5 things you should never do while waiting to hear back about a job

Your job interview went great, and the employer said you’d hear something soon. But it’s been a week, your phone hasn’t rung, and you’re getting antsy to hear something. When you’re waiting to hear back about a job, time often seems like it’s passing incredibly slowly, and each day of silence can be agony.

But as anxious as you are to hear something, make sure that your anxiety doesn’t drive you to actions that will actually harm your chances. Here are five things that you might be tempted to do while waiting to hear something – but which you should never, ever do.

1. Check in aggressively. It can be nerve-wracking to wait to hear back from an employer after an interview. But if you give into those nerves by contacting before you should or too many times, you risk undermining the good impression you hopefully made when you met with the employer. That means that you shouldn’t check in before their timeline for making a decision has elapsed, or email and then email again when you don’t get a response to your first message after a day or two, or call repeatedly and hang up when you get voicemail (which looks pretty stalker-ish on Caller ID).

The reality is, hiring often takes much, much longer than either side expects it to. But if an employer wants to hire you, they’re not going to forget about you. If you’re the strongest candidate, you don’t need to do anything to keep yourself in the forefront of the hiring manager’s mind; you’re already there. Following up once – after the timeline they give you for hearing something has passed – is fine, but beyond that, all you can do is be patient and wait to hear.

2. Bluff and say you have another job offer when you really don’t. If you have another offer that you need to respond to, it makes sense to contact any other employers you’re waiting to hear from and let them know of the offer and any associated time constraints. But sometimes a job candidate, eager to move the process along and get a decision, will make up an offer, hoping that it’ll push the employer to move faster. This is a dangerous move, because there’s a good chance that the employer will tell you, “We can’t expedite things on our end and don’t want to prevent you from taking another offer, so we’ll remove you from consideration on our end.”

3. Stop applying and interviewing for other jobs. No matter how well your interview went, no matter how perfectly suited for the job you are, and no matter how enthusiastic your interviewers appeared to be about your candidacy, never assume that you have the job in the bag. Even if positive signs seem to be raining down upon you, a better candidate could emerge, the company president’s nephew might need a job, they might freeze hiring altogether, or all sort of other things could prevent you from getting an offer. Until you actually have an offer, don’t count on getting any particular job. Keep job-searching just as actively as you would have if you knew you weren’t getting this job – because if you don’t get it, you don’t want to have wasted weeks waiting for it when you could have been talking with other employers.

4. Go on vacation and become inaccessible without giving the employer a heads-up. You don’t need to put your life on hold while you’re waiting to hear about a job (and in fact, you shouldn’t), but if you’re going to be inaccessible for more than a couple of days and you’re at the finalist stage of interviewing, you should let the employer know. Otherwise, you risk them contacting you with an offer or for another conversation, not hearing back, assuming you’re no longer interested, and moving forward with other candidates instead. So if you’re going away and won’t have phone or email access, just send the employer a quick email to let her know that’s the case and when you’ll return.

5. Agonize and obsess. Why haven’t they called yet? Should you have heard something by now? Does the lack of contact indicate they’re not interested? If you can’t find the job ad anymore, does it mean they hired someone else? If the hiring manager looks at your LinkedIn profile, does that mean they’re getting ready to make you an offer? Trying to read into every detail like this is a recipe for a miserable few weeks (or even months). You’re far better off putting the job out of your head and mentally moving on after you interview; obsessing won’t do anything to increase your chances, but it will make you miserable. Instead, mark your calendar to check in with them once at an appropriate point in the future if you haven’t heard back, but otherwise put the job out of your mind and let it be a pleasant surprise if you receive an offer.

I originally published this at U.S. News & World Report.

{ 22 comments… read them below }

  1. AdAgencyChick*

    “Even if positive signs seem to be raining down upon you, a better candidate could emerge, the CEO’s nephew might need a job, they might freeze hiring altogether – and all sorts of other things could prevent you from getting an offer.”

    Story. Of. My. Life.

    1. Not helpful*

      Or we’ve decided to institute new requirements for positions at this level.
      Took 2 years for my husband to get the job he has now.

    2. AnonPi*

      Yup, one group I’ve applied with several times and only once did they actually hire someone (not me :p), the rest of the time the positions are delayed infinitely…

    3. Meg Murry*

      Me too for a while. My husband and I used to joke that I caused hiring freezes, after the 4th company went into a hiring freeze between my first interview and 2nd (most of them we had already set up 2nd interviews and had to cancel, or were in the process of setting them up). So frustrating.

    4. Sascha*

      My sister had the CEO’s nephew thing happen to her. She was told to come in the Monday following her interview to do new hire paperwork, and then got a call over the weekend…

  2. Nom d' Pixel*

    Those things under “Check in Aggressively” are so true. When I interview people, I tell them that I will contact them by a specific date and let them know of their status, good or bad. Inevitably, I will get someone who, two or three days before that date, starts calling several times a day, not leaving a message or emailing me twice a day.

    It never moves anyone up in the hiring list, but it does move people down. We can be on the fence between to candidates, and the decision can come down to who seems like they would be easier to work with. Also, if someone is a strong candidate but didn’t get hired because someone else was better, we will keep them in mind for future openings. However, if that person is a PITA, we don’t.

    1. some1*

      & if you do check in once or twice because the deadline has past, don’t leave a VM just saying, “This is Jane Smith. Call me back.” especially if you are calling an HR contact. They probably have more than one job opening and they aren’t going to remember everyone off the top of their head, much less contact info.

      You are better off sending an email like, “This is Jane Smith, I interviewed with for the Teapot Designer role with you and [name of hiring manager]. I was wondering if you have any updates on the timeline for that position. You can reach me at ________.” Every time I have sent an email like that when the answer was, “Actually, sorry, but best of luck” I got an answer really quickly.

    2. Bee Eye LL*

      I had one applicant email me twice, send me FB and LinkedIn requests, and even call and leave a voicemail and this was just after he put in the application and before we even met the guy. His qualifications were so low that I didn’t even bother with the interview. Dude was way too aggressive in his approach.

  3. MissLibby*

    I went to a second round interview almost 7 weeks ago. They said they would be making a decision within 2 weeks. I heard nothing, put it behind me, moved on. At the 4 week mark, I had an email from the HR director saying they were still working on background checks and the process had been delayed due to vacations and “out of state” checks. Here I am 3 weeks later, still waiting….I am in the clear on Items 1-4 in Alison’s article, 5 though….I had moved on but then they got my hopes up again at the 4 week mark…having a hard time putting it out of my mind at this point! Should I check in??

    1. J.B.*

      In your case, sure, some1’s wording above looks great. But if you don’t get an answer or get another wishy washy answer, pretty much assume a no. A yes might come along and surprise you but the lack at this point could also indicate issues filling the position (funding, etc.)

  4. John B Public*

    So glad I’ve never done any of these. Putting my efforts into taking out billboards outside of their parking lots, and skywriting to get my impatience across.

  5. Ali*

    I did #1 for a job I really wanted at a newspaper. This was about 5-6 years ago, so I wasn’t really reading AAM at the time. And then I wondered why I didn’t get the job…

  6. AnonPi*

    Hell one job I applied for I didn’t get a call for an interview til 6 months later (yes it was for the government facility). At that point I didn’t really recall what the job was for! Thankfully the HR person sent me a copy of job description, lol

    Had an interview this morning and they up front told me it would be 4-6 weeks before I’d hear anything. And she was nice enough to give me her card and said if I don’t hear by that point to please contact her. But otherwise, yeah, moving on to the next job app.

  7. simonthegrey*

    Ugh, my husband would do the “ok, I applied here, now I don’t have to apply anywhere for two weeks while I wait to hear back” during his two years of unemployment. It was so frustrating. He would claim it was because he didn’t want to mot be able to accept a job if one came up, but most places would never send a “thanks but no thanks” and I kept trying to tell him it is all a numbers game. He would wait 2-3 weeks for an interview, then get sad, then apply at one new place, then wait…..it was a huge strain on our relationship.

  8. Sara*

    How can I avoid appearing to do #2?

    I have a verbal offer from one job that I really want (Employer A), and while I have no reason to believe that the written offer isn’t going to come through, I am obviously continuing to pursue other opportunities – including two second-and-final-round interviews, one of which was today and one which is tomorrow. In my field, hiring moves fast, and there is a real possibility I might hear from the employer I spoke to today (Employer B) before I get a formal written offer from the first place. (And yes, of course – I might not get the the one from today, but I do feel very confident about the interview and think it’s a possibility that I might be the strongest candidate.) Supposing that I hear back from Employer B first, what’s the best way to present that to Employer A without shooting myself in the foot?

    1. LJL*

      When I’ve been in that situation, I have waited until I had an offer elsewhere to call and check on the candidacy. Then I framed it as “I have an offer, and I want to make sure I”m carefully considering all options, so could you update me on the status of my candidacy?” When I’ve done that, I have not gotten an offer from Employer A, but I sincerely thanked them for the update and for their role my decision making process. After all, when you have 0 jobs, it is easier to decide between 1 job offer than 2!

  9. Michelle J*

    Adding a part about focusing in on excelling in one’s current employment (while waiting on other job offers) would be great; excelling, seeking other areas of opportunity or transition, and mobility within the existing company may be an unexplored option for dissatisfied employee. Being open to sticking it out may be an alternative that some don’t even consider, until the interview process dries up with no definitive offers. I was furiously job searching for months at the thought of having a contract not renewed and not being hired permanently when one thing led to another, and I got offered a role within the 40K-sized firm I’m in right now. A part of waiting within the job interview charade that helped keep my head up was just leaning in in my current role, waiting for tough patches to straighten out, and just growing to be happy in my current contract role… and things panned out on their own.

  10. Jess R*

    Good read! I’m actually waiting to hear back from an employer and this has reassured me to stay patient.

  11. Lann*

    I had an interview and the hiring manager told me to wait in 1-2weeks. The interview was good but I failed the assessment exam. But its been 3 weeks now and I haven’t got an update. I email their hr but didnt give any respond. But a day before that I emailed the hr asking bout the email address of the manager, she replied quickly and said that they are not allowed to that instead I could send it to their talent acquisition mailbox. Its okay if I didnt get the job, (cause I failed the exam) just hoping they would update me that the position was filled already so there will be a closure.

    1. Jay*

      This is eerily similar to my case. I’m applying for an internship and the office manager told me she will let me know about the result in around 2 weeks because the office can be really hectic. I think I did okay with the interview and test but it’s been 2 weeks and 3 days. People told me to email her back and ask for an update but I’m terrified she will get the impression that I’m nosey. What should I do?

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