waiting to hear about a job during the holidays

A reader writes:

A while back, I wrote to you about an internship that was going well, and the fact that there was a position open at the institution I was interning at. I applied, and got rejected the first time. I thought nothing of it, and went about applying for other opportunities elsewhere.

The week before last, I got an email saying the applicant pool was being reopened, and they were interested in conducting a phone interview with me. I aced that interview, and went on to the in-person interview. That did not goes as well as I anticipated, but it was a good experience nonetheless.

I am now in the process of waiting to hear back. They told me they were hoping to have a decision made by the end of the week. Do I have to wait through the holidays, then? It’s brutal not knowing at this time of year, especially when you are anticipating not getting it.

I am very tempted to email my mentor, who is on the search committee. However, I do not want to come off as pushy. What do you suggest? Honestly, I would rather know now where they are in the process, so I can mentally prepare to continue my job-searching after the holidays if need be.

I know this sucks to deal with, but honestly, the best thing that you can do is to move on mentally right now. That doesn’t mean that I think you didn’t get the job (I have no idea, obviously), but you’re falling into the trap that so many job-seekers fall into where they agonize and stress about hearing an answer, even when they believe they probably didn’t get the position. Why not just assume you didn’t get it and move on? If you eventually hear from them with an offer, what will you have lost by not continuing to agonize the whole time? You’ll have lost nothing, will have gained a couple of angst-free weeks, and will have the bonus of a surprise job offer as well.

If they have something they’re ready to tell you, you’ll hear from them when they’re ready to tell you. Until then, you can’t control when they get in touch with you, but you can control your own reaction. You write, “It’s brutal not knowing at this time of year.” So change that: Assume you didn’t get it and move on. Again, if you’re wrong it’ll be a pleasant surprise.

(And, by the way, I’m not defending employers who leave candidates waiting without an answer after the timeline they gave them has passed. Employers should be more aware of how agonizing this often is for candidates, and they should update people when their initial timelines change, so that you aren’t wondering what the hell is going on and why you haven’t heard a single word. But at the same time, it’s helpful for job-seekers to know that this is incredibly common, and to automatically assume that when an employer says, “You’ll hear from us by Friday,” it probably means “Friday plus a week or two.” Not because you should have to, but because you do have to.)

Give yourself the Christmas present of letting go of your angst on this one — you truly have nothing to lose by doing so.

{ 27 comments… read them below }

  1. Dee*

    I just found out yesterday that I did not get a job that I had been interviewing for. I had a total of 10 interviews, spread out over a week between phone and in person. I was one of the finalists, but didn’t get the job. Lovely to find out right before the holidays, but I knew it was going to go one way or the other. Unfortunately for me, I really got my hopes up that I would get the job. And I’m not handling the rejection very well. Pretty upset.

    1. Good_Intentions*


      I’m so, so sorry for all the resources– time, energy and expense–that you sincerely invested in trying to secure this position.

      Please know that you are not alone when it comes to giving it your all and ending up with little, beyond frustration, to show for it.

      Even though you’ve just received bad news, please try to have a happy holiday season. I’ll keep my fingers crossed that you and I both find jobs in early 2013.

        1. Anonymous*

          If you are on extensions write your congress person. UI can’t change anything but you can advocate for more extensions if that is what you need. (Not a fulfilling answer I know.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      Ten interviews with one company? In one week???
      Wow. You are one brave, tough person, in my opinion. That sound grueling what a marathon. I have never experienced anything like that, nor have I read of anything like that on this forum. (I could have missed it, I have only been reading for part of this year.)
      I say “kudos” for going through all these hoops. I bet your next interview gets you the job you want.

      1. Greg*

        Ten interviews? Honestly, it sounds like you may have dodged a bullet with these guys. That raises a huge red flag about the organization’s ability to make decisions.

        And look at it this way: while AAM is right that those who haven’t heard back should assume they’re not getting it and move on, you have the luxury of not having to make assumptions. However else they treated you, they at least gave you closure. So take the holidays to vent your annoyance with them, regroup, and then plunge back in to the job search in January.

        Good luck!

        1. Sharon*

          I agree, ten interviews is absolutely ridiculous. Around interview #5 I would be crossing them off my list. sheesh!

          1. Josh S*

            Unless you’ve been on unemployment for a long time, which it sounds like is the case with Dee above. If that’s the case, you gotta take whatever comes. :(

    3. Miss Displaced*

      I also just got a rejection letter on the 20th after 3 interviews.
      It sucks, but I’m very glad they DID let me know prior to the holiday and give kudos to the hiring manager to have taken the time to personally send me a written letter.

      All I can say is that we need to get our head into the New Year’s job search. Don’t take it personally.

    4. Kat*

      I spent two years going on interviews, being one of the finalists, and then not getting the job. It got incredibly frustrating, so I can understand how awful that feels. But! I met a lot of people who liked me (which it sounds like the company that interviewed you did) and either gave me freelance work or recommended me to other hiring managers (or both). That’s how I ended up in my new job — I interviewed with one manager about an opening, which was filled by an in-house candidate, and that manager passed my name along as a potential candidate for the new opening.

      So what I’m saying is, even though it can be really frustrating and discouraging, try to think of what you can get out of the experience, new relationships. I’m not usually a silver lining kind of person, but it worked in this case.

  2. Good_Intentions*

    Great advice, Alison!

    I interviewed last Friday with a local nonprofit and was assured by the interviewer, who brought up the hiring timeline unprompted by me, that he would call no later than this week with information on the status of the position.

    Guess what, I received no telephone call. I’m not surprised, especially given that the interviewer admitted that he had no idea how to hire anyone. His excuse was that he has only been working in a part-time position with the nonprofit for 18 months and has never had to hire.

    His inexperience showed as he failed to tell me until two-thirds through the interview that the position was new, his pen ran out of ink and he kept looking at his watch, even though we were only 25 minutes into an hour-long interview. Maybe I’m just an incredibly boring interview, but it’s difficult to be anything else when the interviewer insists upon using the same set of 10 bland fixed questions.

    Despite my frustration and annoyance, I plan to follow Alison’s sage suggestion and gift myself a mental release from worrying about my standing for this position. I believe that I didn’t get it, so what’s the point of stressing.

  3. Elizabeth West*

    OP, there may be people on the hiring committee that are gone for the holiday. As Alison has pointed out before, it sometimes takes longer than they thought it would to get all their ducks in a row. I would just keep applying and try not to think about it so much. Enjoy your holiday and think of it as a much-needed break.

    I’m not sweating the interviews I had. I did have one where I really want the job and thought I’d hear something by now, but I sent a nice follow-up email reiterating my interest this week. There’s really nothing more I can do unless they call me back for a second interview. I’m not going to let it spoil my holiday; these are days I can actually do nothing and not feel guilty about it. :)

  4. anon-2*

    1) Rejection is difficult to accept. In an interview / job-seeking process, it is more common than being accepted, and you just have to get used to it. That happens.

    2) When job-seeking, I have always “moved on”, mentally and emotionally after any job interview. No matter how well the interview went. Keep on looking.

    3) Even if you ARE the primo candidate – don’t forget, the potential employer may still be looking for someone better, even if you are currently #1 on their list and would fit their needs well. If they don’t need you right away, there’s no urgency. Sometimes, if you get an offer from company B, and then inform company A — where you really wanted to go — that you

    a) have made them your first choice but

    b) you have another offer from another firm, and will be taking it, unless you have word that they’re moving forward on your candidacy

    c) you understand that they may have another candidate, etc., and if so, you’ll move forward with the other folks.

    In normal economic times – at least three times, in my career -generating the urgency in a sincere (no bluff) communique resulted in a quick offer. They were dilly-dallying, but realized they were going to lose a good person and they “woke up”, halted their candidate search, and extended an offer.

    At two companies I worked at, we did the same thing… we extended offers to our #1 candidates, rather than risk losing them due to our own dalliance and arrogance.

    I might add, those two companies were the most profitable and efficient ones I ever worked for… for what that’s worth.

    And I recall on two occasions, they replied “we’re going in a different direction anyway” – so I lost nothing but time on the phone.

  5. OP*

    Thank you for the comments! I’ve applied for, interviewed, and experienced rejection for jobs countless times. I think this one is hitting me harder then normal because of the natural lag-time that occurs because of the holidays. Also, because this an academic institution and they are looking to have the person ready to go at the beginning of the spring semester, the decision must be made soon if the new hire has to put in their two weeks notice. My job search is not on hold, of course, I’ve been continuing it the entire week and will be doing a wide-open search after Christmas is over.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      I know in my searching there are some companies that I like better than others. Rejections from those companies hit harder than rejections from “average” companies.

      Alison’s advice is right on. What we do when the chips are down is what makes us or breaks us.
      Sometimes, to take a mental/emotional break I like to go on to the Cake Wrecks blog and look at the funny cakes. I keep reading until I am holding my sides in laughter. This takes- oh ten minutes. And it helps me to shift gears.

      Find something that gives you a mini-break or a “little time out”.

  6. Vicki*

    Of all the things I have learned by reading AAM for the past few years, the absolute best advice of all has been “the best thing that you can do is to move on mentally right now.”

    Move on after you apply.
    If you get a phone screen, move on after the phone screen.
    If you get an interview, move on after the interview.

    Unless and until you have a signed, written offer in hand AND have filled out the new hire paperwork, move on mentally after every step.

    Keep applying, keep interviewing, stop second guessing, never assume anything. Just keep moving forward.

    1. A teacher*

      That’s great advice in life not just in the career and interview sense, even though it may be intended as that. Good luck OP!

    2. Ornery PR*

      I completely agree! AAM, all of your advice is top notch, but the advice to mentally move on while job searching is priceless. Thank you! It’s advice that is easier said than done (what good advice isn’t?), but is worth saying over and over again, and hearing over and over again.

      I really wish I had known about your blog when I was job searching. I was miraculously able to land a pretty great gig a couple years ago that utilizes my degree and everything I learned in college with out it, but if I had read the advice to mentally move on and not get so emotionally attached during my job search, I could have saved myself months of depression and despair. It’s amazing how when we get so attached to each job possibility, the rejection turns from, “another person was a better fit” to, “you’re skills are worthless to us, you’re a worthless person.”

      Although I’m still a worrier by nature, your advice has been a great reminder that my intrinsic worth is not attached to the position I currently occupy (or want to occupy). Thank you! And OP, good luck and Happy, Worry-Free Holidays!

  7. cvc*

    Yes, I been there and presently going through another waiting game. One, is a position out of state that is a perfect fit for me. I had a phone interview in Sept and since then receiving updates from the VP. I’m happy they are keeping me updated and I believe they are waiting for the new year to make a final decision.

    The other was an interview I had over two weeks ago which went very well. I was told, however, they will make a decision after the holidays.

    Waiting is no fun as many of you know. The holidays are great, but not much fun when out of work…Happy Holidays to all!

  8. Adam*

    Just giving you another vote of solidarity in being frustrated with rejection. I just got passed over for a better job at my current company as they decided to go with an outside candidate after having to wait almost two months after my interview before getting any sort of indication how things were going. It’s frustrating but in a way it’s a positive experience for me. I gave one of the best interviews I ever have (I got lots of compliments from my managers so there’s that at least) so I got some good practice in. It’s also freeing as this experience has shown me that my time at my current company is pretty much done. Not to say I’m not doing my job anymore because I surely am. But knowing that if I want to better myself and my situation it’s time to look outside and see what else there is for me is great clarity to have.

    Best of luck to you (and me) as you seek that next great opportunity.

    1. Adam*

      Oops. This was meant to be a reply to one of the earlier posters who didn’t get the job they wanted. I hope the OP does end up where they want to be.

    2. Anonymous*

      I just wanted to say I had a friend in a very similar position and he started interviewing with other places and got a job he now loves where he is doing far more than the internal job he applied for (in a good way) for much better money. Sometimes an external move is really helpful to your career. Good luck!

  9. Waiting Patiently*

    Even though I’m upset I didn’t get an offer from my last interview, I’m thankful I have a job. I really love my job but I feel its time to move on. Where else can I wear a tiara and tutu and not get looked at sideways…

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