asking your interviewer what’s next in the hiring process

A reader writes:

What is your take on the candidate asking the interviewer, “What is next in the hiring process” or “Where do we go from here” types of questions?

In short, I’m having a large disagreement with someone about the opinion and thinking behind this type of question. This person thinks that as a candidate, you have a right to know what the next steps in the hiring process are and when, as a candidate, you should expect a response by.

I don’t disagree with this, but I think asking this question ends up putting the interviewer on the spot and could therefore set up the candidate to be flagged as impatient and aggressive, which could cause problems later on.

I read your article on “closing” interview questions, but it seems those questions are more geared toward wanting to know where you stand as opposed to, in this case, wanting to know when you should hear back from a company (and possibly where you stand). I’m not sure if the specific type of interview question falls under this category or not. What is your take on these types of questions?

It’s totally reasonable to ask about next steps and a likely timeline for them. In fact, I strongly urge that you never leave an interview without having asked, “What’s your timeline for next steps?”

That’s because otherwise you’re likely to go home and agonize and wonder when you should hear from them, and if you should have heard from them by now, and what it means that you haven’t heard from them by now. Asking about their timeline means that you’ll have some idea of whether it’s likely to be days or weeks (or longer), and it also means that if that timeframe passes and you haven’t heard from them, you have a reason to email them to check back in.

Asking about an interviewer’s timeline isn’t at all putting them on the spot. It’s a reasonable question that you’d ask at the end of lots of business meetings, not just interviews, and there’s nothing presumptuous, impatient, or aggressive about it. If they don’t know, they’ll just tell you that they don’t know.

Now, questions like “did I get the job?” or “is there any reason I wouldn’t be a great candidate for this job?” are too aggressive and pushy, and they do put the interviewer on the spot.

But no reasonable interviewer is going to bristle at being asked for a likely timeline for when you should expect to hear something.

Your friend wins this bet!

{ 10 comments… read them below }

  1. Legal Eagle*

    I absolutely do this. It’s important information to have. For example, one firm told me that they would make their hiring decision four months from our interview! Made it easy for me not to wait by the phone for them.

    1. ARS*

      I actually started asking this question at interviews after reading AAM’s advice. If nothing else, if you can’t think of another question to ask, you at least have this (but hopefully you’ll have other questions, too). It does help ease your mind. Although, now I wonder if an interviewer tells you the timeline and then mentions you probably won’t hear from them unless you make it to the next step, if you should go ahead and email anyway.

  2. Waiting Patiently*

    I wish more companies did this! It makes it so much easier to wait or not! I always ask for a time frame and I hate hearing “oh I don’t know, we’re still have a lot more interviewing, it could be a while” I know sometimes they really don’t know what will happen next or perhaps I wasn’t the best fit candidate but at least give the rejection letter or something instead of an abyss of hope!

  3. Jessa*

    At that point I tend to say something like “can you at least tell me if we’re looking at weeks or months then?” and at least try to pin them down to something.

  4. Anonymous*

    I’m the hiring manager for a sizeable department, so I do a lot of interviews. I agree that asking for a timeline is totally reasonable. I get this question from almost every interviewee. I would only caution that I’m a little unimpressed if that the ONLY question an interviewee has. Isn’t there something else that we discussed, or failed to discuss, that you’d like to know about to ensure the job is a good fit for you?

    1. R*

      hi. I failed to ask these questions during and after 2 interviews… now I’m wondering where I stand. would it be appropriate to ask in the thank you for interviewing me for the 2nd time letter??

  5. AG*

    I try to remember to ask. Of course, they don’t always stick to those timelines but at least it gives you some kind of idea.

  6. Another Evil HR Director*

    Just started reading your blog!!

    As and HR pro, I always tell candidates what the next steps might be and the timeline for those steps. It only makes sense. The candidate really deserves to know, and it avoids a lot of unnecessary follow up phone calls or emails from the candidate.

    In my case, there are others who will be reviewing the candidates information and deciding on second interviews and hiring. It certainly helps to know the potential time frame!

  7. Milagros*

    I read your article regarding what the interviewer says, what the candidate hears, and what the interviewer actually meant. I have a question regarding this and want to know if you’ll answer my question. I recently had an interview and the position sounds great to me. It’s the type of work I’ve done in the past and I really want the job!

    To get to my point, when our interview was over and we stepped out of the office, the manager was walking with me and we were conversating about how spacious their offices are…I asked him, “is this where the person you hire will sit?” His response, “this is where you’ll sit.” Why not just answer with a yes or no? When he responded with “this is where you…WILL sit…of course I’m thinking he’s going to bring me back for a third interview and hire me!


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