you can’t predict your chances of getting a job — really, you can’t

A reader writes:

A job was posted on December 12. I applied on December 16. Got called for an interview on December 17. Then the job was removed on December 18. How big of a chance do I have to landing the job?

During the interview the interviewer said that they will get back with me at the beginning of January being that it’s the holidays, hence, they will get with the recruiter and then get back with me. Are these good signs?

They are neither good signs nor bad signs. They mean, at most, that the interviewer will check with the recruiter and then get back to you. I say “at most,” because it’s possible that the interviewer won’t even do that.

I know that you want to try to read between the lines and figure out what your chances are, but there is no way to do that.

There is literally no way to do that. None. You can’t know. Even if the interviewer says “You’re just what we’re looking for” or “We’re so excited to have found you” or “I can’t wait to have you start.” Even if the interviewer winks at you and passes you a note saying “the job is probably yours,” there would still be no way to know if the job was probably yours, because things change — better candidates appear, budgets get frozen, an internal candidate emerges, the position is restructured and you’re not longer the right fit for it, a different decision-maker likes someone else better, one of your references is wonky and makes them gun-shy, or all kinds of other possibilities.

Trying to read the tea leaves to figure out your chances of getting a job is 100% understandable — but it’s also 100% fruitless.

The only reliable sign that you’re going to get a job is when an employer calls you up and says, “I’d like to offer you the job.”

The best thing that you can do, always, is to assume that the job isn’t yours, so that you don’t slow down your search or otherwise let the possibility of a job — a job that you don’t have — affect your actions or decision-making.

You cannot predict anything, no matter how good signs might appear.

{ 98 comments… read them below }

  1. Bryan

    It took me reading many posts on here to finally have it sink in, assume you don’t have the job and don’t try to read into messages you receive. I don’t mean I read it once and it made sense, I had to read these statements as a response to dozens of people for it to sink in.

    They could have taken the posting down because they loved you, they could have received hundred of applications, they could have somebody in mind but have to bring in a certain number of people to interview. Heck, they could even be preparing a 15 hour interview including a dinner for 20. Just assume you don’t have the job.

    1. Elizabeth West

      Heck, they could even be preparing a 15 hour interview including a dinner for 20.

      :D

      Yep. I went through an interview once where the manager liked me, the HR lady liked me, the interview went amazingly well, and I was totally qualified for the job.

      I didn’t get it.

      Feedback? HR could give me none (she said the manager said I was awesome), but I did get a hint that someone’s aunt’s sister’s monkey’s uncle’s niece was hired instead. That was the last time I thought, “This job is mine” after any interview.

      1. Kevin

        In my last job hunt I got an email asking if I was still interested after interviewing and I responded yes. The hiring manager said she would get back to me with something substantial next week. Then nothing for two weeks. I ended up getting a better offer. The hiring manager emailed again apologizing for the delay and said it would be another week.

      2. Pepper

        I recently had a hiring manager all but tell me the job was mine (even asking me who I’d like to hire to work under me), and then I didn’t get it due to the hiring manager’s external advisor convincing him that one of his staff would be a better fit. Yep, better at keeping the work flowing to that external advisor.

        It still really stung, even though I’ve been reading this website for long enough to know that nothing is certain til you have an offer in your hand.

        Its human nature to start imagining yourself in the job when you get a feeling you have a chance – thats how we prepare ourselves for things, and work out whether we want them and how we’ll manage them if they do happen.

        It just doesn’t serve us that well to turn that into an endless roller coaster of guessing and interpretation during the hiring process. I wish I could be more objective and dispassionate about it all, but if you want something really badly, thats almost impossible.

    2. A Jane

      Definitely agree with you. Logically, I knew that there was no way to tell if I would receive an offer, but I still obsessed about possible warning signs. After becoming a regular AAM reader, I really internalized it and made peace with the interview process. This morning, I had an interview with an agency, and while I feel good about the meeting, I’m not overthinking the outcomes.

  2. MR

    Yep. Exactly this. I interviewed for a gigantic internal promotion about a month ago. Was told I would hear something about it by the Friday before Christmas.

    That Friday came and went. I figured I wouldn’t then hear anything the next two weeks because of Christmas, New Years and associated vacation time. I also figure it might be another week or two due to the start of the year and getting stuff going again.

    Or who knows whatever reason may be continuing the delay.

    I know they will get back to me. I just don’t know when, so I keep doing what I am doing and if and when circumstances change, then I can go with it then.

    1. glennis

      Take it as it comes. I just now (!) returned from an interview for an internal promotion.

      I had been interviewed by the same department for this classification in November, along with two other candidates. They offered the job to someone else. Then out of the blue yesterday I got an email saying they had another vacancy. I interviewed today. They are interviewing two other candidates.

      I liked the department, I thought the interviews both went well; I didn’t get the job before, and if I don’t get it this time, I’m OK where I am.

  3. O

    Also the timing of the ad removal might have nothing to do with it, might have been automatic or they specified the removal date when they posted it

  4. Anonna

    These questions honestly baffle me. Do the askers think that AAM is in contact with all hiring managers across the country? That hiring managers speak in a special code? That under those specific conditions, a candidate has a 75% chance of landing that particular job?

    1. Jake

      Honestly, I think these all come from folks googling around the internet trying to figure out if they should be reading any hidden signs, and when they stumble on this site, they think, “Wow, this is cool, there is no harm in asking!’

      When we see this question for the 100th time, it can start to seem like these folks are ridiculous, but if you look at it in terms of them having never seen this site, it makes it seem more sensible.

      Plus, you have to admit that in the hiring process there are a lot of little “unwritten rules” that can be deal breakers. You can’t really blame candidates for wondering if there is some hidden step they are expected to take based on the things being said by the hiring manager.

      I mean, I lost out on an internship when I was in college because he sent me an email after a career fair saying, “I’ll call you tomorrow to discuss the internship further”, and I didn’t respond, figuring that I’d just talk to him on the phone. By the time I emailed back 3 days later, he was so frustrated by my “lack of interest” that it was too late.

      1. Anonna

        That makes sense. And AAM is so good she appears all-knowing and all-seeing, especially to people who’ve never seen good career advice before. :)

    2. LouG

      I’m sure they know that Alison can’t tell them that they will definitely get the job. I bet they are just hoping for someone to tell them “this is a great sign!” Before I found this blog, I could have definitely been the OP. Alison’s advice to take everything at face value and not try to guess what the hiring manager is thinking was invaluable to me when I was job hunting.

    3. some1

      To use the job search is like dating analogy (again), it’s similar to being really into your first date and calling your friends with the details, “So do you think this means s/he likes me??”

        1. some1

          Yup. And I think lots of people have gone on one to a few dates with someone and think the other person is totally into you, only to have that person disappear for no discrenable reason.

            1. Jean

              On the other hand, if the date or interviewer _does_ disappear… yes, it hurts, but better to have the person vanish before one gets any more invested in the idea of being at that job or with that particular romantic partner.

              But yes, it’s rude and irritating to have people never. respond. with. closure.

      1. anon-2

        This continual comparison between dating and going through the hiring process? I’m sorry, I don’t get it.

        Disclaimer = in my late teens / young adult life, I only had had three relationships , two that were brief when I was still in college, and the one I’m in now, I’ve had since I was 20 – and I’m now 62 and have been married 41 years. So I am not all that up on dating. I am also male, married to a good woman.

        Job = it’s a job. And you interview, and you might get very good vibes, but your fate isn’t decided by ONE woman (or man), it’s decided by a committee.

        Date = you might go out on one with someone. If you make two outreaches for a date after that with the same person, and get rejected, that’s it. One person made the decision. One person didn’t drag you across the country for a wasted day; he/she didn’t spend a day preparing a CV, didn’t wait by the phone hoping for a call back, etc.

        Well – hoping one person made the “no” call on a date – if a woman goes back to her friends and they talk her out of dating you – well, hey, she wasn’t worth one’s time…!

        To make the comparisons might be cutesy, but, come on, rejection for a date? You move on from that. But that rejection is usually somewhat immediate. A job? They drag it out. That’s more torturous. And the job will either find you employed with a check or free you from a very bad situation.

        Dating’s not like that. Not at all.

        1. Anon

          I agree. Dating and hiring are two different things – dating much more personal and involved. Applying these practices to dating will end well. Said by someone who has had an ex try to apply business practices coldly to a relationship. They don’t mix and they shouldn’t. I

          1. anon-2

            Absolutely. The levels of expectations in a dating/romantic/relationship , are totally different from a working relationship.

            ESTABLISHING relationships – work or personal ones – they’re different, so establishing them are different as well.

            Being rejected for a job after an arduous interview cycle is something different than having a potential date tell you she can’t go out, she’s washing her hair on Saturday.

        2. Jennifer

          I dunno, I remember getting a lot of “silent dumps” as a date, or passive dumping where the person just kinda stops responding most of the time and then disappears. Humans can be really fucking flaky sometime.

  5. Adam

    Remember, regardless of what type of job you’re going for, the hiring process is not a math equation. Solid interview + good rapport with interviewer + random signs =/= job for sure all the time. In fact I once had an interview that I thought was so so and didn’t feel like I impressed them at all and got an offer out of them later.

    Remember you are dealing with people and whether their mind is on a different wavelength than yours, the phase of the moon is off, or they got the wrong creamer in your coffee any signs could mean anything. “You’re hired” or some variation thereof is the only thing you should take as a cue to celebrate a new job.

  6. Stephanie

    Yeah, I had an interviewer tell me once “You’re really impressive! I hope you get an offer!” and then proceeded to not get the job.

    I’m pretty much in the “you don’t have an offer until you get it in writing” camp because of too many close calls like that. I even got a verbal offer and had it rescinded once.

    The only annoying thing is dealing with others placing more stock in it than you, e.g. “I’ve got a good feeling about this one!” or “But they sent you background check paperwork! That’s a good sign!” It gets a little tiring being called negative if you point out the reality that you have no offer yet.

    1. JamieG

      “The only annoying thing is dealing with others placing more stock in it than you, e.g. “I’ve got a good feeling about this one!” or “But they sent you background check paperwork! That’s a good sign!” It gets a little tiring being called negative if you point out the reality that you have no offer yet.”

      Yes! When I was looking for a job, my husband was all sorts of “You have to get it, you’re so qualified!” or “But you have a degree, they’ll definitely love you!” or “That’s perfect, you’ll get a call for sure!”. No. No no no no no no no. It was hard enough not to get my hopes up (a lesson I learned through copious reading of AAM) without somebody whispering in my ear (or shouting in my face) that it’s a For Sure 100% Thing.

      No.

      1. Kelly L.

        When I was job searching, my mom would message me every day to ask if there was any news from the prospective employers. After a while, every time I had to tell her “nope, not today” was just making me feel worse and I finally just said “If I hear anything, I will let you know. I promise.”

    2. Elizabeth West

      God, that relentless encouragement can get really old after a while!

      “You’re so qualified; you’re sure to get it!” No offer yet.

      “Maybe this guy will be the one!” That’s what I thought about the last one, before he dumped me.

      Now shut up, Grandma!

      1. Stephanie

        And you feel guilty because you know people mean well? I just had to learn to say “Thanks” and shut up after that.

        Is it just me or do you not even like to mention when you do have an interview? I’ve gotten much better at not putting too much stock into them. My friends and family, however, have not. It’s a bit cringe worthy to have OTHERS go “Did you hear back?!” or “Oh, tell me everything! It’s good that they made banter about the weather [or some other kind of empty sign]!”

        1. Jean

          Recently I calmly summarized this site’s attitude of “well, since an interview is no guarantee of anything further, I am going to be glad to have had the experience but I’m not going to sit on the edge of my chair holding my breath” to a relative who was starting to be hopeful on my behalf. I was surprised by how much I’ve internalized the message–and also by how I was able to effectively convey the idea to someone else! The reaction was “oh, okay,” and we both went forward without spending any time in Dreamsville.

          Job-hunting is hard enough without getting hung up in a mirage of imaginary scenarios, whether created by oneself or another person.

        2. Christy

          Yes! I almost want to schedule interviews and not even tell my husband because he then asks every day, “Hear anything yet?”

          And his mother…she is so nice and supportive, but if she knows I have an interview she’ll ask for updates ASAP. We arrived at her house at 3 a.m. after driving for 7 hours last month (Christmas visit) and as I was hauling suitcases up from the car she asked me about my job interview. Then her neighbors asked about it the next day. Ahhhhhh!

          Also, to add insult to injury, the company never got back to me about their decision and ignored my follow up message.

          I hate job hunting.

          1. TootsNYC

            Your post makes me feel a little encouraged as the mother of college student.
            I would normally ask, “how do you think you did?” meaning, did you feel confident you’d portrayed your skills well? Did you feel in control of yourself during the conversation? Did you think you have good answers, were you prepared for the questions?

            Which all avoid the “will you get the job?” pressure. But I’m going to have to watch that too, so that it doesn’t come across, “did they like you, will they call you back?”

            And maybe not even ask those questions much.

        3. Amy

          Wow, I totally 100% agree with this. I’m staying with my parents while I search for my first full-time job in my field, and they got mad at me for not wanting to tell them about getting a phone screen (not even an in-person interview!!). From my perspective, yeah, it’s great that they called me, but there are no guarantees that I’m going to get another call/interview/job offer, so it’s not really the good news you think it is. *sigh*

  7. Lisa

    I have to say, this is one of the AAM tenets that was hardest for me to absorb, but majorly attitude-changing once I incorporated it into my job search. If an interviewer said they would be in touch in a week, I’d take that as an absolute promise and get so antsy waiting for their email, analyzing each “it was a pleasure to meet you”- I slowly realized that speculating like a madwoman wasn’t doing much to help my cause!

  8. some1

    “The only reliable sign that you’re going to get a job is when an employer calls you up and says, ‘I’d like to offer you the job.'”

    Sometimes not even then, if the hiring org pulls the offer after your start date.

    1. JamieG

      When I finally got hired, I was terrified that I’d show up on my first day and they’d tell me they changed their mind. Or that they had no idea who I was. Or something.

      I think it took at least a week before I felt confident that I did actually have a job.

      1. Sascha

        I’d had that fear with every job I take! I worry that I’ll show up at the HR paperwork session and they will say, you’re not supposed to be here!

      2. Gabby

        This brings back bad memories – on my first job after high school (a full time office job), the manager called me at 9pm Sunday night before my Monday start date, and rescinded the offer. No reason given. I’m guessing they found a more experienced candidate. Since it was my first job, I hadn’t quit another job for this one, but that would have really sucked if I had.

        1. Mary

          Hubby started a job with a few weeks training and the company decided they would do the medical during the training period. (bad idea really, but they wanted staff on board)

          He was terrified as he had failed a medical for another job a few weeks previously and he had no idea if he had a medical issue or not (not as it turned out). So there he was on the induction training and different people being called out every day for medicals. He said he could barely take in what was happening during the induction he was so terrified of failing the medical.

          So even if you start, the job might not be 100% in the bag.

    2. fposte

      I’d say it’s still reliable–it’s just that reliable isn’t the same thing as certain.

  9. r

    Thank you for this! I completely understand this on a rational level. (A year ago, when I wasn’t job-searching, this seemed like a given: it’s not over until you get a written offer, and a start date.) But now that I’m interviewing, it’s much harder to understand. This post reminds me that even though an interview went well, I shouldn’t get overly confident. I should keep on applying, networking, etc with at least the same level of effort as before.

    (Not the OP, just another slightly over-thinking job searcher!)

  10. Sascha

    I’ve been doing hiring for my team (and now other teams) in my department for about 2 years now, and it’s really interesting being on the other side, and seeing just how many things affect a job offer. The most common one is simply slowness…HR, the hiring manager, the other interviewers getting together to do interviews and discuss candidates, etc. And even when WE thought someone was a perfect fit, and figured she would accept based on all our interactions, she would turn the job down – a couple of times it happened even after the person accepted a verbal offer, and then changed her mind within the day or two it took to get the written offer.

    It’s never a sure thing until it is (horrible wording I know lol). I’m one of those who had an interview where both of my interviewers said, “Oh you are so great, exactly what we’re looking for, when can you start?,” and then the HR manager said, “We’re creating a position for you because we love you so much! Expect to hear from us in a few weeks!” and then the job completely disappeared. I didn’t hear from them for months. When I finally contacted them, they said “things had changed” and they were sorry. I am SOOOO glad I didn’t say anything to my bosses at my current job.

    1. Dan

      I was that guy who had to turn an offer down. And the company wasn’t happy. It was a fairly specialized position at an organization of about 100-150 people. They actually had the CEO call me and see if he could change my mind — I never returned his call.

      Why’d I turn down the offer after *I* gave every indication I would like to work there? Better offer, plain and simple. If that second offer fell through or wasn’t good, I very much would have liked (and taken) the first offer. But the game ain’t over until the fat lady sings.

      1. MW

        Why wouldn’t you at least have the courtesy of responding to the CEO? (Seriously asking, not being snarky)

        1. Dan

          MW,

          Several reasons:

          1. First things first, this would be an “awkward conversation” that wasn’t going to turn out well for me. It’s really no different than a company who rejects a candidate and the candidate wants to know “is there anything I can do to change your mind.”

          2. Second, despite the fact this position is specialized, it’s also low level enough where it’s not normal for me to speak with someone that high. Throughout the whole interview process, I’ve never spoken with the guy, and likely never would see him on the job. So this just adds to the “it’s going to be awkward” feeling.

          3. The explanation I owe the company is no more than the explanation a company owes a candidate they reject. When I turned down the offer, I did speak with the HR rep, and gave her a clear no. When she asked if there is anything she could do to change my mind, I told her that conversation would just be leading her on, so it’s not worth having.

          4. FWIW, the company that I accepted an offer from is a huge player in my field, and is known for lots of wonderful things. When the offer from the company I turned down was extended, the VP I interviewed with called me and asked me how I felt about it. We negotiated a bit (I didn’t get far) and then I told him that I was waiting to hear what this other company had to say. Since this other company is well known, *that* would have been the time for the VP to scrape up a better offer.

          5. I actually don’t want an offer I can’t refuse. What happens when the company realizes they over paid for me, and gets sour grapes over it? I’m first to go during the next down turn. Make no mistake, there will be another down turn, and I don’t want to be a sitting duck.

          Given all of this, the reason I didn’t return the CEO’s call was that I would get nothing out of it. If the tables were turned, he sure as heck wouldn’t return *my* call if I wanted to know why they rejected me. It would be inappropriate for me to call him, and the same is just as true.

      2. Sascha

        We even had a guy turn down our offer, then our manager called him and convinced him to take it, he worked here for about a week, and then quit. Just wasn’t the right fit for him. Anything can happen!

  11. Tinker

    Yeah, I find it kind of weird when I see people getting to endlessly going over interviews and such like — and even getting emotionally invested in who did or didn’t call back or whatever. Admittedly a little over half my searches were in uninspiring markets, but it’s always seemed obvious that it’s not sustainable to contemplate the matter overmuch.

    Way I figure it — and this based on experience with most of the cases: Applied for job where my match with the listing isn’t the greatest or most apparent: Means nothing. Applied for job when I actually seem to be a really excellent match with what they’re asking for: Means nothing. Get call back: Whatever. Get interview: Means nothing. Interview falls in the “not an obvious bomb” domain: Means nothing. Get offer: Huh. Accept offer: Think that likely I’m going to have a job. Been working at the place for a month or so: Think I probably do have a job.

    About the only thing I’ve been able to tell with any accuracy is that if I have a phone or in-person interview where everything I say seems to fly like a cement pigeon, or if in the interview we end up essentially agreeing that we’re mutually uninterested — then I don’t get an offer. I also usually notice the sort of clicking where people obviously quit interviewing me and start planning what to do once I start. But there’s not a difference in approach or circumstances that seems to cause one case or another to happen — I show up and do my usual thing, and either it’s cement pigeon day or picking the colors for our wedding.

    Pretty much every job that I’ve gotten has been by applying to a listing that I screened for basic compatibility and sent off a description of my (okayish) case for why I could do their thing — then they come back, and wait a minute they seem to be really into me, what the heck, and the love fest just keeps right on going into the offer.

    Meanwhile, I’ve applied to several things that have seemed just tailor-made for me — like, you’re calling for PLC experience and a bit of NEC work, computer vision experience, knowledge of like surge protection design for railroad wayside detection systems, climbing ability sufficient so as to access radio towers, ability to lift 50 pounds, a black belt in Hapkido, and being within half an inch of 5’7″ tall. And then I’m like boy do I have a deal for you, they’re going to absolutely love me and I detail out all these things and then I NEVER. hear from them again. Like seriously, zero hits from this type of scenario. It’s bizarre.

    It seems like people get wrapped around the axle about this because they expect that it’s supposed to make sense somehow and either come up with this model that’s fit to basically noise or conclude that’s somehow personal.

    1. Sascha

      Regarding those situations where it seems like you are an absolutely perfect fit (5’6.5 tall)…in the case of my department, it’s because our posted job descriptions are bad. It drove me crazy. I really pushed to have them changed when I came on board with hiring. For my team, we really need Chocolate Teapot Support, but the hiring manager kept posting an outdated description that heavily emphasized Chocolate Teapot Design. So of course we got tons of applications from designers, who, if you were truly hiring for the position posted, would have been perfect. But then those poor people got into interviews with us and found out we wanted Support and not Design. We’ve finally changed after I don’t know how many years of using an outdated description (that wasn’t that accurate to begin with).

      1. Stephanie

        Yeah, your average job description is terrible. Either they’re super jargony or they play up the seemingly interesting parts of the position to where you don’t get a real idea of the duties (until you interview).

        1. glennis

          I’m on an internal promotional list, and all we have in writing is the generic classification specifications. There are probably 100 Administrative Analysts in our organization, and they do everything from marketing to data base management. You never know until you get in the interview room exactly what THAT position does.

          1. Stephanie

            Yeah, I’ve had a few interviews where I thought the position was doing X, but was really doing Y because the description was so vague and terrible. I’ve been in the midst of interviews thinking “OMG, no no no no! Do not want!”

        2. Grace

          If I see one more job description with the out-dated “multi-tasking”, I am gonna scream! So they want people who make a lot of errors? Researchers around the world – MIT, Stanford, University of Utah, in France – have discovered that when people are “multi-tasking” they are making a ton of errors and can’t do any of the tasks correctly, that the brain loses efficiency, and that the brain is meant to focus on one thing at a time. Ask people to be organized, efficient, etc.

      2. Tinker

        I chalk it up to “chaos monkey doesn’t like me” or that there’s something about my background that makes that sort of “matching” job description just not go.

        My background is a bit nonstandard, so maybe people who ask for that in a point-by-point sort of way (as opposed to my more usual “you want me to crash your servers, I’ve done some of that and some of crashing trains, same-same”) is either MAD, MAD I SAY(!!!!!) or posting a pro forma ad tailored to match a specific person who happens to resemble me.

        There’s also been a couple cases where I’ve wondered if there was a bit of an image issue. I used to do work that was more field-oriented and more physical (now is basically 0% physical and that component has been shifted over into my hobbies); I also used to put my legal name on my resume, and it’s kind of reminiscent of “female British royalty”. Hence, I think maybe there’s a chance that someone reads my resume, subconsciously visualizes the Queen hiking up a mountain and climbing a radio tower with 50 pounds of experimental apparatus strapped to her back while wearing one of those impeccable pastel suits with white gloves, and this visualization does not pass the giggle test. Which, I mean, it doesn’t exactly for me either, so I could only blame someone so much.

        1. anon-2

          H.R.M. is one tough cookie, Tinker. She fixed trucks during the war. She can change a transmission. She can start a stalled vehicle.

          H.R.M. = Her Royal Majesty, the Queen Elizabeth.

    2. lonepear

      This drives me crazy–before my current job I applied to a few like this, including one where friends asked if the organization wrote it for me intending to hire me. Most of the “perfect fit” postings never even got me an interview!

      (I am in one of the “perfect fit” jobs now, but with an organization I’d already been working with to the point that it was probably easier for them to hire me than to have to answer another email. :-))

  12. Laura

    To add to the chorus here – I was interviewed at a dentist’s office by the dentist herself. She said I seemed great, she wanted to hire me but that she had one more interview later in the day that she couldn’t cancel at the last minute. I ended up not getting the job. So yes, even if they tell you you have the job, you can’t predict your chances!

  13. tesyaa

    After being out of the workforce (home with kids) for a number of years, I interviewed with a company. The third-party recruiter kept telling me I was getting an offer. I put off applying for other jobs. After 4 or 5 weeks went by, my friend told me, “You are not getting that offer!” I took this to heart, went ahead and applied for other jobs, and got an offer elsewhere within a couple of weeks.

    1. anon-2

      “The third-party recruiter kept telling me I was getting an offer. I put off applying for other jobs”

      Never, NEVER, NEVER do that. Even if an interview goes well – KEEP LOOKING. Aggressively, keep job hunting until you get that offer letter in hand.

      That first interview may end up just as yours did. There is also a situation, that has happened to me a couple times in my career– where I was being “strung along” for a job I really wanted — then I landed another one that I *would* accept – and I went back to the first outfit and explained = “I really want to go with you, but, I have another offer and THEY’RE pressuring me. Can you let me know the status of my candidacy there?”

      – you’ll either be asked “hey – hold on – don’t do anything until tomorrow, OK?” or told “oh, well, we have a number of candidates, and good luck with your new position, thanks for letting me know.”

  14. Just a Reader

    I got jerked around for 3 months by a recruiter who kept asking to set up “one final interview” and then going dark. “One final interview” = job probably, right?

    Finally she called me TWICE (we spoke both times) to tell me that the reason she was dodging me was that they found someone they liked better, expedited her interview process and hired her.

    Okay…thanks for wasting my time and giving me an extra rejection on top of the one you already delivered. Appreciate it.

  15. some1

    I had a great interview once with the hiring manager and the HR Director. A week later, the HR Director called and asked if I could come in and speak to him that day. I really wanted the job so I raced over on my lunch hour, thinking I’d be getting an offer. Turns out the company had been bought out and they didn’t know if they’d be filling the position. They did eventually end up hiring me about three months later, but, yes, it goes to show that you never know.

  16. brightstar

    I think this is one of the hardest lessons to learn in job searching. I actually found Ask a Manager after I received a verbal offer for a job only to have it rescinded.

    I’ve had long term positions where I thought I bombed the interview and went in unsure I wanted the job and left unsure I wanted it.

    I’ve been told I’m a finalist, they have one more interview, when can I start and then not receive an offer.

    I’ve been told I didn’t get offers because I seem too low key, or because I seemed too extroverted, for minute details, and once because the organization was told to hire a friend of the director.

    I’ve had phone and in person interviews where everything seemed great only to have the hiring manager pass without meeting me.

    Long winded way of saying you never know what’s going to happen or what will sway the decision.

  17. holly

    even after the interviewer says “we’d like to offer you a job,” funding can fall through and then no job.

  18. CorpRecruiter

    I know AAM fields tons of questions about this and I’m reiterating things she’s said in the past, but I still want to give my two cents. I’m a corporate recruiter – here are some of my experiences:

    1. As a recruiter, I’ve loved candidates that the hiring manager disqualified for other reasons (not having the right technical skills, for instance).

    2. The committee has loved candidates that I’ve disqualified for other reasons (bad cultural fit, other red flags)

    3. We’ve passed on candidates we liked because we decided to close the role without hiring anyone (as in, after interviewing we realized the pain level wasn’t high enough to warrant another hire)

    4. Early in my career, I sometimes wrote vaguely positive emails to candidates I had no interest in proceeding with. For instance, candidates would email me to “check in” and I’d reply with “we’re still reviewing resumes and deciding on next steps,” as opposed to just rejecting them outright like I should have.

    5. Lots of people who are referred to the company think they have a higher chance of landing the job – they don’t

    6. We’ve passed on candidates we liked due to questionable social media content (this is very, very rare, but it does happen).

    7. We’ve passed on candidates because we had multiple candidates we liked, and someone else won out.

    8. We’ve passed on candidates with bad references

    9. I’ve kept candidates “warm” for weeks (basically stringing them along) because the hiring manager didn’t want to make a hiring decision, or wanted to wait around to see if someone better showed up.

    Point is, you never know if you’re going to get a job. There are tons of factors going on behind the scenes that influence a hiring decision.

    1. AnonymousByChoice

      Just curious about the your #4 comment – if you knew right off the bat that you had no interest in proceeding further, why wouldn’t you just tell them (in a nice professional way of course)?

      1. TL

        I think it was an inexperience thing of not wanting to hurt feelings of the candidates. Several managers here have said they did similar things early on in their career.

        1. CorpRecruiter

          Yup, inexperience thing. AAM has talked about the same thing regarding firing – sometimes when you’re inexperienced you act “nice” rather than being direct and honest. It took me a while to realize that acting that way is doing a disservice to the candidate.

    2. Joey

      Okay I’m a little baffled by you disqualifying candidates based on cultural fit that a hiring committe likes. Aren’t the hiring managers a better judge of cultural fit seeing as they are the immediate culture of the person hired? And why would someone get an interview with a hiring manager if you’ve already determined they’re a bad cultural fit?

    3. Jules

      #4 on your list is the worst to me – as a prospective candidate. I’d much prefer to get a concrete “no, thanks,” then be strung along, dangling in the unknown for an indefinite period of time. I’ve got a GC of a big company kind of doing this to me right now. I applied, and had an interview the next day with HR, then an interview with GC two days later. Both of them told me they would want me to start ASAP, and I said OK. They said I was competing against an internal candidate who didn’t quite have the right skills for the job but had “institutional knowledge.” 1.5 weeks later the GC emailed to let me know they’re still “discussing” and will let me know by end of the week. Well, the week is over. I’d hope that they have the respect enough to send a quick email and let me know I didn’t make the cut so I can stop wondering. It’s very frustrating.

  19. JenTheNiceHRGirl

    I work with hiring managers all day. Some are reasonable, professional, and easy to work with… and others, not so much. Some will interview candidates and then never tell me how it went. Some will even “forget” candidates who they met with…Sometimes they decide not to fill a job after meeting with final candidates several times. Sometimes they will tell me that they just love a candidate and then end up going with another candidate whom they told me was only “ok”. Some will tell me that they want a candidate with A, B, and C skills and then randomly hire their cousin who has none of those skills. I could go on an on…It can be really frustrating, but its definitely best to just mentally move on after an interview and not dwell on it because there could be a million different things happening and trying to determining which one of them it is, will drive you crazy. I have been on the other side of the fence too, so I know how it feels.

  20. AB Normal

    Not for the OP in particular, but one thing that people tend to forget is that, while your interview may have gone exceedingly well, the following scenarios are too common to be ignored:

    a) Another person also had a great interviews, and for some reason — which may not even be rational, such as the hiring manager liked a joke s/he made — gets and accepts the offer.

    b) The reason you think you had a great interview is because of a bad interviewer, who, concluding at the beginning of the interview that you are a bad fit, proceeded to only ask “easy questions” that made you breeze through the interview. Meanwhile, with another candidate that the interviewer felt was stronger, the questions were much more probing, but the candidate also nailed them, and is going to get the offer.

    1. glennis

      We once had to compare two very strong candidates for an admin position, but one of them really wowed us with her get up and go attitude, and her presentation was much more professionally corporate. In the end, we went with the second candidate, because it was quite obvious that the Wow candidate was extremely ambitious, and would be looking for promotional opportunities right away. I think we made the right choice, because the second candidate was great, and she made a commitment to stay with our department. But I’m sure the Wow candidate spent some time wondering why we didn’t hire her.

      1. anon-2

        I think what you’re saying here is you rejected the better candidate because the second one wouldn’t be ambitious, and you wanted someone without that ambition, with few thoughts of advancing themselves.

        There is a word for people like that = “Drones”.

        I think the “wow” candidate, overall, would be happier now, wherever she ended up. She probably found something better.

        1. Ask a Manager Post author

          I don’t think that’s fair. If a candidate makes it clear that they’re hoping to move up out of the position you’re hiring for fairly quickly, it makes perfect sense to hire someone who will be happier in the role for longer.

          1. PEBCAK

            Also, I have seen huge problems in departments where they hire too many “high potential” candidates. Most organizations (rightfully) have fewer people at the top, and you can’t retain tons of people looking to move up if there are limited opportunities to do so.

          2. anon-2

            This is one of the reasons used to rationalize not hiring “overqualified” people.

            And, I think my statement, while harsh, was right on. Did the candidate make it explicitly clear that she wanted to move up the ladder quickly – or was that an assumption made by the hiring people? It looks like the latter to me.

          3. hamster

            But she didn’t make it clear. She just seemed mobile because of her skills. When i was hired, my manager wanted me and told her “second in command” that ” i brought you a smart girl. She’s sharp and professional and tough and a bit overqualified” He was adamant that she shouldn’t do it, i would just get bored and leave. She also got headcount and hired his choice, another colleague whom he perceived as more the “settling” kind . Turns, out, the colleague left about the same time as i did ( we each had our different reasons, my hiring manager leaving was one of them for me at least). True, i left for something more technical while she switched departments a bit, but it in long run it was just a problem of perception

          4. HH

            Is it possible that the hiring manager also wants to move up quickly and would like to hire someone who can grow on the job quickly to fill his/her role? It’s so depressing if most of the managers don’t want to hire people with a lot of ambitions and probably would work ten times harder someone just happy at the role. Isn’t growth come from unsatisfaction?

        2. glennis

          No, it wasn’t that, it was that both were very good and we chose the one who fit our needs better. She turned out to be excellent.

          The job required extensive training in the financial software our organization uses, and it would have been a huge burden to train someone in its use (both candidates were from outside) and then have her leave us. It was clear she wanted to rise in the organization, and fast. We made a prudent choice, and got an excellent employee.

  21. Mary Beth

    I concur with this wholeheartedly. I’ve had an interviewer say, “let’s be sure to get lunch when you start,” but then did not get the job. It’s a hard thing to remember (especially for us newbies in the professional world) that the people you think have so much power over your financial and professional future just might not be telling the truth, or might not actually have the power you think they have.

  22. AdjunctForNow

    I had an academic interview last month, and the department chairman made me a verbal offer, but then everyone went on semester break and I am just sitting around biting my nails :-(

    He outright said that they want me, but he has layers of approval to go through, so I know it could still fall through, but grrr…what bad timing to interview right before everyone takes a month off.

    1. TL

      You probably know this but academia usually takes forever anyways so don’t stress if you can manage. It took about 4 months from applying for my new job till I start and they were in a hurry. (They switched accounting systems right before they were going to offer and all of a sudden their money wasn’t guaranteed anymore. ) but the advice here really helped me keep my cool! Good luck!

  23. JM in England

    I’ve tried umpteen times to explain this very concept to the Job Centre employees here in England! Yet they still seem to think that you have total control over the outcome of an application or interview and not getting the job is always your fault…………

  24. Decimus

    You really can’t predict this stuff. I interviewed for a job in mid-July of last year. I was told they’d let me know about the second round. They told me a bit later things were busy but they’d not made a decision… the job was re-listed and I assumed they’d moved on, although I’d drop them a short note saying I was around and interested. They managed to re-list that job three time before, at the very end of November, they called to ask for my references so they could offer me the job (the second round of interviews somehow vanished. I work there now. It has some yellow flags, but… they offered me the job four and a half months after I interviewed. You really can’t predict this stuff.

  25. JohnB

    For those of you tired of people asking…did you get the job..did you get the job….make up a small sign with a few words….every time you’re asked…just hold it up. :)

    1. TL

      My go to was you’ll know when I do. And then ‘look, I’m not very patient anyway and you’re not helping.’ (For family only)

  26. JohnB

    What I find really troubling is the people who say, you should take any minimum wage job you can. After 30 years in the aerospace industry, all I’m worth to them, is a minimum wage job. They wanted me to find a job as a dishwasher at any restaurant. I pointed out to them…do you know how that looks on a resume? To be 60 and working as a dish washer. Do you know what your next employer will think? So, you’re only worth “minimum wage”….I guess that’s what we’ll offer you.

  27. Kinky Kurly

    Yep. These things are definitely unpredictable. I’ve had a job tell me how much they loved me and ask when can I start at the end of the interview…didn’t get the job. I’ve been asked enthusiastically how quickly can I fly out to begin working there (out of state job) to which I replied 2 days…didn’t get the job. I’ve had great rapport with interviewers…didn’t get the job. I’ve been given tours around the office, shown where my desk would be, and given a summary of employee benefit options…didn’t get the job. I’ve had jobs that could have literally been written for me based on my background and interests…didn’t get the job.

    Then I’ve had so-so interviews for jobs that tbh I wasn’t very qualified to do based on my background…got the job. o_O

    You can never tell. It really is a case of wait and see while of course continuing to vigorously apply. I know it’s hard, believe me I”VE BEEN THERE. You know where…constantly seeing yourself completing job related duties, imagining your interactions with co-workers, planning your commute to and from the office, telling everyone how great your interview/s went, etc. No more. I don’t read too much into anything. I’m always immensely excited about the opportunity to interview, but I’m not putting myself through the emotional roller coaster by trying to make “signs” out of the process. It’s too difficult.

  28. Anonadog

    I’ve also learned that you can’t even predict how far you’ll go in the interview process! Several times, I’ve had hiring managers say “Yes, let’s move to the next step – we’ll call you soon for another interview,” and then they don’t (even with good and diligent follow up on my part).

  29. Gina

    Definitely good advice. Unfortunately, this is something I still struggle with. I’ve been getting my hopes up a lot lately whenever I have an interview that went well. I think it’s easier to get your hopes up when you’re unemployed vs job searching while employed. When you’re unemployed, you’re more desperate; therefore, more hopeful. :P

  30. John

    Interview on Friday said they would let me know next week.
    I cannot sleep.. I constantly think about getting this job and how my life would change instantly.
    I cannot really function until I know if I will get this or not.
    Interview went well. It is now Tuesday. 2 business days after my 2nd interview. .. Would it be safe to call on Friday Afternoon for a follow up if they do not get back to me?

  31. Jayjay

    I had an interview for an amazing job, which seemed like it was designed just for me. They called up in the morning, saying that they had looked at my resume and wanted to do a telephone interview later that day, and to do a bit of research on the company, etc. So the afternoon rolls around and the telephone interview went amazingly, they kept telling me how impressed they were etc and how well the interview seemed to be going. I was told that they would let me know in the next TWO weeks if I would get a final interview. Nothing ever again. Sent a tentative “I’m still here and still interested” email. Nothing.

  32. Mr Anonymous

    I have found 7 jobs that wanted to pay me what I wanted and I did not get hired by any of them in the past 6 months.
    I will not give up but I am pretty bummed about the entire process.
    One company waited 2 months to email me and tell me that they are now planning not to fill the role.
    It is crazy how much time and energy, gas, emotional ups and downs we go through just to get no answer … just silence. I would expect at the VERY LEAST an email saying they picked someone else.. The last place I called I interviewed twice and HR told me to call back on Monday and when I call they say we will call you if we decide to pick you. Which means goodbye and dont call again .. ever.

  33. Dr. Know It All

    First, always ask (they may not tell you) how many candidates are being considered. If there are 7 candidates being considered, with all probabilities being equal, you would have an 85% chance of NOT being offered the job. Now, one may say that the candidates must differentiate themselves, which will increase their chances. True, but not every candidate will differentiate at the same statistical bump. Hence, the only thing you can do is to apply statistical behavioral modeling for that respective activity, which equals 20%. Assuming a 20% bump in chance for each individual (which is assuming equal probabilities again, which won’t occur), you chances of NOT getting that job stand at roughly 67%, very high odds that no offer will occur. That is why it is so important to try to get the employer to tell you the number of candidates under consideration, if there are more than 5, I wouldn’t waste the gas money, time, or trouble to interview….the odds are against you. Remember, only 1 of those 7 applicants will walk away happy!

  34. The Graduate

    So I’m driving myself crazy right now waiting to see if I have the job or not. I applied for it way back in June, and then in July I got invited to an interview. It all seemed to go really well, they seemed to like my portfolio and I thought they were friendly and would be nice to work for. The next week, they invited me in for a second interview the following week (end of July) and asked me to do a small project for them. I worked hard on the project, and was proud of what I did, and when I showed it to them they asked if they could keep hold of it for a little while. In the mean time, they told me HR would be in contact with me (but didn’t specify when).
    Since then I’ve been contacted by my HR contact several times, each time saying that the decision/finances/signing off the role is still waiting on someone higher up. There have been people away on holiday I think which didn’t help, and now because it’s a new role they’re filling they’re still waiting for the managing director to confirm the role. The HR person has told me that she was told I’d make a great addition to the team, all the other candidates have been told they weren’t successful, and that ideally they’d like me to start as soon as possible (ie, next week… I was told that last week however..). They still have my project, and I have no idea how much longer I should wait. I’m sure these sort of delays are common (especially this time of year with people being away) but it seems to be waiting on one final decision that sounds like it should have been made at least a couple of weeks ago.
    How common is it for people to advertise for a new role, go through the process of interviews and second interviews and narrow it down to one final candidate, to then realise that maybe the role isn’t necessary? Because at the moment I’m worried that’s what’s happening. I’m happy I’ve made it this far though as for such a specialised role I found out (from job hunting websites that say how many people have applied) there were at least 100 other applicants. I wasn’t going for a grad specific role, just a junior role, so it’s given me a bit of a confidence boost even if I haven’t got it.
    In the mean time, I’m a graduate with a very specialised degree (my choice as I love what I do, but it’s making it difficult now..) and the job searching has pretty much dried up. I don’t know if it’s just the time of the year when people are away so not bothering to post new jobs up, or if I’ve missed the main hiring time of the year, but it now feels like weeks are going by with no new job postings and no more news from any of the jobs I’ve applied for. I don’t know what to do with my days and I actually really love working, and miss it. I did a placement year out working as part of my BA and I loved every second of it. Sadly they’re not in a position to hire, but I’d love to work for free for them right now as it would give me something to do, but I feel I can’t ask in case I do hear back from this job (and I keep thinking to myself, surely it can’t be that much longer?!)
    I’m glad I’m not the only one going through this stress, but I wish I knew what to do!

    1. A.N.

      “I don’t know if it’s just the time of the year when people are away so not bothering to post new jobs up, or if I’ve missed the main hiring time of the year, but it now feels like weeks are going by with no new job postings…”

      I have noticed this as well in my field. There were tons of jobs back in June and July, but I’ve hardly seen anything new in September.

  35. Hans

    I was called for an interview with the owner two weeks ago, then he sent me for a second interview with his co-owner on the second week which was last week. The co-owner told me that the other owner will contact me within a week, after waiting more than a week I called the first interviewer and he said he still need to interview someone but everything is positive at the moment. There are two positions available and six candidates competing. Do I stand a chance?

  36. Kaite

    Oh man, I needed to read this so much right now. I walked into an employment exam for a position I was really excited and hopeful about only to find that there were five other candidates taking it with me. Did she finish that section early? Does that mean she’s more qualified than me? Maybe yes, maybe no, right? I just have to wait and see. I can’t help thinking about it, but now I realize that I have to keep searching in the meantime.

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