everything went great but I didn’t get the job — what happened?

A reader writes:

I applied for a job at a hospital about 6 weeks ago. The interview went well,and after the interview the manager asked for my references and even asked me to sign a waiver. I thought I was a potential candidate, only to find out I did not get the offer. What happened?

You don’t have an offer until you have the offer.

It doesn’t matter how well the interview went, or whether they’ve checked your references, or even if they’ve told you that they love you and would love to bring you on board.

Until you have an actual offer, you have to assume there’s no offer.

Things change. Other candidates come along, decisions waver, budgets shift.

Never, ever count on an offer until you actually receive one.

{ 29 comments… read them below }

  1. Lina*

    That’s too bad. You are probably a strong candidate so don’t get discouraged. Perhaps the hospital will keep you in mind for other positions so thank them for interviewing you and tell them you are interested in other opportunities in the future. Don’t burn any bridges!

  2. Anonymous*

    A similar thing happened to me a couple of years ago. However, I made it to the second interview only for the CEO to figuratively tear my resume apart, even though he was obviously misinterpreting it (thinking my jobs and internships throughout college were signs of job hopping rather than gaining experience – I followed every job through from start to finish). However, the other interviewer from the first round was acting as if I was a major contender, but then that happened. Yes, stuff happens.

  3. Kim*

    AAM, I feel you’ve answered this question several times before. I sent a question over a month ago and it was never posted….just wondering if there is something specific you look for in choosing what to answer? Or perhaps your blog is TOO popular and your inbox is inundated with requests on a daily basis :)

    To this question-asker: Hang in there! I’ve had the same thing happen to me before, it’s very disappointing.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I do get way more questions than I can answer. Basically I look for those that are interesting, that aren’t way too long, that inspire me … but of course what grabs me can vary from day to day. Sometimes I answer a question the same day it arrives in my in-box because it just fits with my mood, and other times a question will sit for a few weeks before I get to it. (And of course, some I never get to at all, because I get around a dozen a day and can’t answer all of them — although I try to answer as many as I can, even if it’s just a short response that I don’t publish.) This one I actually answered because I have a headache and feel foggy but wanted to post something, and knew this would be short.

      All that said, I actually have yours in my to-answer queue … which tends to be somewhat backlogged!

      1. Kim*

        I completely understand, just didn’t know if I could go back and edit my question to make sure it “grabbed” you! Very glad to hear it will be answered eventually, I look forward to your thoughts.

  4. Anonymous*

    I have been in the same boat too. I would even go further and say you haven’t got the job until the contract has been signed.

    1. Lynda*

      Hah! I signed a contract as a salaried employee and a week and a half later they told me that they goofed and I was actually hourly. There was no negative fallout for me, but yikes! Pretty scary!

  5. Anonymous*

    Yep, never assume it’s a job offer until you get it (and the full terms) in writing.

    I just had a similar experience of being called for an impromptu phone interview and interview the following day. Both the HR person who called me and the manager immediately jumped into extolling the company as a great place to work and more dangerously, starting talking salary numbers and benefits (dangerous because I currently contract/consult after being laid off in 2010). The interview was 2 hours, I had a follow up phone interview and then another in person interview. After the last interview, they requested my references and that I fill out an employment application. The last time I had HR call me (about the references) was 2 weeks ago and it’s been total radio silence after going through 10 days of a hard sell. I was good about tuning out the comments about money during the interviews, but having that verbally dangled in front of me has made it hard to wait out the response. Especially because they behaved like they wanted to hire me.

      1. Anonymous*

        Hello Alison,

        I was offered an RN position last March 21 and was told that HR would be contacting. It’s almost two weeks since and I have yet to hear from their HR rep. I finally broke down and left her a message on Friday, March 30- did not get a call back. I called again – this time their mainline to ask if she was around and was informed that she was out until today, April 3. I don’t want to keep bugging the CNO, when I spoke to the CNO’s assistant last Friday, she was surprised to hear that I have not heard from their HR rep.
        What worries me is what you guys have stated – it’s not an offer until it’s in writing. The CNO and I exchanged emails on March 26 – she said to hang in there and she (the HR) will contact me. What should I do?

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Contact the CNO again and ask if she knows when you’re likely to hear from HR. Say that you’d like to get this finalized and are holding off closing out your job search until you have the offer.

  6. Anonymous*

    “Have you followed up to reiterate your interest and ask what their timeline is looking like? If not, definitely do!”

    It’s on my To-Do list for tomorrow. The hiring manager gave me his business card, so I’m going to e-mail the HR rep who initially contacted me and was handling the process and .cc the manager on it. In which I will state that I am still interested and was wondering what the timeline was because I haven’t heard anything in the past 2 weeks. And I had asked them about the timeline, especially because I’m working on a project right now that lasts through Halloween. They were slightly vague about it and the hiring manager had said he wouldn’t expect me to start until after the project finishes. But in the meanwhile, I was sort of expecting either a Yay! or Nay! from them instead of total silence.

  7. Rebecca*

    It is frustrating, and I’ve been there – twice in the last year! First time I had three interviews, was asked for my references (at least one was called), and salary was discussed, but they went with a different candidate. Second time I had the actual offer, but after exchanging a couple rounds of negotiations I got a call saying that the higher ups wanted to “redefine the position” and I would get a call in two weeks. Nothing ever happened. Sometimes things just don’t work out. And sometimes people are rude and leave you hanging. Keep your head up and keep on plugging along.

  8. Mephistopheles*

    Keep in mind, however, that while the people who interviewed you said that they loved you and that you were the best candidate, that things beyond their control can happen. A higher-up can say “no”, the position can just close, they are forced to do cutbacks before they actually hire you, etc.

    If the person who interviewed you did like you, maybe you should consider keeping in touch with them and adding them to your network. Find and add them on LinkedIn, and ask them to keep you in mind for anything else that fits your skills or if they know of anyone who could use you. Be sure to send thank you messages after your rejection!

  9. blair*

    I have been on back to back interviews now that I thought went really well. I spoke to the owner of the compnay on the first interview, which lasted 2 hours. We spoke about benifits, but not salary. She closed the interview by saying “think about it, and if you are interested contact me.” So the next day I contacted her in a thank you letter, and stated my interest. She contacted me, and basically said they went with another candidate.
    The second interview, I was given a tour, spoke about salary, benifits,,ect, ect. The manager said he would be out of town for 3 days, and on the 3rd day I sent him a thank you letter,,expressing my interest. I received an email from him, that he had a couple more interviews scheduled,and would contact me with a decision by the end of the week..That time ended today, and I have heard nothing. So I feel that they have made an offer to someone else.
    Here is my concern. I have less than perfect credit. I do not have a police record, and I have good references. With 2 great back to back interviews, only to be passed over, could it be that my credit standing alone would prevent me from an offer? If so, would it be ok to call the respective HR dept. and ask if it were my background check that prevented me from an offer? In addition, if it were that, can I have privy to that information?
    I can’t make an attempt to clear up something that I do not know turns up on a report. It is frustrating, please advise Thanks, Blair

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      It could be, but it could also be that someone else was simply the stronger candidate. It happens all the time, even when you’re a good candidate too. If they did run your credit and denied you on that basis, I think you’re supposed to get a letter saying so.

  10. Anonymous*

    At least they told you that you didn’t get the job. MANY companies think that is a bygone luxury

  11. Will*

    I was hoping if you could give me some advices. I have an interview with a hiring manager and two technical leads last week. The interview came out pretty good. Even the two technical leads gave me a good feedback that I could solve all of their technical question. The manager told me that the hiring process take at least one week and he has 2 positions open. He told me after they select the two qualified candidates they will set up with an interview with the VP for the final round before submit to HR. It takes about one month. It’s been over a week and I didn’t heard anything from the hiring manager. I even send him a thank you letter. Is this mean that I didn’t get selected for the qualified candidate so I didn’t get any feedback from him ?

  12. Anonymous*

    i was told that i was hired. i quit my current job and everything, RIGHT after my last day at my current job i got an email saying that im not going to be employed. the best part is, they even gave me a uniform, orientation, and a schedule for my first shifts….wtf happened?

  13. Anonymous*

    Yep, met all the company desires/qualifications for the position, had an employee in the company recommending me, did well in the interviews, and gave 3 references (all of whom if contacted would have said very positive things). Thought I’d be sure to get at least a second interview…. Job hunting takes the life out of me.

  14. Jeremy*

    Made it through the second round of interviews and the company told me they were looking to hire someone pretty soon. They told me they would let me know this week.

    So I’ve been waiting to hear from them all this week. Tomorrow is Friday and I’m scared they’re never going to get back to me because I really want the job. Tried to practice for every interview question, so I believe that went well.

    If I don’t hear from them by Friday, I’m going to call on Monday and tell them how interested I am working for them and to try and nodge them for an answer; but politely!

      1. Jeremy*

        email …. right!

        *breathing* Good things come to those who wait. *exhaling*

        It seems the longer I wait, the more I’m talking myself into they went with somebody else. Which is silly. The week isn’t even over yet plus I have to keep telling myself that a week is incredible short time. Logically, I know all this. There silence at this point means absolutely nothing.

        I know all that but it doesn’t change the fact that I’m anixous to hear back from them in the timeline they promised me.


  15. shannon*

    I have a question, Can employers search your previous job by your ss#? I don’t list all mine because when I was young I job hopped (regret it now) I would get a job and quit without a notice. I did this about 4 times. I dont list them because I was young and naive. Now that Im grown and really need a job I think I messed myself up. I had an interview with a company and she told me I had the job then they called and said they decided to go with another canidate. I am wondering if they can search my background through my ss# and see all the jobs I had?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      No. The closest they could get is with a service called The Work Number, where they could see any employment associated with your SS#, if those employers had registered with The Work Number, which most don’t, especially smaller employers. So say you worked for one big employer who did register with The Work Number and four smaller employers who didn’t. The only one that would show up on the report would be the first.

  16. Shannon*

    Thanks for the feedback! Do you think you could give me advice as to if I should go ahead and list these jobs on my resume? They were medical jobs, Dr. office, contract labor, etc.. I did gain knowledge working their and the skills would look great. I was just a new graduate right out of nursing school and didn’t know were I really wanted to be so, I tried several. If you do advice that I list them how should I explain my reasons for “hopping”? Any advice would be helpful I have mouths to feed and I am in need of help.

  17. Shannon*

    Can I email it to you? Maybe you can help me pin-point my problem area. If not would leaving the dates and numbers off of my resume look bad? Also, everytime I apply for a job it asks “Is it okay for us to contact this employer” Would it look bad if I check no?

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