asking your interviewer to let you know if you didn’t get the job

A reader writes:

During a recent interview, the interviewers were telling me about their expected timeline for making a decision, and I barely caught myself before saying something like, “Well, can you please let me know either way?”

Do you think that it is appropriate to diplomatically say something like that in the course of a conversation about timeline? If so, what is the best way to phrase it? Obviously, I feel it shouldn’t have to be said, and I would think it might be taken as a little insulting by some. On the other hand, it might be effective in getting the result I want, which is to be told if I wasn’t chosen rather than get blown off.

The result that you want isn’t really to be told either way; the result that you want is to get the job. And so no, I wouldn’t ask this question, because people who think it’s a no-brainer that they get back to all candidates will be insulted by it. And besides, it probably won’t work anyway.

It’s absolutely true that lots of employers don’t bother to get back to candidates to let them know that they’ve been rejected. And it’s rude and inconsiderate, and yes, widespread. But those people probably aren’t going to get back to you even if you say this in the interview. (After all, they also ignore direct requests for an answer via post-interview emails and phone calls; a request during the interview is going to be just as ineffective.) And the ones who will get back to you don’t need to be reminded.

Also, asking this question shifts the power dynamics a bit. The best interviews truly feel like two-way conversations; you’re both making a decision about whether this is a good fit. Ending the conversation with “will you please let me know either way?” undermines that and makes you suddenly look less confident. It’s pretty minor, but it’s there.

You’re better off just accepting when you interview that some rude interviewers won’t get back to you. It’s part of the deal. But the good ones will, and they’ll do it regardless.

{ 75 comments… read them below }

  1. Work It

    I usually ask this question but will stop now. The last time I asked, the interviewer said “Oh yes, absolutely!” but they didn’t let me know. It’s pointless to ask.

    1. Kate2

      Agreed. I once had an interviewer actually say, without a prompt from me at all “I make it a point to get back to every single person who we interviewed, regardless of the outcome. I think it’s very rude when people don’t give job seekers this courtesy” I honestly wanted to hug the guy.

      Yeah, he never get back to me.

  2. Eric

    What about something along the lines of “I look forward to hearing from you once you have made a decision”?

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      Sure. I’d even leave off “once you’ve made a decision.” Again, remember you’re both making a decision, not just them. But now I’m really being nitpicky.

  3. Joey

    I thought it was just me. I’ve heard that request and always interpret it in my mind as “would you mind notifying me when you offer the job to someone else.”. Because why would you need to remind me to call you if I offer you the job. Its small but it comes off that you’re expecting to get rejected.

  4. fposte

    There’s even a touch of “Could you take my input on your hiring procedure?” that’s a little bit offputting. Not that it’s an unreasonable thing to ask–and you shouldn’t even have to ask–but that the effect probably isn’t what an applicant wants.

    1. A Bug!

      If you shouldn’t have to ask, you shouldn’t ask at all, in circumstances like these. It’s good to be assertive, generally, but you have to pick your battles or you go from assertive to bossy.

      This is sort of like asking people if they washed their hands when you see them leaving the washroom. The people who did will be a little offended that you think they need to be told, and the people who didn’t will say “Absolutely” and go on with their day (or they’ll also be offended because it’s none of your business). Maybe it’ll affect the behavior of a small portion of people who didn’t know that it’s proper to wash one’s hands after using the toilet, but for the majority it’s going to accomplish nothing, and at worst it’s going to reflect poorly on you.

      1. fposte

        Exactly. And if you’re a company that doesn’t do that on purpose (which is a jerk thing, but somebody still might want to work there), you’re just going to be annoyed by somebody’s request that you do something different.

  5. Tiffany In Houston

    I think it’s most frustrating of all when you have taken the time to go interview, and since I am currently employed that means I am taking PTO. I have had several interviews in the last few months and in about half of them, I haven’t heard a thing or the companies I spoke with refuse to circle back with the recruiter I was working with.

    If I submit an app on a company website or to a posting on a job board, I don’t expect to be acknowledged. When I take time to interview, I do. It’s rude and leaves a very bad taste in the mind of the interviewee.

    1. Joey

      Yeah, I hate when people say ” then that’s a company you probably wouldnt want to work for anyway.”. Because the reality is that you’ve likely worked at a good job where that’s their MO.

      But theres always an excuse. It’s either we don’t have the time/capacity or there’s disagreement on who should it. Some say the hiring manager, but if you ask hiring managers a lot of them think it should come from HR.

      1. Generalista

        I work in HR, and I am usually the one sending the rejection emails. I think it would be better coming from the hiring manager, since in most cases the only contact I have with the candidate is to schedule the interview. So my “thanks for interviewing with us, but… blah blah blah” feels so impersonal.

        I’m curious about how other companies do this–is it the norm for these emails to come from HR or the hiring manager?

        1. Anonymous

          I do the resume screening at my company so I am the one asking them if they have specific experience. I schedule interviews, but don’t conduct them. I’m also the one that sends the rejection email. I’m not the hiring manager, but I guess I’m their main contact for info.

        2. Joey

          I make hiring managers do it. If you have the authority to select who gets an offer then with it comes the responsibility to follow up with the people you didn’t hire. Besides its common courtesy to follow up yourself instead of asking someone else to do your dirty work.

          1. Joey

            Let me clarify. Hiring managers reject the folks they phone screen or interview. Everyone else gets an automated rejection once the position is filled.

          2. Ask a Manager Post author

            I agree with Joey — it should come from the hiring manager, assuming there’s been an interview. That said, I know some companies that are overly afraid of being sued make all rejections come from HR, so they can control exactly what’s said.

            1. fposte

              I bet that most job-seekers wouldn’t care if it came from the CEO or the janitor as long as somebody told them what the heck was going on.

              1. Macea

                Fposte, I know that is how I feel too, I do not care who tells me as long as some one tells me.

            2. KayDay

              I would agree that it should come from hiring managers; but in general I have do not know personally of any situations where the hiring manager actually did it. The very few actual rejections I have received (as opposed to the many never-heard-backs) have come from either HR or an assistant. In the cases where I have have been the “screen-er” for applications, I was always the person who did the rejecting.

              I think hiring managers are reluctant to contact any candidates themselves because they are worried that the candidates might start contacting them directly with questions or pleas to be hired.

              1. Anonymous

                I’m with KayDay on this – I think in theory we all think it should come from the Hiring Manager but I cannot think of any instance in my career either working or looking for a new job where a Hiring Manager has sent out a rejection. Both small/large companies so I don’t know. I think at the end of the day, candidates don’t even expect to hear back from a Hiring Manager but they expect to hear back from annnnybody whether or not they are moving forward in the process as a candidate/offer or if they didn’t make the cut.

            3. Lily

              I am not supposed to tell unsuccessful candidates before HR sends out letters and HR only sends out letters after the successful candidate has signed the contract. This can take months and be awkward with internal candidates who I have to continue working with, but it is their departmental procedure, so none of my business, and I’ll be treading on HR’s toes if I make suggestions, right?

              1. Ask a Manager Post author

                No! You’re a manager there? You absolutely are entitled to push HR to do things differently and to explain the impact on the people and business that HR is allegedly supporting. In fact, you should — HR needs to hear how their policies are playing out in order to realize when they need to be changed.

        3. Anon2

          I’ve applied to a couple of internal job postings in the last year and did not get either. Both times I was informed via email from the internal HR recruiter – even though for one of them it was in my department and I see/speak to the hiring manager everyday. It’s also clear now that it’s a form letter, because it also offers to contact the hiring manager for feedback from the interview. So far I’ve asked for feedback both times and got it once (from the job in my department) – thankfully from reading AAM I did not harrass (ie, email) the other department when I received no response to that request.

        4. Anonymous

          I’m an HR type – and expect all interviewed candidates to be contacted by the hiring manager. As people have said – the candidates bothered to come to interview, so we bother to let them know. On rare occasions I will agree with the hiring manager that I will speak to unsuccessful candidates, but this is only if I’ve been in the interview, and if waiting for the manager to do it will cause a delay. We usually let people know within a week – earlier where possible.
          However, I have to hold my hands up and say we don’t send rejection emails to candidates who aren’t shortlisted, although our recruitment system will show their status as ‘sorry, you’ve been unsuccessful’.

  6. Wilton Businessman

    You have to project a positive attitude. “I look forward to working with you!” would be my response. They won’t get back to you if you don’t get the job even if you ask.

    1. fposte

      I’m with you on the positive attitude, but we always get back to people who don’t get the job, and we’re not the only ones.

  7. Desundial

    It’s so frustrating when companies don’t let you know “either way”, especially when they chase you agressively in the beginning, then nothing at the end.

  8. Scott Woode

    The one I like the best is “We’ll be in touch.” It leaves it open-ended to both parties, projects confidence, and shows a positive outlook on the budding relationship. I’ve used it before and it seems to work nicely.

    1. Anonymous

      Grammar question: Does “We’ll be in touch” mean “we” (the company), will be in touch (with you, the candidate); or “we” will be in touch (with each other). I think it’s the former, but what does everyone else think?

      1. Esra

        To me it would be a bit strange. When I say we/I’ll be in touch, I generally mean my organization/I will be reaching out. For someone to say “We’ll be in touch” and be expecting to hear from me is odd.

      2. Anonymous

        Subject vs. object. “We’ll be in touch” means that “we” the company will contact you (implied subject).

        “Let’s keep in touch!” is the proper way to phrase it for the other meeting. The subject is “us” which explicitly refers to both the talker and listener. The verb implies we’ll talk to each other.

        Your alternative that uses “we” as both subject and object keeps giving me horrible mental images of a hiring manager asking to snuggle with the interview candidate.

        1. Anonymous

          After the stories on this site, I wouldn’t be surprised if a hiring manager with no sense of personal space did candidates-snuggles. :)

    2. Ask a Manager Post author

      Scott, that’s what I say too. Well, I say “I’ll be in touch,” but same thing.

      Anonymous, it means they’ll be in touch with you, not with each other.

      1. Anonymous

        I’m the Anonymous from above. When I say each other, I mean the interviewer with the candidate.

        In other words, let’s say you’re a one-woman shop. Would it be appropriate to say, “We’ll be in touch”, even though you’re the only person there?

        1. Ask a Manager Post author

          Oh, I see what you’re asking. Yes, “we” could refer to the company / the entity, even if it’s a one-person shop. It’s a little silly to say it that point, but that would be the thinking.

            1. Anonymous

              And, of course, the sentence in appreciation of grammar advice came out all weird. I’ll stop now.

  9. Dulcinea

    Thanks. I am the OP here. “The result that you want isn’t really to be told either way; the result that you want is to get the job. ” really resonates with me.

  10. KayDay

    Hmmm, I really don’t think this is that bad of a thing to say. Maybe not a good thing to say either, but if I was the interviewer I wouldn’t read anything into it at all. I’ve definitely had at least three interviewers say this to me (i.e. “we will let you know either way”), so I really don’t think it’s that bad if the candidate asks the same.

      1. fposte

        Hmm, that’s interesting. I don’t generally use that location anyway (I just say we’re working on this timetable and we expect to notify candidates of our decision by x date), but if I did, I’d tell everybody that. It wouldn’t indicate anything if I did (and also I often don’t know who the top candidate is at that point anyway).

  11. KayDay

    Really? In 2 of the 3 cases I was offered the job. I think the managers say “either way” because they aren’t ready to make an offer…

    1. KayDay

      oops, this was in response to Joey….and by “Really?” I meant that I was curious as to why you felt that way (as opposed to not actually believing you…)

      1. Joey

        We’re really getting nitpicky here but I think it’s kind of has a negative connotation to it. In my mind its the equivalent of saying “don’t worry if you don’t get the job we’ll make sure to tell you.”. But if you hear this on your next interview don’t freak because I’m sure not everyone feels the same.

  12. Just a Reader

    Last summer, I had an interviewer tell me I was in the top 2 for a job and ask for a final interview after which a decision would be made. She then fell off the face of the earth and sent me emails that they were still trying to nail down a time for that final interview.

    After 2 months of this I called her (blocking my number) and she told me they had an offer out to a candidate they pushed through the process very quickly, so no, they wouldn’t be offering the job. I said thanks and wished her well.

    A week later she followed up with a phone call and an email telling me the other candidate accepted and they absolutely positively wouldn’t be hiring me. Not even a slim chance. Okay?

    There is such a thing as overzealous follow up, as strange as it sounds.

    1. fposte

      Yeah, that’s definitely news that you don’t need to hear more than once (and she was an idiot for rejecting you if they hadn’t gotten an acceptance from their other candidate yet). But I got confused along the way and I’m curious–why did you block your number when you called her, and if she was emailing you, why did you feel like she’d fallen off the face of the earth?

      1. Just a Reader

        I realize that was a little contradictory. She didn’t respond directly to my communications/questions when I reached out for a status update, but would pop up every once in a long while to send me cryptic messages about the interview that was never to be. Just enough to make me think I was still in the running.

        I called her a couple of times in the last month of the process with no response and suspected she was screening, so I blocked my number and called and she picked up.

        1. Joey

          Please make that the last time you block your number when calling a hiring manager. Even if they are screening and it ends up working it feels really stalkerish. And that’s going to affirm their decision not to hire you.

          1. Joey

            It’s pretty much a guarantee if you have to resort to blocking your number to follow up well there’s your answer right there.

  13. Anonymous

    Just want to offer another point of view on asking this question. Another manager and I were interviewing folks for an internal opening a few years ago, and fairly early in the interview, one of the candidates asked if we would be notifying the candidates of our decision. Truthfully, I hadn’t thought of that. My focus had been on making sure the job posting matched our needs, following up with people I knew to see if they knew any good candidates they could let know about our opening, and planning for thoughtful interview questions. Because he raised the question, we did follow up with the other candidates to let them know, and I would do that again in the future. (Next time, I would do the notification via email vs. calling the applicants as I did last time.) And although we didn’t select the person who asked, the non-selection wasn’t related to his asking the question.

    1. anonymous

      I think whenever you have internal candidates, it’s polite to let them know they were passed over before making the announcement to the dept/organization at large.

      I used to work for a govt dept that would get at least 100 resumes for every opening. It was customary when they made the hiring decision, the mgr of the division or dept director would send out an email announcing the new hire, either welcoming an outside hire (w/ an introduction like “Joe Schmoe will be the new ____. Joe earned his MBA at Podunk U and recently worked in X Dept at Y Company.”) or congratulating the internal hire. They were hiring for a position where several internal people had interviewed and heard nothing til that email came out, which I thought was so unprofessional, I actually brought it up to my supervisor (even though it was totally unrelated to either of us).

  14. anonymous

    I had a phone interview with the HR Director and a face-to-face interview with four people in the dept that was hiring. I had the 2nd interview two weeks before Christmas, so I didn’t expect the decision to be right away because so many people take that time of year off.

    When I hadn’t heard anything by the 1st week of January, I emailed the HR Director since she had been my main contact (emailing the app & other forms to bring to the interview). I didn’t get the response that I wanted, but I really appreciated that she responded to my email within half an hour once I DID ask, and I responded and told her that. They ended up offering me an interview a couple months later in another dept, and I got the job.

    I guess my point is, yeah, you don’t have to specifically ask them to let you know you were rejected, because it kind of assumes they won’t.

    But, unfortunately, like with dating, no response IS a response. If you go on an awesome date, but the other person wasn’t into it, it would be polite of them to let you know, of course, but if they just don’t return your calls ever again, you know they don’t want to see you again.

    1. Rana

      I guess the problem is, though, that “no response” can look an awful lot like “we’re taking a really long time to come up with our response” from the candidate’s end. It’s nice to have the closure.

  15. nyxalinth

    I recently had a phone interview where the lady on the other end said she thought I was a great candidate, blah blah, and “Unless he sees something that I didn’t the hiring manager will call you for the next step tomorrow or next week.” I’m guessing he did, since I never heard back. I sent her one of those “Email Your Interviewer” notes.

    Anyway, I’ve only once ever been called to be rejected, even when people have said “We’ll let you know either way.” I would rather not be called, because the one time this happened I was out, and played [phone tag with the guy only to find out he was calling to tell me I *wasn’t* hired. This was at Starbucks, and I can’t get hired by Starbucks to save my life…

  16. Elizabeth West

    I haven’t had to ask; usually people say “We’ll let you know either way.” They don’t always do it, but at least the onus isn’t on me to say anything.

    I got passed over for something and wasn’t notified, only to recently see the position posted again. I hate that, so I tell myself the employer sucks and I’ve dodged a bullet.

  17. Neeta

    Normally, I tended to assume that if no one got back to me in 2 weeks, I didn’t have the job. I suppose I got “spoiled” by companies who were desperate to fill in the positions so they tended to be prompt.

    I had an interview, which went really well, was promised to be told one way or another in a week’s time (at most). I heard back from them 3 months later. Of course, they apologized profusely and stuff, so I was somewhat mollified by that. Heh.

    Then, I had another interview, which was a bit weird to begin with. I said I couldn’t do X, but the interviewer said “come on try it at least”. Kind of like, I’m sure you have some bits of knowledge somewhere at the bottom of your bag. I suppose I somehow fumbled myself through the “try”.

    I thought I had made an awful impression, but 2 hours after the interview I got an email asking what salary I’d be satisfied with, so that no counter-offer from my current company would entice me to decline their offer. They insisted I give them my reply the same day.
    I replied, and then they went totally silent.

    When I reached out to them about their offer, some 2 weeks later, they said my range was too high. Couldn’t they have answered that instantly?! Especially when they were the ones to rush my answer?

    1. Neeta

      Forgot to add: the first company, who contacted me 3 months after the interview were still excited about me accepting the position.

  18. Rachel

    I had the great pleasure of re-interviewing with a company that hadn’t got back to me a few years ago, and being offered a more senior role by them on my later application. I happened to have two roles that I was offered during that particular period of looking for work, so I just ignored their written offer (which I’d never usually do). When they got in touch a few weeks later to ask why I hadn’t responded, I just said “Oh, I thought the etiquette you guys used when one party wasn’t interested any longer was that you just broke off contact? At least, that’s the way you behaved when I interviewed with you a few years ago.”

    Not very mature, I know, but it certainly felt good to return the compliment. It cuts both ways. Don’t kid yourself that candidates won’t remember how they’ve been treated if you act badly during the recruitment process. It’s a smaller world than you think, and you never know when you might come courting us again.

  19. Sara

    How do you translate the when one of the interviewer says with inthusiam ” we will be making a decision very soon and we will be in touch”
    Very confused about this, because I want to har from them.

  20. ranj

    Hi,

    i have gone through an interview a month ago. i recently got a call from HR manager and she was asking about salary expectations and some common questions. she told me that you could have an interview with our president. after that call, i followed up her after a week via email and she replied we will be in touch thanks.
    please tell, what it does mean?

    Thanks
    ranj

  21. Ranj

    thanks for your reply. may i ask you, should i follow up again after a week or should i wait from now on?

  22. ranj

    Thanks so much. may i ask a last question. what should i write to HR? it is almost a weak i got this reply.
    Thanks

  23. Anonymousness

    I just had an interview recently, and instead of asking them to notify me, I asked “Do you have any concerns about me as a potential candidate?” (or something along those lines). Their reply will usually give you a pretty good idea of whether you’re going to get moved forward, right on the spot. Plus, employers are usually impressed that you have the guts to ask a question like that AND it gives you a chance to give a rebuttal to their concerns.

  24. Ellena

    I applied for a barista position at a particular location, and after 1.5 weeks without any contact if my application was reviewed or not, I persisted in following up with the general manager to see if my application was denied or not.

    Managers, would you feel annoyed if someone persists in seeing the you for an answer after completing their application online?

    I feel life I bugged the crap out of him, constantly asking the current employees when the next time he’d be in at work, I just feel so ignored, and it’s like I want a reply.

    I hate to be just stalling around wondering if I am every going to get a contact notice or call, whether I even get the job or not, just notify me.

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