is this an unofficial rejection?

A reader writes:

It’s been 3 weeks since I had my first interview with a company. I’ve tried umpteen times to contact the hiring manager and HR manager (both of whom interviewed me). I’ve only left one message with the HR manager. They are still advertising for the postition. I’m 99.9999% sure I won’t get a second interview.

I’d like to close the loop. Do I…
Send an email thanking them for the interview opportunity, should something not work out… etc.?
Keep calling til I get a voice and get officially rejected?
Move on?

Don’t close the loop.

It’s certainly possible that they have indeed taken you out of the running and are just rudely not bothering to tell you (which is very, very common and very, very callous). But it’s also perfectly possible that you’re still a viable candidate. Hiring often takes a lot longer than candidates think it will. Three weeks isn’t actually that long in the world of hiring. They have lots of other things demanding their attention.

And if you are still a candidate and you send an email like the one you described, you’re going to sound like you’re prone to jumping to premature conclusions, or self-defeatist, or taking yourself out of consideration.  There’s no point in doing that.

You also shouldn’t keep calling. That’s annoying. Their behavior is annoying too, of course — they should return your damn message — but calling “umpteen times” is way too aggressive. Even if you’re not leaving messages, their phones may show that you’ve been calling. So stop that.  When you call, leave a message (“This is Joe Smith, I remain really interested in the X position I interviewed for, and I hoped to find out your timeline for getting back to candidates”) and be done with it. And do it once, twice at most. You can’t force them to get back to you, and in the process of trying, you risk kicking yourself out of the running for being overly aggressive.

Look, I understand you want closure. It’s frustrating to sit around and wonder when you’ll be contacted, or even if you’ll be contacted. It’s stressful and anxiety-producing and nerve-wracking.

So stop. Give yourself closure in your own head. Move on mentally.  You don’t need a formal rejection to do that, and if they get back in touch down the road, it’ll be a nice surprise rather something you’re waiting for and stressing over.

{ 45 comments… read them below }

  1. Angela C*

    Also, they may be under some mandate to advertise the job for x number of days. My organization must advertise it internally for ten days, then externally for 14 days (even if we find the perfect candidate immediately!

  2. Ryan*

    Disagree trememdously.

    Let’s look at the facts. At best, this is a place that communicates very poorly and can’t take 2 minutes to tell you “Hi X, we’re still interviewing and we’ll let you know.” or some variation of that. Is that really a place you want to work? Imagine how poorly things are run day to day if someone can’t do something simple as pick up the phone to return your call or respond to your email.

    They aren’t interested. If they are they’d let you know by now but probably just hope you go away or are too disorganized to even let you know. It doesn’t take three weeks to decide if you want to interview someone again. Ever ask out someone out for a 2nd date of 3 weeks of no contact? Same principle here.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Disagree with your disagreement :)

      First of all, many, many, many (possibly even a majority) of companies don’t bother to send rejections anymore. I’ve ranted about this many times; it’s horribly rude. It’s also become normal, and that’s just the reality of it. For people with the luxury of refusing to work with the huge number of employers that operate this way, great. More power to you. But most people don’t have that luxury.

      There are TONS of people out there who will tell you that far more than 3 weeks went by before they got a second interview or a job offer. It happens all the time. It’s irresponsible to tell someone that 3 weeks without contact absolutely means the employer isn’t interested.

      Three weeks is not that long in the world of hiring. Decisions makers go out of town, interviews get pushed back, higher priorities come up — there are tons of reasons why it can take longer.

      1. Ryan*

        Your experience and data set is clearly different that mine but I have NEVER had an experience (nor known anyone who has) where someone has taken 3+ weeks to make me an offer or invite me in for a second round interview. Actually, I take that back. I did get a 2nd round once after 3 weeks but they at least responded to my thank you emails after roudn 1 and I wound up knowing some of people in that group.

        That being said, I don’t know where you get this “…TONS of people out there…” data point. From previous posts on the blog? Ancedotally? You should do a poll here to see what others have experience. Maybe I only hear about the negative cases? I’d be curious to see the results.

        1. Kat*

          Years ago I could send a resume, interview, receive a job offer and start work in the same week. Those days have passed. I remember about 9 years ago when I moved to my current state, I just couldn’t understand why it took prospective employers weeks if not months to call you for an interview (if they did). I received my first job in this state at one of the big banks after sending a resume in October. I basically forgot about it (but was a bit pissed after two weeks with no acknowledgement) and in December I was called for an interview. I started the job in late January.

          I learned that, at least for bigger companies, the 4th quarter is their slowest hiring time. There are vacations, budgets to figure out (“I know we advertised this, but is it in our budget to actually hire someone at this moment”), and that pesky fact that for the past few years the applicant pool has grown by leaps and bounds. Three weeks is on the low end. Yes employers should at least contact those they are interested in (and those they are not by a mail merge rejection letter) and let them know some sort of timeline, but MANY people are experiencing weeks- and even months-long interview/hiring processes.

          I’ve only had one quick interview, start date process and that was through a temp agency, and sadly THAT was the one job in hindsight that I should NOT have taken – poor management.

          1. Anonymous*

            That’s interesting how you brought up the idea of the budget in the 4th quarter and the notion of “do we have it in the budget for a new hire.” I had interviewed for a company in the 4th quarter, but I didn’t get the job. However, in the 1st quarter of the new year, the company suddenly made news with huge cutbacks, including the position I had interviewed for. At the time (and somewhat still), I wonder if they knew about that upcoming cutback. If they did or did not, then why do they bother interviewing if they have to lay off the person a month or two later?

            I could only imagine how the new hire felt. It must have felt like a huge waste of time to go through the hiring process and training only to be dumped at the curb through no fault of their own.

        2. Kelly O*

          Clearly I’m running in the wrong circles then, because I’d say a substantial percentage of the time it takes at least that long to hear back anything at all. I won’t give a specific percentage since I don’t have hard data to back it up, but it’s definitely greater than 50%.

          Now, as someone else pointed out, five or ten years ago, whole different story, but things have changed tremendously in those five or ten years. Heck, even working temporary positions and longer-term temp jobs sometimes take a while to get back to you.

          I will give you my husband’s new job as an exception to my norm – he interviewed in the morning at 10, and they called him at noon to make him an offer, he filled out his paperwork that day, and started the following Monday. That is most assuredly the exception, not the rule, at least as far as my experience goes.

          1. Susan*

            Ryan, I had a three month gap between a first and second intvw, and had forgotten about the job when they recontacted me (assuming they had filled it wo rejection notice). This was a large bank who also had a budget issue to bypass and difficulty getting everyone in the office@ the same time for the second round table intvw. I’m finding two months+ is common these days for the intvw process.

          2. Kim Stiens*

            I do temp hiring for my workplace, and just last week I found myself calling people who’d sent in their applications back in July. At my previous job, which was fast food, we kept applications on file for 6 months, and when we needed to hire, we’d go through all the applications we had, so we were often calling people months after they’d applied. I imagine every workplace and industry is different, though.

    2. fposte*

      I also think that the position of “if they treat you that way, you don’t want to work for them” gets overstated at times; it’s a solace if you’re not getting the job, but honestly, most people who are incomeless and seeking work aren’t likely to consider a company’s tendency toward slow movement a reason to be happier broke. Even if the slowness does mean something significant about the organization, it doesn’t necessary mean that it’s a fiery hell to work in.

      1. Ryan*

        That’s true. My view on the above was that if a firm is that disorganized or lackadaisical about hiring then that could be a huge red flag. Slow is not necessarily disorganized though sometimes slow is the result of being disorganized.

  3. Kelly O*

    If they get any federal funding at all, there may be more hoops they have to jump through.

    I once worked somewhere that had fairly strict rules about how many people you had to interview, and a documentation-heavy process of explaining why Candidate A got the job when the others did not. (We even had requirements about interviewing minorities and documenting why, if a minority wasn’t hired, the other candidate was more qualified/better suited for the job.)

    There were times my boss really had things narrowed down to a couple of strong candidates early on, but we HAD to keep interviewing to suit our larger organization’s requirements. Frustrating for everyone, trust me.

  4. Anonymous*

    I interviewed for a place back in 2009. Technically (key word), I do not know if I am still in the running or have been rejected. Of course, I’m not stupid and know I am not in the running anymore. It’s been two years exactly. However, I am keeping it in mind that if I ever see that place advertise for that position or something in my field that is just a little bit different, I won’t consider applying UNLESS I find out there has been some changes in the higher ups, particularly with the person I had interviewed with.

    How about using that “Email Your Interviewer” website, say in a little longer time period? I’d say don’t do it now or else they might very well know who it had come from, despite the anonymity of the website.

  5. Anonymous*

    Answer for the unofficial poll:
    Twice I’ve waited more than 3 weeks for the second interview.
    Twice I’ve waited less than 3 weeks from start to rejection.
    It just depends on the company…as AAM said, there’s a wide variance in company culture and policy and you never know what you’re walking into.

  6. Anonymous*

    Here’s my answer to the “poll” – the last position I was hiring for did take slightly over three weeks to respond to the candidates. It certainly wasn’t planned that way, but a very busy time at work plus unexpected family emergencies equals a long turnaround time. Thankfully I had warned our candidates that it could take longer than our expected timeline – but I never though it would go that long over!

    Not only is our new hire working out great, but I was able to pass along a good opinion of one of the other candidates the other day. That’s always nice!

  7. BiCoastal Curious*

    For my last 2 jobs the process from start to offer was 4 months for the first and 3 months for the second.

    The first one was excruciating because I really, really wanted the job, more than any job I’ve ever had. But I just rolled with the process. After interviewing with a technical HR recruiter and my potential immediate boss I spent a grueling marathon day interviewing with about 10 staff members, so I knew I was in the running. I sent individual thank you emails to all the people I met, and checked in once a few weeks later expressing my continued interest and enthusiasm then promptly went on with my life. Whatever happen was now out of my control. Four months later I had the job.

    1. Lynda*

      It’s hard to go on with your life when it’s the job you really want, and other choices will take you out of the running for that job. It’s not comfortable to take whatever comes, for example, and then tell the company I’m leaving after 2 – 3 months because I got a better offer. That doesn’t even include jobs which would involve relocation. I once went through 5 interviews, including simulations of the job itself, only to be rejected after 2 months of interviewing. The last interview included them telling me that they personally knew 2 of my references, people whom I absolutely KNOW gave me good recommendations. I still can’t understand how a company could justify doing that much interviewing with somebody they eventually rejected.

      1. just another hiring manager...*

        “I still can’t understand how a company could justify doing that much interviewing with somebody they eventually rejected.”

        I get 200+ applications, reject 100+ applications for not being qualified, reject another 25+ for not following directions, phone screen 25 applications and reject 20, invite the top 5 in for in-person interviews, reject 3 more, bring in the top 2 for a final interview. Both have the experience I’m looking for, both seem to be a strong match for the culture of our office. I’m torn between the top 2 candidates, so I check their references. Both have glowing references, but one just has stronger references.

        Someone is getting rejected after all that effort on both our parts. That’s just how hiring works. Don’t take it personally. This is business.

        1. Ric*

          Of the 5 that you invite in for an interview, do you inform those who’ve been rejected or just leave them hanging? It’s not the rejection, it’s the common courtesy to at least communication, IMHO

  8. Harry*

    I think this is contingent of what type of position this is hiring for and how much of a match was the candidate.

    No matter what, if the company went as far as to schedule an interview with the candidate, I feel they should at least have the courtesy to update the candidate within 2 weeks. Also, the lack of response should only be a negative reflection on the company’s HR. My wife works at such company. The company, employees, its benefits, pay, work are all excellent with the exception of its HR. They are severely understaffed and moved EXTREMELY slow.

  9. Emily*

    If you’re in the USA maybe the large number of candidates that probably interviewed for the job is slowing down the process? Maybe they interviewed a lot of great people (including yourself :) ) and this is making the decision more difficult. I know it sucks they haven’t sent you a timeline but I wouldn’t write them off after only three weeks.

  10. Nathan A.*

    I’ve seen second interviews happen two weeks afterwards, or up to a month afterwards. The latest position I applied for, I was offered the job a little over three weeks after I interviewed. Since it’s a very large company, I am going to guess that three weeks may be the standard line to draw for someone to get back to you about your potential to be hired.

    If you interviewed and three weeks have passed, follow up with a phone call if the information was given to you voluntarily. This is just to get a status update – if anything. If they say “we are still considering applicants”, this could be true, or it could be just a nice way to get you off the phone. Either way, I would move along until (if) they actually contact you. If you are being diligent in your job search, you should be busy enough to let this go, because you should have other plans in the works (and not be resting your laurels on this). The only organization I can see taking longer than a month to make a decision with any degree of seriousness is a government job.

    1. Nathan A.*

      If the hiring manager is serious about following up with you, and you have a good chance of getting hired, they will at least bother to give you a business card (you get the email and the phone number that way).

      1. Nathan A.*

        Oh and you might want to take into consideration what Kelly O said about having to keep interviewing applicants even if strong applicants have already been found. You may have been on a “courtesy interview” instead of an actual one.

  11. Anonymous*

    My “pool” results:
    For my current position, I applied in July early 2010, 1st late interview August 2010, 2nd interview mid October 2010, 3rd interview early January 2011, offer early February 2011…

    Previous position, I applied in mid May 2006, interview mid June 2006, offer mid July 2006…

    These were for similar jobs in different locations within the same larger company. It varies widely in my experience…

  12. KayDay*

    I am 75% sure that you did not get the job, BUT… I agree that hiring time can very widely. I once applied, interviewed, and received an offer within a three day period. Another time, it took two months. Back in my internship days, there were a couple of positions where I had a phone interview after the posted start date (it those cases, I’m assuming I was a “back up” candidate). I have also never been notified that I was rejected for a position.

    What I have learned from all this: Continue to behave as if you have not gotten the job. Keep sending out applications, networking, whatever. Do not stop until you have an offer letter in hand.

    You don’t want to “close the loop” as you say. Sometimes they may have a candidate they plan to hire, but that may fall through and you might be there second choice. In the world of jobs, it’s better to be sloppy seconds than unemployed ;)

    My only caveat (based on a couple of friends’ experiences) would be, if you strongly prefer company A, and had a great interview but haven’t heard from them, but then get an offer from less desirable company B, give company A a call/email and let them know you have another offer–that can sometimes get you a firm no we are interested, or yes, you are still in the running.

  13. Revanche*

    I wouldn’t jump to conclusions.

    I waited two weeks between interviews for my current job and a month for an offer. I now do my boss’s previous job and then some, and find hiring an incredibly onerous duty amid all my normal duties; I am responsible for running an entire department and doing all the recruiting start to finish while directly managing a staff of more than a dozen and remotely managing another 80. Squeezing in a good job of recruiting without any admin/tech/other support at all is a bit.challenging.

    I’ve had a colleague get hired by Twitter after waiting a year for a callback after the first interview.

    Sometimes, the hiring manager is also the person keeping the boat afloat, it’s an indication of how much work there is to be done and that the hiring part is problematic or hasn’t caught up to the needs, not necessarily reflective of the health or culture of the whole of the organization.

    1. just another hiring manager...*

      “Squeezing in a good job of recruiting without any admin/tech/other support at all is a bit.challenging.”


  14. Anonymous*

    Why would anyone ever withdraw their application? That’s a move which can never improve one’s position, making it a highly illogical step to take.

    For the record, my personal ‘best’ is sending in an application, and then 11 months later getting a rejection.

    1. Anonymous*

      I would only withdraw an application if I felt that I had a bad feeling through the interview.

      On a note not related to the comment I put this in response to, but I had completely forgotten about a job I sent in a resume for, only to have a rejection notice come through 3 months later. It was a “we found the candidate we felt best qualifies for the job.” I almost was tempted to write back and say “Um, thanks? But why bother writing now?” While I would agree that it is at least something, it makes me think that if no one in their first round was any good, they’d save some as back-ups.

      1. Anonymous*

        I would only withdraw an application if I felt that I had a bad feeling through the interview.

        That’s still no reason to withdraw – just turn down the offer if it is made.

        1. Anonymous*

          If you honestly knew from the interview that there was something wrong, whatever that may be, why would you waste their time in making you an offer when they can be contacting someone else? I would think that letting make an offer only to turn it down is rude.

          1. Anonymous*

            If you honestly knew from the interview that there was something wrong, whatever that may be, why would you waste their time in making you an offer when they can be contacting someone else? I would think that letting make an offer only to turn it down is rude.

            It’s not wasting their time – it’s gaining further information about how I perform at interview. Prematurely withdrawing an application means that you won’t get that feedback.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              It’s also wasting their time, to get something you want (feedback). That’s your call to make, but you should be aware that it IS a waste of their time.

            2. Anonymous*

              Wow, really? Once again, you interviewed, and there was something there – whether you saw something or heard something – you didn’t like. You would not withdraw your application for the sake of getting interview feedback from a company you found a problem with? Maybe you had a personality conflict with the interviewer, and you can tell that s/he totally disliked you from the moment you walked in. Therefore, you could not say anything right in your interview. You still want feedback from that person? It could be completely erroneous feedback just because they didn’t like you for whatever reason.

              Yup, that’s the feedback you want, right?

              Prematurely withdrawing an application means that you won’t get that feedback.

              Who is to say that keeping your application in to the very end, and being rejected, will give you feedback on your interview performance?

              1. Anonymous*

                You still want feedback from that person? It could be completely erroneous feedback just because they didn’t like you for whatever reason. Any information gained is weighted as appropriate.

                Who is to say that keeping your application in to the very end, and being rejected, will give you feedback on your interview performance?It doesn’t – but that situation would be no worse than prematurely declining.

            3. Anonymous*

              Basically, you are using the company and its time. When a company offers you a job, they usually offer to the person they want and believe who will take it. If you are the front-runner, and you have an bad inkling about the job, you should be fair.

              Wasting their time – pure and simple. Wasting your time too.

  15. Anonymous*

    Why would anyone ever withdraw their application? It’s a move which can never improve one’s position, and hence entirely illogical.

    For the record, my personal ‘best’ is sending in an application, and getting the rejection 11 months later.

    1. anon-2*

      I once “shut down” an interview process — but this was back in the 1980s. I will explain.

      I had been put on probation in my then-current position. I started looking for other jobs.

      I had a series of interviews — and had choice after the first interviews, #1, #2, #3. When I had a second interview at choice #1, and an offer in hand from #2 — I immediately terminated the process with #3 – declining my third interview.

      The reason – there was no need to drag them along. And in a small community of specialists — I didn’t want to do that to them. Good thing – some years later I wound up working under the manager who I had interviewed with at choice #3….

  16. dradis contact*

    My 2009 job search results:

    Hospital system A–never responded to my application. Went to a job fair where my position was advertised, spoke with the HR manager, who sent my resume to the HIM manager. Never responded.

    Hospital system B–scheduled interview three weeks after applying. Didn’t get the job.

    Hospital C–Scheduled interview the week after applying. Was interviewing other candidates when I followed up two weeks later.

    Hospital D–a government position at an air force base hospital. A three-week deadline to turn in the application packet. Six to eight weeks for them to evaluate the candidates and then schedule them for interviews. I never finished my application, because..

    Hospital system E–Applied over the 4th of July weekend. Contacted Tuesday, interviewed Thursday, HR called the next Tuesday and offered me the job.

    Three weeks, in this economy with so many steller job candidates applying, is too soon to throw in the towel.

  17. Elo*

    When I got offered the position I just accepted, it took them 1.5 – 2 months to start the interview process from when I applied to the position. Then, on top of that, after my phone and in-person interview, it took them 2.5 weeks to get back to me, and the reason my interviewer indicated was because there were so many qualified applicants to choose from (I don’t know how many, it may have been 3 or so). I was actually quite grateful that my principal interviewer contacted me each week a decision wasn’t made to keep me updated. It could be any number of reasons you don’t hear back right away. What if someone had to reschedule an interview? What if someone had to go on vacation? What if that person was out sick with the flu? What if there was something on HR’s end that needed to be taken care of before an offer could be extended?

    I’ve never worked in HR before, but I’ve been through the interviewing process countless times. I’ve had cases where I waited a month before I heard back on anything regarding a position. In a lot of cases, I never heard back at all (about a third of the time this is the case). And I just kept putting out applications, going to interviews, etc as if I’m a job seeker. Until I receive an official offer somewhere would I think about contacting an interviewer (just to see where they are in the hiring process… I think this is acceptable?) other than the follow up “thank you” email.

    Good luck, reader!

  18. anon-2*

    I might add one more comment to this thread — don’t stop looking.

    No job is yours until a formal offer letter of employment is extended to you.

    The good news is — if you do have an acceptable offer from company A, but really want to work at company B — you can use that as a leverage, to force company B off their butts, to take action one way or another.

    If YOU are a viable candidate, and the top candidate in a company’s queue, and they realize that if they don’t act they will lose any chance of hiring you — shutting down the interview cycle MIGHT cause a favorable reaction for you.

    It might not, either, but I can tell you from experience that companies sometimes think that way when the time-pressure tables are turned on them.

  19. Ric*

    Alison, thanks for taking the time to answer my question so thoroughly. I’ve moved on ‘mentally’ and I think if I see them withdraw the ad online, I might then send a “thank you for the interview…” email.

    I can see the hiring manager not bothering to officially respond, but I would’ve expected the HR person to at least have done so. Isn’t that part of their job? I’ve got other fish to fry now. Love this website and all the great comments!

Comments are closed.