hiring manager thinks you’re the bee’s knees but when they float their recommendation past their boss or one of the other leaders with a stake in the new hire, that person feels strongly about going in another direction…maybe they feel the organziation will benefit from someone who has experience with swirly teapots.

      I do understand your frustration, though.

    7. Holly Olly Oxen Free

      I agree and I disagree. For my current job I was sure I was getting an offer. I don’t usually feel that way. Usually I am pretty good at remembering that there is truly no way to know. I was just completely positive about this job but the thing about having a gut feeling is that you don’t know it was right until you’ve been told it was right.

      I once applied for a job and got called for an interview pretty quickly. During the interview I was told that they were just about to make a decision on someone else and then my resume came in. I was offered the job about a week later. I imagine that whoever they were deciding on before me assumed they would hear imminently and probably felt like they were getting the offer. But then it was delayed a week and they didnt get the job because of a last minute resume.

      1. Holly Olly Oxen Free

        Also noteworthy, my current position was one of 3 open spots. But my manager only hired two people because there wasn’t a 3rd candidate that she felt was the right fit. So sometimes even when there is a spot open it still goes to no one.

  7. Cat

    The thing about being told that you’re one of two final candidates is that, from the information before you, you really can’t assume you have better than a 50% chance at that point. It’s nice, but it’s certainly not telling you the job is virtually yours.

    1. MK

      Exactly. I really don’t understand why the OP was “schocked” not to get the job, when they were specifically told that there was another candidate who was also in the running.

  8. ZSD

    Alison, is, “We’re like to offer you a job,” supposed to be, “We’re likely,” or, “We’d like”? Thanks!

  9. VictoriaHR

    People who work in hiring really can’t win either way :(

    If we’re honest and tell people that they won’t be moving forward with their candidacy, half of them will argue, try to change our minds, or continue to bug us.

    If we don’t tell people that they didn’t get it until the chosen candidate accepts the offer, they complain that we take too long and continue to bug us.

    I personally always want to know why I wasn’t chosen, so I like to tell people why. But on the other hand, as a recruiter, whenever I’ve tried to explain to someone why they weren’t chosen, I’ve had people complain, go above me to plead their case, and otherwise try to get the company in trouble (saying we discriminated or something).

    1. Retail Lifer

      I doubt this would work in your situation as a recruiter, but in a previous job my manager had a brilliant way of handling rejections. I worked in a store where there were three managers. The general manager would conduct one interview and one of the other department managers would conduct the second. If the candidate was rejected, he would have the third manager (who the candidate never met and had no part in the interview process) call them to let them know we were not moving forward with them. If the candidate wanted to argue, they couldn’t do it with the manager who had called them because they didn’t know who they were, and I can’t think of a single instance where the candidate demanded to speak to one of the managers who interviewed them.

      1. Macedon

        Have to say, that sounds a little off-putting to me: if I’ve invested time in an application and two interviews with your company, then I expect one of the people I’ve engaged with to get in touch and communicate their decision.

        I wouldn’t have my anonymous third-degree twice-removed cousin call in to decline a job offer on my behalf, after all.

        1. BRR

          I think it’s polite that somebody at least let them know. That’s really more than most places offer now a days.

          This is why people email rejections.

          1. Macedon

            I don’t think we should be comparing relative to the worst standard ( namely, no one getting back to the applicant at all ).

            E-mailed rejections are fine, if a little cold after two interviews. The e-mail should still come from one of the interviewers, or from the main HR person, if s/he’s dealt with the candidate extensively.

            1. fposte

              When it’s been discussed here, people seem to be pretty strongly in favor of receiving rejections via email, when they can react as they please, as opposed to over the phone, when they have to remain polite and composed–or, more realistically, as a voice mail, which is worst of all.

              And it’s a heck of a lot easier on the hiring side, so I don’t think phone rejections are going to be the thing any time soon.

              1. Macedon

                That’s fair – but I still think the e-mail should be arriving from someone you’ve been interacting with in some capacity. Introducing a third party after two interviews for the express purpose of dismissing a candidate falls on the impolite side for me.

                1. fposte

                  I agree–and unfortunately I can only do that for my direct hires, because the university staff positions don’t allow the hiring chair to communicate the results. Which stinks.

                2. Mallory Janis Ian

                  @fposte: same at my university when I worked there. The university didn’t allow the hiring chair to communicate the results, which had to be emailed through the application system (I guess so that there was an HR record of all such correspondence with each candidate). Our HR liaison to the system did, however, allow the hiring chair to compose the wording of the email, which was better than just a generic form letter. But each rejected candidate received the same letter.

            2. BRR

              You are right. We shouldn’t be comparing relative to the worst standard. That’s a terrible way to think of things. But I do think just taking the time to let me know is respecting me as a person. I don’t really think it makes a difference who rejects me as long as they let me know and it’s done politely.

              And as fposte says, people seem to prefer email rejections over calls as calls can then turn awkward, or with some candidates aggressive.

              1. Macedon

                I think we’re going to have to disagree on that – to me, it makes a difference if someone I’ve never dealt with informs me of my rejection, especially if I’ve interacted with two individuals prior.

                Sure, having a stranger or an interviewer break the news gets the same job done on the company’s side, but the difference lies in the delivery: one method is more utilitarian (this way, the applicant can’t ask anything), the other is more personal. And at the end of the day, recruiting is still a people business – you engage with people and you are remembered by people. Investing those two seconds of diplomacy might be what makes that candidate consider working with you again at a later time.

                1. BRR

                  I see it as extra credit. I don’t mind really who does it. If the hiring manager or someone you are familiar with does it is more polite. I am much more concerned about how they do it versus who does it though.

          2. Retail Lifer

            This was years ago, in retail, where we had no email. It was either a phone call or nothing, and most places at that time chose nothing.

      2. YandO

        I would have considered it extremely rude to have a person, I have never spoken with, call and reject me after I came in for several interviews.

  10. Sans

    In her first example, she was one of two final candidates. Someone had to be rejected. This time, it was her. That’s the thing. If there is more than one excellent candidates, someone who did great and got great feedback is going to be rejected.

    Also, the whole “don’t assume you got the job offer until they actually say ‘we’re offering you the job’ ” reminds me of that other timeless saying: “don’t assume a woman is pregnant unless you actually see the baby emerging …”

    My mind works oddly, sometimes…

  11. BRR

    This is a staple of AAM advice and I’m glad it appeared again (it’s been a while). It’s some of the best advice I have ever received and you don’t see it anywhere else.

    1. Retail Lifer

      So true. I just read an article elsewhere encouraging applicants to stay optimistic when they haven’t heard back by the deadline.

      The job hunt is filled with so many disappointments that it truly is better to just mentally move on. No one else recommends that though!

      1. BRR

        I feel like somebody would post the advice, “If you get rejected call them back and plead your case. This will show them how much you want the job.”

  12. jag

    “At one recently, I was told unequivocally that I was one of two remaining candidates. Everyone was so nice that I was shocked when I wasn’t offered the position.”

    You are one of two candidates. They told you that. That makes is pretty clear to me that there is certainly a chance that you will not get the offer.

    1. The IT Manager

      +1 That is what jumped out at me.

      Employer was honest; LW had a 50/50 chance so why she’s shocked that she did not get the position is very confusing to me. 50% is a lot less than 100% surety.

  13. oranges & lemons

    This reminds me a little of when I used to receive manuscript submissions. Whenever I responded, no matter how impersonal it was (like “you forgot your attachment last time, please resubmit”), I would get a reply saying “I feel so encouraged by your response!” It just made me feel bad.

    1. some1

      Yeah, this was my job when I worked in publishing, too. If someone sent us an email asking if we’d be interested in their submission, I was supposed to send our submission guidelines to anyone who asked, which a lot of people took to mean we were interested.

      Same concept as calling the hiring manager asking if they’d consider hiring you, and they tell you to apply online — that doesn’t mean, Yes, we’re interested. It means, We might be interested, but here’s what you need to do first.

  14. Michele

    When I interview people, I am warm and friendly for the reasons Alison said but also because I want the people that I am interviewing to let their guards down so I can see what they are like on a regular basis. I am sure that it gives the impression that people are doing better than they are, but I don’t make any promises during an interview.

    This is also the time when a well-worded thank you note comes into play. If there are two strong candidates, picking someone can just come down to a gut feeling. Anything you can do to sway that feeling in your favor helps, and appearing thoughtful and curteous will help.

    Also, if they said they would contact you by a certain date, I think it is OK to contact them a day or two after that date and say that you hadn’t heard anything and just wanted to follow up. Do NOT contact them before that date, however. That is just annoying.

  15. MsM

    I was on the hiring end of the “one of two candidates” situation a few years back. I preferred one of them over the other, but I was the only one on the team who felt strongly about it. The candidate I wanted turned us down. The other guy turned out to be phenomenal at his job, and we had a really close working relationship right up until I left. If I’d made it clear at any point during the hiring process that he was my second choice, things could have been very different. So as frustrating as it might be, I’d rather err on the side of acting like this person could potentially be my colleague, as long as I’m not saying to give the impression that they definitely will be.

  16. BananaPants

    Most years for the last 12, I’ve done on-campus interviews at my alma mater for hiring summer interns and have also been on interview panels for full time hires 3 times now. For the former, if I recommend someone for an internship they will likely get an offer even if they won’t be my group’s intern – I’m essentially the hiring manager even though the students don’t always seem to be aware of that. For the latter, I don’t make the final decision but the panel members’ opinions are carefully considered.

    Say we get 100 resumes from the engineering career fair; I will interview around 10-12 students on-campus and usually only one will get an internship. Those aren’t great odds for interviewed candidates, even for the students who make it through the initial screening. 2.5 years ago I was interviewing on-campus and after the interviews there were only 2 candidates who I thought were worth offering an internship to (both got the offer, one accepted, and we later hired him full time – he works in my group now). Two months later when the rejections went out from HR, one of the unsuccessful candidates called the switchboard to get my extension to leave a 5 minute voicemail expressing her shock at not having received an internship. She kept saying repeatedly, “But you were so NICE to me!” and said that she felt we had a connection and that she thought the (two page) handwritten thank you note that she sent me a month after the interview would have surely sealed the deal.
    Yeah, no. I would never let on to it, but I’d decided by around 5 minutes into her half hour interview that she was not going to be on my list of recommended candidates. They wouldn’t have me doing interviews if I was rude or mean to candidates, and I’m really good at being warm and friendly. Just because a candidate wouldn’t be right for a particular internship with us doesn’t mean they’re not a person who’s worthy of mutual respect and courtesy – the mistake this candidate made was assuming that my pleasant demeanor and her thank you note meant she was a lock to get an internship.

    1. Long Time Reader First Time Poster

      Being able to read other people is a skill. And it’s one that some people have ZERO aptitude for, unfortunately. I don’t know why.

      I can generally tell after an interview if I’m going to get a call back or not. I’m rarely wrong about this, so it sometimes really surprises me when other people come away from an encounter with a completely inaccurate take on how it went.

      These are often the same people that can’t understand why they don’t get a second date with someone — they are totally tone deaf to others, and imagine chemistry where none exists.

      I wonder if there is a way to build those skills and become more attuned to reading others. So many people could benefit from help in this area.

    2. Myrin

      That always makes me wonder how these people imagine you behaving towards someone you know immediately isn’t the right fit. Because if they think you’re friendly to them because you find them to be a good fit, do they think you’d be super rude and impolite if that weren’t the case?

  17. fposte

    You know, I think some of this is basic mammal wiring. If a dog goes up to a group of other dogs and they sniff butts and are all friendly, that’s pretty much it. There’s no “Sorry, you’re not in the pack after all.” I think it can be tough to remember you’re not part of the pack even if the butts got sniffed :-).

    1. the_scientist

      I feel like this is an example of how job hunting is once again a lot like dating. You might go on a date with someone and feel like it went well, part ways in a warm, friendly manner, and make vague noises about “doing this again” or something. And then the other person never responds to your texts/calls again, and you realize that they were too polite to say that they didn’t really feel a spark. It’s the follow-up that counts, not so much the words.

      1. A Bug!

        I had a similar thought, except that I think it’s perfectly possible to genuinely enjoy yourself on a date with a person but still not really want to continue the relationship afterward. In relation to the letter, I think it’s important to remember that it’s not misleading for an interviewer to simply give positive feedback to a candidate when the successful candidate hasn’t yet been determined.

        (Also, while dropping off the face of the earth is considered an acceptable way to break things off with a casual relationship it’s super not okay in hiring!)

  18. Anonymous Educator

    In my own work experience, any time I got a call for reference checks, it meant I was getting the job a few days later. And if I got a scheduled call after reference checks, it meant the scheduled call was the actual offer.

    Unfortunately, for my partner, it hasn’t worked out as well. One time she got a scheduled (urgent—had to be the next day… couldn’t wait the weekend) call from a hiring manager, and the hiring manager called to tell her they were going in another direction and hiring someone else. I know the hiring manager probably meant well, but that was super awkward, and a form rejection email would have been a lot better. She’s also had cases where they check her references, go out of their way to tell her the references spoke really well of her… and then no job offer.

    So, yeah, no sure way to know until you get the actual offer.

  19. puddin

    I recently had the opposite experience – I am sure we all have had this happen too. I left the interview despondent and certain that I had tanked it. The next day, I got a call back for another round in order to decide between myself and another candidate.

    Nothing is real until its real.

    1. lexicat

      Yes. I’ve been the second choice in a few interviews I felt went well, but it was the interview that I felt went badly enough I *knew* I was rejected that got the offer.

  20. PoorDecisions101

    I’ve been really frustrated in this round of job searching with HR not following through and mixed messages I’ve never had before.

    I’m expecting a job offer where they’ve told me an offer will be extended once the background check goes through and I’m taking them at their word on this.

    I’ve had, “We’ll discuss numbers next week and fly you in for the final interview…” which isn’t an offer, but still an expectation for the above to occur or at least a “we changed our minds” which I still haven’t had any further communication from the company a month later.

    I’ve also had a very misleading text! salary negotiations with a hiring manager, who when I eventually called said it was just a hypothetical and when HR called me a week later had no idea what the hiring manager had been doing.

    I also want to share that I had an interview this week where I felt the need to discuss poop, and despite (or because) of this, they’ve already contacted my referees. This is for a role with manager in the title.

      1. PoorDecisions101

        The story I told in the interview was about actual, physical poop and not the metaphorical kind. :)

        I do think it may be the propensity to do things like the above which may have held me back career-wise, but un/fortunately potentially getting a job offer despite my poor judgment makes me not want to change, even though logically I think I probably should.

  21. Liz T.

    Whenever I come out of a really good interview I think, “I don’t know who else they’re seeing, so I don’t know that I got the job, but I did in there what I came here to do.”

  22. Regina

    I’m currently in this situation and was expecting a response from the hiring manager by Friday. I interviewed with three staff members who all had positive things to say about how well my experience aligns with the company’s needs at this time. I decided to follow up with the hiring manager and other two interviewers with a “Thank You” letter that included a short line on why I’m interested in working for the company. The hope is that I will remain on their radar if the hiring process is taking longer than expected.

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