interviewer seemed enthusiastic, then went AWOL

A reader writes:

After finding out I was re-locating to a new city, I began researching and finding companies and positions that would be a good fit for me. I finally found one that I thought I was perfect, and sent my resume. Less than two days later, I received an e-mail from HR asking me to set-up a phone screen. At the end of the phone screen, she said I seemed like a great fit for the company and forwarded my information to the manager I’d be reporting to if hired. That phone screen also went really well, and I felt that we had great rapport. The  next business day, HR e-mailed me again to set-up an interview for the first day I’d be in the new city. I went in, and throughout the hour and a half I was there, I was interviewed by 5 people in rotating order, starting with HR. I felt really comfortable with each person and thought I did a great job of representing myself as a great candidate. The hiring manager even went as far to say, “I’m so glad we waited to meet you- I really wanted you to come in and meet x and y”. Then, before I was leaving HR came back in and stated that she got such great feedback about me from everyone I met, and wanted me to let her know if I received any other offers “to speed up the process.” She said she planned on making a decision in the next day or two and continued to sell me on the job and the place as we were walking out (pointing out the gym in the lobby, being family friendly, etc)

After returning home, I sent out individualized thank you letters to everyone I met with that day. Well, a day or two came and went and I waited another two days before sending a following-up e-mail checking to see if the timeline had been extended and nothing! She hasn’t responded, and it’s now been a week since my interview, well past the “one to two day window” she gave me. I never had an employer respond to me so quickly before and give me overwhelming positive signs, and then disappear with no response. Is this what I should expect on the rest of my job searching?

Pretty much, yes.

Interviewers are often overly ambitious in the timelines they give candidates. I’m sure your interviewer really intended to make a decision within two days when she told you that — but it’s easy for those intentions to get derailed by all kinds of things:  higher priority work that comes up unexpectedly, a decision-maker who’s busy or out sick, a budget question that needs to be resolved before they can make the hire, a reference check process that takes longer than expected, and so forth. Or, frankly, it’s possible that they have an offer out to someone else and they’re waiting for an answer from that person before they get back to you; if that person turns down the offer, you might get an offer yourself.

Should she have updated you about the delay, especially when you reached out to ask? Of course. And she still may be planning to. Candidates often assume they’re being ignored when they don’t hear back within a day or two, when in fact the employer may just be sidetracked with other priorities, or might be waiting until they have something definite to report before getting back to you. (I’m a huge fan of responding to people even if it’s just to say “I don’t know anything yet, but I’ll let you know when I do,” but there are a lot of people out there who don’t respond until they have something definite to say. This is annoying but common.)

Of course, it’s also possible that this company really is just disappearing on you. It’s very, very, very common. But I don’t think it’s time to assume that that’s happening here yet.

Stay patient for a while longer, and good luck!

{ 20 comments… read them below }

  1. e.e*

    I once had this happen…although I did eventually get an email apologising and saying that they were working on their business plan (it was a fairly small company). Took three months before any progress was made!

  2. Christine*

    This happened to me once! My interview was with a small company in a city that was a 4-hour drive away from where I was living at the time. I drove down for the interview, had great rapport with the manager. As she walked me out to my car, she was giving me advice on what neighborhoods to look for housing! And then I never heard from them ever again. Hopefully you had better luck.

  3. Anonymous*

    Remember this one rule of thumb: People are generally fickle assholes. Always keep that in mind and you will never be disappointed again.

    1. Anonymous*

      At the risk of turning this into another ‘swearing at work’ thread, I prefer It is wrong to believe evil of others, but seldom a mistake. :-)

  4. Aaron*

    Just another data point that I’ve worked alongside people who think it’s fine not to respond to candidates as a way of delaying a decision. (Like AAM, I don’t understand this either. I think it’s very unprofessional. But this doesn’t seem to correlate at all with other aspects of a good workplace, so don’t let this sour you on the job.)

    We did later hire lots of these people, so stay positive. If I were you I’d send another upbeat follow-up (maybe in another week) saying you’re still very excited for the position, and you completely understand that they may not be able to tell you much new, but you were wondering if they had any guess as to what the timeframe might look like. Then the HR person feels like they can answer your question (e.g. “another few weeks”) even if they can’t make you an offer.

    1. Josh S*

      Thanks for your comment. I do, however, have to nitpick a minor thing in your first sentence: “Just another data point…”

      It’s not a data point, it’s an anecdote. And as Roger Brinner once said, “The plural of anecdote is not data.”


    2. LW*

      Hi Aaron,
      I’m the original letter writer. As I stated below, HR responded to my email (on a Saturday, which was surprising) and told me they got wrapped up in a few things so they pushed their decision aside until this Monday. She went on to say how they thought I was a great fit and had growth potential, so stayed tuned. Still nothing, which I know happens, but they keep giving me dates and then nothing happens. Do I followup again at the end of the week anyway or assume that this is a lost cause?

  5. bob*

    “Is this what I should expect on the rest of my job searching? ”

    Yes, yes it is I’m sorry to say and it’s only getting worse. I could write about at least 5 of those jerkoffs right now but it’s not my thread. Heck I’ll even name names!

  6. Long Time Admin*

    If and when they do make you an offer, do not suspend your job search! Until the day you are actually sitting at your desk at that place, consider everything still up in the air. Employers are total jerks and think nothing of pulling the rug out from under employees feet.

    Hopefully, I will be completely wrong and you will find a wonderful job with a good company.

    Just be forewarned.

  7. LW*

    AAM- thank you for posting my letter! This isn’t the first time I felt things went great in an interview and never heard from them again. However, this is the first time a company has expressed clear interest in me then disappeared. I received an answer back from e-mail this morning stating that they pushed the decision back to this week, so I appreciate it her at least getting back to me. Whether or not this is good news, I guess we’ll see!

  8. Phyr*

    Some companies might un-intentionally play the waiting game. Or something could have come up. I would say wait a few more days then give them a call. then if you don’t get a response or if you get a no you can continue your search. I would definatly suggest looking into working with a hiring agent. This way if they would get some kind of answer.

  9. Anonymous*

    My current employer was like that.

    HR: “We’re really excited. You hopefully will hear something by the end of the week.” Two weeks later, nothing. I still had other interviews, so I wrote “I’m just checking to see where things stand. I have other requests for interviews, but I’d like to know where we are at before we move on with the others.” (i.e., I liked you enough and don’t want to waste time if I don’t have to.) No response. Went on the other interview. Two days after that (about a month after the interview with the first joint) I got an offer from said first joint. It actually blew me out of the water, because I figured if they were still interested, they would have at least said so in reply to my interim email. The silence I took as “we moved in other directions.”

  10. Sabrina*

    Yeah I would say you have to get used to it. I’ve never had it where they were practically offering it to me as I walked out the door, but I have had it go well where they were introducing me to folks, showing me my desk, etc. and then nothing. That’s happened several times, I just expect to never hear anything and then I’m pleasantly surprised if I do!

  11. Helena*

    I had a similar experience with a long delay (several months, when they had said a week.) Turns out the decision-maker had a sudden tragic death in his family and went on extended bereavement leave. The lesson here: don’t push too much, because you never know when you might be putting your foot in it with enthusiastic follow-up. I felt awful about how angry I’d been at being ignored (thank goodness I’d only complained to my girlfriends and not to the company.) Fair warning for “e-mail your interviewer.”
    That said, pursuing other opportunities can speed the process along on their end. Calling with “I have another offer” produced the offer I eventually accepted with one foot-dragging company.

  12. Anonymous*

    I had a similar experience with a long delay (several months, when they had said a week.) Turns out the decision-maker had a sudden tragic death in his family and went on extended bereavement leave. The lesson here: don’t push too much, because you never know when you might be putting your foot in it with enthusiastic follow-up. I felt awful about how angry I’d been at being ignored (thank goodness I’d only complained to my girlfriends and not to the company.) Fair warning for “e-mail your interviewer.”

    Sounds more like you managed to avoid getting stuck in a company which couldn’t do things whenever staff members were absent. So long as the follow up email was polite, there’s no “fair warning” – it should have been dealt with by whoever took over the manager’s responsibilities during the bereavement leave.

  13. Anonymous*

    I had a delay of about 3 months between an intial application and interview. Thankfully the (3rd party) recruiter did contact me every few weeks if only to say “Still no progress”. Then when the interview went well and an offer was made, it all happened incredibly quickly.

    I found the best course of action was to keep applying for other roles, apart from anything, to use up the nervous energy from waiting.

  14. Jen Hanlon*

    As a recruiter who is also wearing several other HR hats, I can tell you firsthand that I’ve done this to candidates inadvertently… and I apologize to any who might be reading this! AAM is spot on – there are so many factors that influence a hiring process, and 95% of those are out of the HR person’s control, and it doesn’t mean they purposely delaying OR blowing you off. It’s very common for hiring managers to delay a decision for lots of reasons that have nothing to do with the candidate (budget is always a big one), and then the Recruiter has to try to keep in touch without really being able to say anything. It’s tough and I know I don’t have a perfect record. My advice to candidates is to assume positive intent and feel free to check back via email periodically.

  15. LW*

    Hey everyone!
    Just wanted to provide an update. I got the job offer today! I was excited and relieved to have my job search time be cut short this time. A note to anyone else who else is stuck in the after the interview waiting game, the HR rep gave me some great feedback. She said she appreciated that I checked in once with a polite short e-mail to know I was still interested when the decision slowed down. She did note that some other candidates in the past would send unprofessional e-mails, full of spelling and grammar errors, so it was refreshing to see someone know how to do the professional follow-up. I am now thankful for the 5 times I read the e-mail before I sent it! Good luck to everyone else, and thank you for posting my question :)

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