why do so many companies never respond to job candidates?

A reader writes:

I am amazed at the number of times companies have stopped communicating during the interview process without explanation. In this era of email, I don’t understand why a brief note isn’t sent to let a candidate know they are no longer under consideration.

My most recent experience was with a company that flew me, at great expense, out to their HQ on the opposite coast for a round of in-person meetings with company executives after three earlier phone interviews. The hiring manager stated I was on top of his list and that he’d call me on Monday; this was a Friday.

I immediately sent thank-you notes to everyone I had met, yet received no responses. After a week, I left a voice message requesting an update. After 4 more days, I sent an email requesting a status update and including a proposed 30-60-90 day business plan, to which I received a brief email thank you and a promise of a call within two days. This was more than two weeks ago and I haven’t heard anything.

I’ve heard similar stories from friends also in the market. What am I expected to do now?

I answer this question over at Inc. today, where I’m revisiting letters that have been buried in the archives here from years ago, and sometimes updating/expanding my answers to them. This one in particular used to be a favorite topic of mine, but I haven’t written about it recently so it was nice to get a chance to revisit it.

You can read it here.

{ 127 comments… read them below }

  1. Animal Shelter Worker*

    “We’ll let you know either way by [date].”

    LOL. Yeah, we both know that’s a lie.

    1. Sydney*

      Yup. People are jerks. It’s angers me that they can’t even let me know after I’ve gone in for an interview. So rude.

    2. NK*

      I think in a lot of cases the process just takes longer than anyone expects, since there are typically a lot of stakeholders to wrangle to make a decision and get an offer out and accepted. Those timelines reflect a lot of wishful thinking.

      However, experienced HR people should know this and should pad the timelines and remind interviewers to do the same. No one will get mad if you get back to them sooner than expected!

      1. M*

        Exactly this! Pad the timelines! My husband was recently told that an employer was checking his references and would call him back the next day, but he didn’t hear for two weeks. He followed up somewhere in there and got no response. He would have been fine with a longer time frame, but just ended up sweating for the two weeks wondering what was going on or if he just wasn’t getting the job after all.

      2. Anxa*

        See, to me the lie isn’t in the date they provide, but rather the ‘we’ll let you know’ part. If 6 months have gone by and the position is filled or no longer being filled, it’s time to let a candidate know.

        1. Sydney*

          Yes to both. Don’t tell me you’ll get back to me tomorrow when you bloody well know it’s going to be next week. Even if say I interview on a Friday and they say they will get back to me by the following Friday I expect a bit longer. Like Weds of the following week. That’s still three full working days later than they promised. However I do still expect an email telling me one way or another. It’s fine if it’s later than they promised. It’s just rude not to send one at all.

        2. Not the Droid You are Looking For*

          I once got a call for an interview six months after applying and the woman was miffed when I explained I had secured a new job a few months ago and was no longer looking.

      3. Animal Shelter Worker*

        Right, but considering it’s possible for people to never hear back, I don’t think that’s the most plausible explanation if it’s been longer than 2 months. Even just a “thanks, but no thanks” would suffice.

    3. Audiophile*

      Famous last words.

      “We think this could be a good fit. We’re really impressed with you. We’ just at the beginning of this, we have a few more interviews to go. We’ll let you know in a week, if we’ll be doing a second round. But either way, you’ll hear from us.”

    4. Greg*

      I’ve said to candidates, “I’d love to give you a timeline, but I’ve found in the past that whatever timeline I promised always ended up being unrealistic, so I’m just going to promise that I will eventually get back to you.” And then I did get back to them.

      I mean, ideally you should respond to all applicants, even if they never even reach the phone-screen stage. There are lots of tools these days that make that easier to do, though I understand not every company has access to them.

      But responding to people who have actually interviewed is a no-brainer, especially since, even if you’re going to reject them now, you may want to consider them in the future. It’s also just basic politeness.

      Also, I’ve changed my views on communicating with candidates during a hiring process. For one thing, I used to wait until a hiring process was completed before notifying rejected candidates, but I realized that was unnecessarily prolonging their anxiety. If I’m down to two candidates and I might hire my second choice if No. 1 declines, then yeah, I’m going to wait. But if I interview a candidate and immediately know she’s not a fit, there’s no reason not to tell her fairly promptly.

      Second, for candidates still under consideration, if there’s some delay and you can’t give an answer yet, I definitely think it’s worth being transparent (“Hey, my boss is out this week so it may be a little longer before we can meet and review candidates.”) The fact is, sweating out a hiring process absolutely sucks for candidates, and companies should be conscious of that fact.

  2. Adam*

    I’m sitting with this right now. Interviewed for a job I would really like to have and as far as I can tell it went really well. But I was the first person they interviewed for the position and so they would be talking to more people (and the hiring manager was also going on vacation for a week) so I knew it would take a while to hear one way or another. But it’s been almost a month and while I generally subscribe to the mantra of say your thank yous and move on, part of me twitches and wonders if perhaps I should follow up or if I’ve waited too long, etc. etc.

    1. bob*

      This is not on you and you don’t need to followup to let them know you’re still interested!

      1. Newbie*

        When an organization doesn’t have the courtesy to follow up with an applicant, especially one that they flew in for an interview, it would really make me wonder about working there. Only takes a couple of minutes to follow up. I would even settle for an automated “sorry you weren’t selected” email than to never hear back at all. At least then you can move on.

        1. Greg*

          Yes, although disorganization in HR doesn’t necessarily tell you about the rest of the organization.

          One suggestion I’ve heard, although I’ve never tried it myself: if you know you’re the first candidate they’ve met, specifically ask to come back in for an additional conversation at the end of the first round, since their views of the role may have changed in the course of interviewing candidates. Maybe some people will consider that pushy, but I think it shows a certain level of maturity. Then again, as I said, I’ve never tried it, so I can’t say for sure if it would work.

  3. Tsalmoth*

    I’m running a search right now, and I always tell candidates exactly our next steps at the end of the phone interviews (and again when they come in), letting them know how long the overall process is (so the person at the beginning of a two-week round of interviews knows not to worry for a bit), and when they should expect to hear from us. If a candidate makes it to the interview process, they deserve further communication. Period.

    1. Not the Droid You are Looking For*

      I operate the same way.

      The other big thing that I insist on is the automated reply to application submissions. It’s such a simple thing to set-up!

      1. Greg*

        Do you mean like sending a confirmation immediately after they submit? That’s fine, I guess, but doesn’t really offer the candidate much.

        I do think sending a message, even if it’s a mail merge, to all rejected candidates when you’ve finished the hiring process will be far more appreciated. If someone submitted a resume and never heard back, they don’t expect detailed feedback, but giving them closure is the least you can do.

    2. The Alias Gloria Has Been Living Under, A.A., B.S.*

      I’ve had HR people tell me all this, saying that they want to keep me in the loop and that they don’t like to keep candidates in the dark, and then they go and do exactly that.

    3. BRR*

      I don’t see why it’s that difficult for everybody to operate that way. My husband interviewed for a job yesterday and the last interview slot is 3 weeks from now. They let him know not to expect to hear from them until at least 4 weeks.

      I think candidates who haven’t interviewed should still get a reply. It’s not that hard to send out a generic email. For people who interview, it’s even more disrespectful and rude to not send a rejection.

    4. Searching*

      If a candidate makes it to the interview process, they deserve further communication. Period.

      And if they don’t, they still need communication – even if it is a one-sentence email stating they will not be moving to the next round of the selection process.

  4. De Minimis*

    I was really hoping this was something that might change with the improving job market [at least where I live] but nope…

  5. Mockingjay*

    I’ve been through multiple interviews for a job – initial phone screens, then in-person. I don’t expect to hear anything right away, but within a month or 2 is reasonable. Instead, I get 3 – 6 months of silence, and the listing is reposted.

    I get it – you aren’t offering me the position. However, a simple email saying you’ve selected someone else or have decided not to hire at this time would be greatly appreciated. I spent a lot of time preparing for the interview. I took leave or arranged my schedule so I could make up the hours for the interview time. Interviewing is an investment for the candidates, not just the employer. A little courtesy, please!

    1. College Career Counselor*

      A corollary to Alison’s article is that very, VERY often, the notification process is held up until (and unless) a candidate actually accepts the offer. I’ve seen HR departments (and hiring managers) refuse to send out rejections–even for those candidates who are absolutely NOT getting an interview–until the search process is concluded. In my opinion, this makes it all the more likely that HR (or the search committee/hiring manager) isn’t going to get back to candidates because so much time has elapsed. Even if the candidates have “moved on,” it’s still incredibly bad form not to formally notify them. And if you don’t want to do that, you should at least set up the auto-bot to say “you’ll be contacted if we decide to move you forward in the review process” upon receipt of the application.

      As for the candidates who interviewed in person/made the final round, I can understand (to a certain extent) not rejecting them if you’ve not locked up your first choice (since the #2 candidate could be very close indeed). But you owe those people some notice/closure, even if you’ve had a failed search or are otherwise re-posting. I was ghosted by an employer some years ago after having been an on-campus finalist, and every time I get asked about that institution, I tell the person this story (plus all the other things I’ve since found out about how dysfunctional the place is).

      1. JM in England*

        Many job postings here in the UK state that if you haven’t heard anything within X time frame, assume that you’ve been unsuccessful. However, can fully understand that anybody who makes it to the interview rounds will want closure since they are more invested in terms of time & money…………

      2. Greg*

        By the way, is there any worse feeling in the world than being a finalist for a job and then having the company go dark for a couple weeks? I’d guess 99 percent of the time, you know it’s because they’re negotiating an offer with the candidate who beat you out, but you’ve come so close, and you spend the whole time trying to rationalize why this case could be part of the 1 percent.

        I once finished an interview process immediately before leaving on a week’s vacation. They had told me I was in the final two, and they had been very prompt and transparent throughout, so I spent the entire vacation (and the week after I returned) constantly checking my phone/email to make sure I hadn’t missed anything. Even when they finally called 2 1/2 weeks later, I was still holding out hope (“She left a message and asked me to call her back! Why would she do that if it was a rejection?”) But of course it was exactly what you would have expected in that scenario.

        1. Can't win*

          As the person who makes that call, (and hates making that call), damned if you do and damned if you don’t. As awkward and uncomfortable as it is, if you have gotten THAT far along in the process, that you were told you were are a finalist, it would be rude to only follow up with an email.

          At least that is what I have been told. I’d rather send an email, but after an unofficial poll of my friends and family, it seems that it is only fair to speak in person. I’m open to other comments on that here…

          1. college employee*

            Go ahead and send the email. I would personally rather a rejection email instead of a phone call. With a phone call, I am in the position of trying to hide my disappointment and not be too emotional on the phone. But with an email, I can read it in the privacy of my home and do not have to worry about my emotions.

            So I would argue that it is not rude to send an email. And, as a bonus, you have a paper trial if a disappointed job seeker decides to retaliate against you.

  6. AnotherAlison*

    At certain levels in my department, it can take weeks to schedule the pow wow between the department manager and the senior department leaders. If you need 4-5 people who travel a lot, and are double-booked in meetings when they are in town, to meet and agree about hiring you, it could be a long wait.

    If they don’t want to rule you out, but there are other senior candidates who have to be flown in to interview (again, finding a day that all the interviewers are there), and then they have to talk about multiple candidates, even worse. Went through it once myself, and it was 4 or 5 months from start to the ultimate rejection, with as long as 4 weeks in the middle with radio silence.

  7. Not Karen*

    *gasp* Two weeks? Try six, followed by an automated rejection from the application system.

    1. LawCat*

      Yeah, that feels familiar! I remember I flew out at short notice at my own expense (government so… you know) for an interview, and then silence for weeks followed by the application system generated rejection. It just said, “Not selected.” That was the entire substance of the message. So, so cold. I understand being rejected, but a rejection can have a little compassion and dignity with it.

        1. ThursdaysGeek*

          Although even a cold rejection is better than silence (in my opinion).

          1. LawCat*

            I agree, but in the sense of, “Will you take a slap on the face or a punch to the face?” Well, I’ll take the slap because it’s “better” than being punched, but both are awful.

  8. The Alias Gloria Has Been Living Under, A.A., B.S.*

    Before I moved to the city I lived in now I had an interview with a company here. I flew out for it, on my own dime, paid for the airfare, hotel, and car rental myself, which they were aware of. And then… nothing. No “Thanks but no thanks” No “FOAD” nothing. Alright. Fine. But remember, candidates can also be customers.

    1. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

      Exactly. Putting a candidate through a three-ring-circus of disrespect can backfire on the company — I often related the story of a one-time, now defunct IS/IT concern that had “HR Circus – center ring!” as a policy.

      When a sales rep came into a place – or tried to get his/her foot in the door – where someone in a position of authority had been put through that wringer, what chances are there of a sale?

      When that company began purging people during its death cycle, how do you think those people fared when trying to get other jobs? And they ran into someone at a place they wanted to be that they had abused when they were in a position of power?

      “Thank you for coming in, but, we’ve gone in a different direction” is a lot better than no reply, or, worse, a rude rejection.

    2. voluptuousfire*

      But remember, candidates can also be customers.

      Yes. This, 1000 x this. This is my MO when interviewing. It’s shocking how many companies pay lip service to great candidate experience but completely do the opposite of that. Great customer service (internal or external) is so easy to do yet so many places do not do it, either well or not at all.

  9. thunderbird*

    I received 2 communications from companies this week, one to say they will keep my resume on file and one form rejection letter after just an application. I was oddly pleased to just be acknowledged, even though they were rejections. Nice to know someone at least looked at my resume.

      1. Stranger than fiction*

        Yep it’s called closure and that’s why it makes it so much easier to move on mentally.

    1. stevenz*

      Yes, that’s how far we have fallen. The bare minimum respect is now something to be savored.

  10. SystemsLady*

    I think I have shared this before, but I was a finalist (one of two or three, I don’t remember) for an internship a year before I graduated.

    They had even taken me out to an informal lunch to meet the team. Sent a nice thank you afterwards, etc.


    Sent a follow up email two weeks later – more crickets.

    I was pretty upset, but decided to believe a rumor some area family had heard their HR department manager there (my contact) had quit with no notice a week after my interview and get over it. Follow up email didn’t bounce, but that doesn’t really mean anything.

    They were excited to run into me at a career fair the next year when I had had an internship and my focus area (not necessarily what the internship would’ve been) was exactly what they were hiring entry level for. But that lack of communication factored into me cancelling the interview rather than waiting out the offer I had.

    I really am inclined to think it was as the rumor implied, given how they greeted me at the career fair (maybe they even thought I’d already been informed), but perhaps a reminder to have good email policies for that kind of situation!

    1. Jerry Vandesic*

      I once had my contact go silent after they pushed very hard for me to interview with them. It wasn’t a big deal at the time, but I was surprised. Six months later they guy updates his LinkedIn profile — he left the company around the time of the dead air, and no one let me know.

  11. Vicki*

    ANd then there are the ones who don;t even acknowledge that you sent in an application. How difficult is that? That one can be a form letter: “Thank you for your application. If you’re a match, we’ll get back to you.”

    1. The Optimizer*

      I recently weeded through hundreds of resumes for a position and 90% of the people who submitted applications didn’t even come close meeting the very clearly stated required experience. I gave up on the cursory thank you notes after the first 50.

      1. ThursdaysGeek*

        If you automate that, it will be the same amount of effort whether sent to 50 or 500.

        1. The Optimizer*

          I was using an online system and it took 2 clicks to send that response but even that proved to be too much at some point. The position was for an advanced teapot analyst, it wasn’t entry level and there was required (and by that I mean that the job posting said REQUIRED) teapot industry experience. I received so many applications from people with no related experience whatsoever – we’re talking cashiers at the $1 store, day care attendants and even one from an attorney. If you can’t be bothered to read and/or comprehend that there are very simple requirements for consideration then you are wasting my time and yours by applying.

            1. The Optimizer*

              Not this one – there was a short list of requirements: the previously mentioned industry experience, specific hours of availability and advanced knowledge of Excel – that’s it.
              Everything else on my wish list was listed under additional information.

              1. CMT*

                Yeah, but candidates don’t know that your requirements are actual requirements vs. Company B down the street that has their wishlist under requirements. Also it sounds like you need a better system for emailing applicants. Sending rejections should be a bare minimum of communication.

          1. Karowen*

            In that case, I can understand not sending it to the people who were just insanely out of the ballpark. But any part of that other 10% that you didn’t bring in, I think you should send a note.

          2. College Career Counselor*

            So the applicants lied on their application, or was there no option to screen for required experience? I know we all gripe and moan about horrible ATS encounters, but it does seem to me that there’s some value in setting some threshold requirements to keep your applicant pool to a manageable size.

            In the past searches I’ve done, about a third of the candidates were qualified and had a decent to good application, another third were minimally qualified on paper (but their application was poorly done), and the final third were a combination of unqualified/didn’t read the instructions properly.

          3. SevenSixOne*

            I’ve filled out plenty of online applications that start with questions like “Do you have at least five years of experience in teapot analytics?” If an applicant answers no, then they can’t proceed with the rest of the application. Could you do something like that?

          4. E*

            Online application systems often have the ability to set up auto-rejections by asking applicants to answer basic questions. If their answers indicate they are not a fit, they receive an automatic thanks-but-no-thanks. Of course, that depends entirely on applicants honestly answering a question about minimum years of teapot design experience, for example. But it can save both sides a lot of time.

    2. Nathan*

      That is what bugs me. I would at least prefer a form letter rejection, that way I get the closure of knowing my application was seen and denied instead of worrying it didn’t make it through or something. It takes no time at all to draft up a document to use as a boilerplate.

  12. Christian Troy*

    Last year, I had an interview that seemed really really promising. They kept saying that they wanted me to contact them if I got other job offers, they needed to have a department meeting before bringing me in, and they would be sad if I took a different position. Two weeks passed and nothing. So I sent a follow up and no response. I sent another email a week later and more nothing. After that I pretty much vowed never to email beyond a thank you note again since I felt so stupid that they couldn’t even send a one sentence rejection.

  13. Workfromhome*

    Its a terrible way to do business but its unlikely to change much because the negative impact it has is so hard to quantify and in many cases it never really has any negative outcome for the company. The job market has been a buyers market (except for some limited circumstances) for so long that the inertia is hard to overcome. If you post for a job and have 100 applicants but lose 5 of the best because you took to long to respond so what? You still have 95 applicants. Maybe the person you get is only 75% as good as what you might have gotten but how will you ever know. You can’t put it in a spreadsheet and measure it so their is no real incentive to change. Maybe someone you don’t respond to gets ticked and tells their friends not to apply to your company? So what 1000 of people still need jobs and will apply.

    Hiring mangers have no incentive to change because even if it does impact the candidate pool its really easy to just push it off to senior management by saying “oh its so hard to find good candidates..we get 1000s of applications and their all junk. Senior managers being largely blind or egotistical enough to think their company is so great that only top people are able to work their say “Yes we understand not many are as great as we are and can meet our high standards its not you hiring practices that are poor but that most candidates are not very good. So the position goes unfilled while they search for their purple unicorn candidate that has a Law Degree, can write code and will work for 30K a year.
    The active job seekers simply need to put up with it and accept it as a reality. The passive candidates are the only ones with any power to simply say “no I won’t deal with this…you came after me so if you want me you need to communicate”

  14. Paris*

    I applied to a job last year that required a writing sample. I got a phone interview. That was about 45 minutes, and then they requested another writing assignment. That writing assignment took about seven hours to complete, and I had to do it on a Saturday as they wanted it by Monday morning. I sent it in, and heard nothing. I emailed them three days later just to confirm that they had received it. Nothing. It’s probably the maddest I’ve ever been about not receiving any response back.

    I just heard not long ago that they unceremoniously laid off about 30% of their staff, so I guess it’s a good thing I didn’t get the job. But the way they treated me meant it was no surprise when I heard about them cutting people loose with zero notice and a piddly severance.

    1. stevenz*

      Sometimes it’s best to not get what you want. But a job search is the ultimate black hole – no idea if want you want is any good until it’s too late.

    2. Greg*

      This. Blowing someone off after they take time to interview is horrible. But doing it after you’ve asked them to do an assignment is even worse. You really are sending a message that you don’t value people’s time and effort.

    3. JoJo*

      There was probably never a job to begin with, and the writing assignment was a ploy to get free work.

  15. KR*

    Or when they hire you and then ghost on you. I was hired at a grocery store that had yet to open. When they called me on a Friday night to tell me I was hired, they told me I would hear back from them by the next Friday to know when I would train (at other stores). Next Friday came and went so I called that Monday to ask when I would train since I had already given my two weeks notice at my other job and the person seemed very cross that I was calling them because they were very busy and the training schedule wasn’t ready yet. I didn’t hear back about the training schedule until the following week which made me very anxious about how I would pay my tuition payments, lol.

  16. B*

    What I also do not seem to understand, minus the fact we are humans and deserve respect for our time, is how companies do not realize this backfires on them with me wanting to use/purchase/acknowledge their products. I had a great interview with a well-known company, went through 3 rounds, and then radio silence even after followups. This was a few years ago but I very clearly remember the company, remember how I was treated, and now no longer purchase items from them. It is a little thing that will probably go unnoticed but to me it means a lot.

    1. FD*

      Yeah, and if I have a bad interview experience, or don’t even get a courtesy ‘no thanks’ email, I will remember it, and will warn off others. Over time, it shrinks their candidate pool because the best candidates won’t bother.

    2. Stonkle*

      Oh yeah! It’s a weirdly small world sometimes – you never know who you’re going to encounter again so it’s best to be respectful and polite.

    3. Not the Droid You are Looking For*

      I had an organization fly me to New York, put me up in a hotel, and conduct an all-day interview for a director-level position…

      Radio silence. It left such a bad taste in my mouth (how hard is it to type out a “we went with another candidate” email) that I no longer would consider supporting them…and several people I know who were supporters stopped giving after I told the story. I’m not sure they really care about those $100 donations, but I kept thinking if they treat everyone this way it will eventually hurt their bottom line.

  17. The Alias Gloria Has Been Living Under, A.A., B.S.*

    Twice I got a job but no one told me. I found out when someone called to schedule my training. In both instances I had already accepted other offers.

    1. LC*

      Ugh, this happened to me with a summer internship last year. I had another (second-choice) internship waiting to hear back and my first choice had told me I’d hear back with three days. Well, ten days later, embarrassed I hadn’t gotten back to my second choice, I called the woman who interviewed me. Turns out she’d told HR to accept me moments after our interview, and HR just totally dropped the ball. Glad I called, though, because it turned out to be an awesome summer–though the department lost several star fall interns because the same HR woman was a total spaz.

    2. Not Karen*

      That’s super weird! I had a situation that wasn’t quite that bad where I simultaneously applied at two coffee shops. Shop A offered me a job first, so I took it. A few days later I was in Shop B getting some coffee and happened to see the manager, so I said to her (this was before I knew if this was the professional thing to do or not) “By the way, I’ve taken a job at another coffee shop.” She replied, shocked, “But I was going to offer you a job!”

      Well, you should’ve told ME that.

    3. Vi*

      That just happened to me a few weeks ago. Despite sending a thank you and a follow up (after the over a week past the expected timeline from hearing back from Job A), I never heard anything. Then I got an offer from Job B, I accepted. The next day I got a call from Job A HR discussing drug tests and background checks to clear before training could start, I had to explain that I had already accepted another position.

      On my last job search I got a call to interview about a job I applied to 6 months previously. I also never heard back from one company, despite thank yous/follow ups and going far in the process. I chalked it up to it just being their protocol for entry-level workers. Then I found out they also never contacted a friend’s father who was in the running for a C-level position with the company to tell him he didn’t make the cut. Needless to say, the company is on my blacklist now. It’s a weird world out there.

    4. bob*

      Wow that is the height of incompetence and you dodged a bullet! If they can’t even bother to tell someone they’ve been hired how are they to their employees? This sounds like the kind of shop that would forget to release everyone’s paychecks for direct deposit.

  18. The Other Dawn*

    Back when my company closed in 2013, I had to look for a job after 18 years of being employed there; that was rough in itself, but to not hear a word from many companies after submitting my materials was really disheartening. Then I finally got an interview. I bought a new outfit, prepped like crazy by reading AAM nonstop, practicing, etc., and then driving 45 minutes to the company. The interview seemed to go well. The hiring manager was concerned I didn’t have enough management experience, so I explained what I had achieved at my last company, etc. Drove another 45 minutes home. And….nothing. Crickets. Not a single word. As someone mentioned above, not even a “FOAD.” When I got hired at another company shortly thereafter (horrid job!), I got into a conversation with my boss about hiring practices. I told her about my experience with this other company and how it’s was rude and wrong that they did that to me, and I will remember it forever more. She said that it’s just so hard and there’s not enough time in the day, etc. I told her it takes just a minute or two and little effort to send an email, and that it creates a really bad *lasting” impression when a company can’t be bothered to send a rejection to an applicant who spent all that time and effort on the process. She didn’t say anything else. Glad I don’t work there anymore–her attitude was indicative of the company culture.

    1. ro*

      The excuse that “it’s just so hard and there’s not enough time in the day” really bugs me when I hear it. (It’s often said at my workplace to excuse why upper management can’t do something everyone else in the world would consider common courtesy- such as not double-booking meetings and blowing off your underlings or simply not showing up for our recurring one-on-one meetings.)

      There is pretty much always enough time in the day to do the things a person feels are important. When they don’t do them, they are telling you this thing is so *not* important to them.

      FWIW- When the above excuse is delivered with a tone of genuine regret (as opposed to an “you don’t understand, I’m so important and you’re not” vibe), that does make it more palatable.

      But not setting up a simple, automated system of communicating with job candidates is just crummy. No excuses here!

      1. M-T*

        There is pretty much always enough time in the day to do the things a person feels are important. When they don’t do them, they are telling you this thing is so *not* important to them.

        So true! I had a coworker at one point who made a point of never saying “I don’t have time for that” – instead, she said, “That’s not a priority for me right now.” An interesting way of framing things, and one that’s stuck with me – do I honestly not have time to do X, or am I just not interested in making X a priority, given the time and energy available to me? And do I feel okay with that decision?

      2. Greg*

        One of my all-time favorite aphorisms is “You have exactly enough time for the important things.” I wonder what The Other Dawn’s boss would have thought if the CFO told her that her paycheck was going to be late because he just didn’t have enough time to complete payroll that month.

  19. FD*

    In my area, there’s a serious labor shortage, with unemployment actually at a negative right now–meaning there are actually more job openings than people who want jobs. Despite this, in my last round of searching, about 50% of all jobs I applied for never even sent a boilerplate ‘nah, not interested’.

    Moreover, there was one job I heard about through a friend, where a hiring manager for a well-established company in our area had asked this friend to refer anyone her way who might be interested and who met certain criteria (which I did).

    Nothing. And I heard this friend referred a couple of others to this manager too, and they all were treated the same. My friend reached out to the manager too to follow up, and never got a response. Needless to say, my friend will never refer anyone to this manager again, and actively warns people away from this company.

    It’s weird to me that hiring managers do this in general, but it’s bizarre to see it in a case where it’s so clearly going to backfire on them.

    Then again, I’ve also seen managers refuse to manage even though it’s making them loose good people, business owners make stunningly bad decisions, so. Maybe the moral of the story is that people are stupid and lazy.

  20. Roxanne*

    Once, I interviewed for a job. I was one of four candidates out of a “gajillon” submissions and I interviewed with three people. The HR person had a jumble of letters at the end of his name which, he told me, was a specialized HR certification that only 10 across Canada had. So, I expected someone to call to say yes or no.

    Nothing. I received a job offer in the meantime elsewhere so I followed up to make sure they were not also thinking of offering to me. They never returned my call. It’s one thing to not get back in touch when you have many interviewees but when you have only four and brag about your special HR certification, it takes no time at all to make three calls.

    And, in the age of email, it is very easy to input the names into a BCC field and send out the same rejection notice to everyone.

  21. F.*

    I am on the other side of the aisle on this issue, but I understand both sides. I am an HR department-of-one, so I handle EVERYTHING even remotely HR related for a company of approximately 35 employees. In addition to that, I am the general manager’s executive assistant. Busy doesn’t begin to describe it!

    I try VERY hard to communicate with our applicants. Right now, we have a number of positions that have been open since mid-March. They are for a contract that has yet to be awarded to us (and might not ever be). We are waiting for our client to give us the go-ahead. We absolutely cannot bring anyone on to payroll until they are billable, so no one has even been interviewed. This makes for a lot of hurry-up-and-wait, and I understand that it is very frustrating for applicants. While I send a form rejection letter to the obviously unqualified soon after I receive their resume, everyone else is pretty much kept in the dark, much to their (and my) frustration. We simply cannot make our client move any more quickly.

    On the other side of the coin, over two weeks ago, I applied for a position with a company that does similar work to where I work now. I applied through a temp agency, had a brief phone screen, then silence. So after two weeks, I sent a brief email to the recruiter inquiring whether the position had been filled and indicating my continued interest. Her response: one of the hiring managers travels a lot and has been unavailable to interview. Given my experience recruiting, I can totally believe it. I have simply put that opening on the back burner and moved on. They may never fill it. The hiring managers’ priorities are not my priorities (or even their company’s HR person’s priorities). I have nothing but sympathy for frustrated applicants who have been ghosted. Just want to say that it is not always HR’s fault.

    1. NASAcat*

      Thank you for effort!

      Is there a way you can send an email to those that are not rejected informing them of this situation. “Due to nature of this contract position, please be aware that we may not contact suitable candidates for X weeks?”

      1. F.*

        I would love to be able to do that, but we have no idea when the contract will be awarded. It has been pushed back a number of times.

        1. anonderella*

          OK, but I bet you could pick an arbitrary date (example : 3-4 weeks if you truly have no idea), then set a reminder for yourself to get back to a list of applicants on or by that date (this does require you to keep up with a list, but shouldn’t you have that anyway?). You could even work on those emails a little at a time, and set them for a delayed delivery for/around that 3-4 week quoted range. You wouldn’t have to offer them anything by that time, just say, “We’re still working on this; we appreciate your patience. (then something along the lines of, Please reach out if you accept another offer in the meantime, as I understand this process can be lengthy.” That is something you could do a little at a time; knock out like 10 at a time between other processes when you switch and start working on something else, or whenever is convenient for you.

          Maybe I am missing something, but this seems like a part of your job like any other, and that if you were better organized around this system, you’d be in better correspondence with your applicants. I do understand that it just doesn’t take the same priority as other issues, but you can still get it done. The drawbacks aren’t really existent; you’re better organized, and in better communication with applicants!

          **this is obviously my point of view with the limited knowledge of your job – not meant to be judgmental or snarky! I don’t hire people, either, in my position. Just making an argument; I’d love to hear any responses!

        2. anonderella*

          Oh, and one of my best friends is an EA to several people; I am so interested in her job, but I am absolutely amazed at how productive yet overworked she is – so, hats off you to, F.! I’m sure you rock at your job, not everyone can do all that!

    2. College Career Counselor*

      Is there a way you can indicate in the job posting that the position is contingent upon contract funding? That would at least indicate to the applicant paying attention that this is a conditional opportunity.

      1. F.*

        No, due to the confidentiality agreement we had to sign when we bid on the project. We can’t do anything that could possibly give away any information about the client or the project. In my part of the country, a statement like you suggest would be pretty much a dead giveaway.

        1. NASAcat*

          I take it even a blanket statement would not be an option either? Even if this only applied to contract positions, an outside person doesn’t need to know that. “Thank you applying. Any job opportunities you apply to at ABC Company may have a delays in contacting suitable applicants. We appreciate your patience and understanding.”

          Even covert government organizations have an autoreply of “if we don’t contact you between 90-365 days, it’s not looking good. Don’t contact us, we’ll contact you *wink*.”

  22. ThursdaysGeek*

    And if anyone starts saying this is new behavior, I experienced this when I was job searching in the 80s. At least then, it really did take more time to send rejections, since they had to be physical letters or a phone call. Now, with email and mail merge and spreadsheets, it should take less time to send 392 rejections than it does to make 1 offer.

  23. Lia*

    One of my friends applied to a local government job. Made it to the final interview stage, told she would hear back “soon” — then nothing. 18 months later, she got a form letter telling her that the position was filled. No idea if they took that long to fill it, or to get back to her.

    At my current employer, we now send rejection letters once the initial interview group is selected to those who don’t make that cut. However, if you make the first cut, you won’t hear back until the new hire’s first day. Given our slow pace of hiring (academic administration), this can be a couple of months plus between the interview round and the start date. Applicants do get an automated “thanks for submitting your application to Job #12345” in our portal, and it will update if they aren’t selected (they get the letter at the same time that the update happens).

    1. Not Karen*

      Once upon a time out of the blue I got a phone message from someone (whose company I couldn’t discern) asking if I was still interested in a job there. It had been a year since I had applied for any job anywhere.

  24. NASAcat*

    I refuse to believe anyone is that busy…can’t be bothered to send even send a canned response to candidates they actually took the time to meet and seriously interview. How many people is that at max? 3? 10?

    Those 45 minutes you (hiring manager/designated candidate email sender) spent playing Candy Crush or looking at YouTube, FB, IG, Snapchat, whatever…while that mandatory commercial played in the background you could have hit copy + paste and hit send.

    As for AAMs reasons: So frustrating and still not a good enough reasons for this to still consistently happen IMO! Ironically, reason 3 (being disorganized) is the one that pisses me off the least (reason 4 doesn’t count). I can see a candidate slipping through the cracks if there are 12 people interviewing you and there isn’t a main person in charge of information candidates of their progress.

    OMG. Someone should create an app/program for this. I am claiming this idea. Copyright. Trademark. Patent Pending!

    1. Mike C.*

      Exactly, in most cases it’s nothing more than excuses. I still remember being a finalist for a position (after two different in-person interviews) and was completely ghosted. Lucky for me I soon found my current job but holy shit, that was incredibly rude.

    2. Not Karen*

      Keep in mind that the AAMs reasons are just reasons/explanations, not justifications or excuses.

      1. NASAcat*

        As for AAMs reasons = In regards to the article: here are my thoughts

        I know they are explanations….

        1. NASAcat*

          Also…I don’t know how many people actually read the INC articles, especially when the question itself is posted here, hence my specifying that I was referring to the article.

          I’m mad at the excuses companies use; I’m not disagreeing or arguing with the messenger :)

        2. NASAcat*

          Also…I don’t know how many people actually read the INC articles, especially when the question itself is posted here, hence my specifying that I was referring to the article.

          I’m mad at the excuses companies use; I’m not disagreeing or arguing against the messenger :)

  25. James M*

    If you don’t have an concrete commitment during the interview, you haven’t met the actual decision maker. At my last interview I knee-jerk blurted out this insight when I realized it was the case. My exact words were “be honest about who the decision maker is” but I had already pretty much decided I wanted out of there and wasn’t really filtering myself.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Do you mean a concrete commitment to getting the job? Or just for a timeline for hearing back? Since anyone can give the latter, I’m thinking you mean the former, and that’s just not true. I’d never, ever offer a job while still in the interview (because I check references, like time to reflect, like to talk to other candidates), etc. Most people are the same.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        In fact, I’d be really wary of accepting a job offer that was made on the spot, because you want to know that the hiring manager has reflected and made sure it’s truly the right fit and that they’ve done their due diligence (not just with you but with other hires too, since those will be your coworkers).

        1. Wheezy Weasel*

          I agree: in one of my previous jobs, I got an offer on the drive away from the interview, and found out later that no one had contacted my references. I ended up leaving about 3 years in after a change in ownership, but in comparison to other companies that actually called references and did a thorough background check, the overall environment at that job was rather slapdash.

    2. Not the Droid You are Looking For*

      I am always the decision maker in interviews, and I very purposefully work to never give promises or never say anything that could be construed as a commitment. The only thing remotely concrete I say is “It’s my goal to get back to all candidates within XX days/weeks.”

      It was hard when the unicorn candidate came in (and was as absolutely perfect in person as he was on paper) to hold my excitement in, but I said the exact same things to him that I did to the candidates I knew I was going to reject.

      1. Greg*

        Whenever I meet a unicorn candidate, my defenses go up. I want to make sure I don’t fall in love and miss warning signals I might have otherwise noticed. I actually start looking for weak spots, just to make sure I’m doing my due diligence.

        That said, I also make sure not to drag the process out any longer than it needs to be, and to send them updates if there are any delays. You never want to lose the unicorn because they got restless and had other options.

    3. Mike C.*

      I’m always a fan of being direct and straight-forward to the point of being blunt, and even I would say this might take many by surprise.

  26. Mr Mike*

    When I was interviewing for jobs last year after being laid-off with 800 others(company bankruptcy); about 115 job applications resulted in 12 interviews which resulted in one job offer & two official rejections. Still waiting 10 months later for responses from the NINE others.

  27. BananaPants*

    During my husband’s job search in 2013 and again a year later, he was ghosted a number of times after multiple interviews. No contact *at all*. I find it atrociously rude to bring in candidates for interviews and then never contact them to say that the position was filled.

    Two of the positions were with local staffing firms (for internal positions) who do a lot of headhunting/recruiting in my area of expertise. One firm’s scumbag principal managed to mine MY LinkedIn connections during my husband’s interview process before they ghosted on him! It was awkward for me and I found it extremely unprofessional. I will never work with either firm professionally because of it – either in my own job search or in considering their candidates.

  28. MindoverMoneyChick*

    I was so, so bad at this in my early days as a hiring manager. And I was the worst with candidates who had potential. The ones I knew I wasn’t hiring off the bat were more likely to get rejections. The ones were I wasn’t sure – maybe I would find a candidate I liked better, maybe not, they tended to stay in limbo and not get a firm answer from me.

    Especially because when we were highing it was because we were winning new contracts and work was on the upswing but it took a while to sort out exactly how many people that work would support. So I we often thought we would have more than one slot available for a given role, but it was hard to nail down. So maybe I would fill the 1st role with my first choice candidate thinking in a few weeks I would want to hire #2 as well.

    Then I’d be busy with the new work and training the new person and then months would go by, and oh shoot I never got back them. Or worse maybe I had gotten back a few weeks after the first hire to say they were still under consideration, and then forgot for 2 months (ugh…I feel so bad about this now).

    Once I got seriously taken to task for this by a job hunter who sent me a nasty email for stringing him along. I was really shaken up by it, but at the same time it was so over the top and unprofessional that I put the blame on him at the time. It wasn’t until I became a regular here and saw the frustration job hunters go through that I became rigorous about the process. I am embarrassed about how I handle things early on, but score one for Alison for bringing this to my awareness and making things better for the job hunters who dealt with me after that.

    1. stevenz*

      Recruitment processes regularly go off the rails, despite the best of intentions. They just fall to the bottom of the priority list. BUT, that does not excuse ignoring the people who ostensibly *want* to work for you. You may think you’re doing them a favor by considering them (not so), but they are paying you a compliment by being interested in your company. A little respect is all that is necessary – an email confirming receipt, an update if the process is taking longer than it should, a thank you when a decision is made. Three auto-generated emails. For the strong candidates who are actively being considered, a little more is required. If they don’t feel valued when you’re recruiting them, will they feel/be valued when they have committed to you?

    2. Greg*

      Yeah, I did this to a candidate during my first-ever hiring experience years ago, and to a degree it still haunts me. She was a strong candidate who I wasn’t going to hire, but I brought her in for an interview and owed her a rejection.

      One thing I started doing later on: During the interview, I would specifically commit to the candidate that I’d get back to them either way. That helped me avoid “ghosting by inertia”, which is probably how it most often happens. You’re planning to get back to them, but you’re not particularly looking forward to it, so you keep putting it off, and eventually you convince yourself that it would be even worse responding after so much time, they probably got the message anyway, etc.

      But if you’ve put a stake in the ground and said you’d respond, now it’s your personal credibility on the line. So you have to do it.

  29. stevenz*

    To not keep a top candidate, i.e., paid travel expenses for a face-to-face, in the loop isn’t just rude, it’s outrageous and bad business. What annoys me is when companies don’t acknowledge an application at all, ever. You send an email or online application off into the ether and then you wait… and wait… and wait. And nothing. The entire process is automated and they have everyone’s email so responses can be generated automatically – “thank you for applying for blah blah blah.” You can do this with Outlook for chrisake. Then when the hiring decision is made they can inform everyone by repeating the process to everybody except one. What’s hard about that?

    1. PatM*

      I agree. It’s especially rude and annoying when you spend upwards of 30 minutes going through online software process, conduct a phone screen and maybe an on-site interview, only to get a response (If lucky) that the company “moved on to better qualified candidates”. Oookay. I’ve had responses that sounded downright rude and condescending (from SF and Silicon Valley start-ups). I’ve bitten my tongue to keep myself from blasting a reply email back to them.

      Clearly this a touchy subject for me personally. I’ve been laid off and have been actively looking for work since December. The whole process is wearing me out. My self esteem has taken a big hit. I’ve NEVER had issues finding work. This is all new to me! Rude organizations with dumb ATS software that you have to jump through hoops to get your resume through!

  30. Anony Mouse*

    I actually feel OK when the ad says they’ll only contact you if they feel you’re a match, or like what I had after one interview where I was told “if you don’t hear from us again by Monday we’ve decided to move forward with other candidates”. At least with those I know what to expect and it’s closure in a way (not as much as an actual rejection letter but something). But it’s soul sucking to pour so much effort into applications (and interviews whenever I actually get any) only for all of it to go into a black hole. It’s especially egregious to not be told you’re out of the running even when you follow up after you took the time to go in for an interview (and they tell you you’ll hear either way within a certain timeframe).

  31. Anonymous Educator*

    Yes, this is sadly common. I had one place bring me in for an all-day interview with at least ten people, including the principal, and I heard nothing (not even a form email) from them. When I followed up months later, they said I was in the top three, but they went with someone else. So you had two people to inform, and you didn’t…?

    Another place actually flew me across the country for an all-day visit (again, interviewing with multiple people). And, once again, nothing to let me know I didn’t get the job, not even a form email.

  32. Boo*

    Not excusing poor behaviour like not responding to applications, it has always hacked me off when I’ve been jobhunting, but now I am the only person in my organisation to handle the admin side of recruitment I can at least understand if not respect it.

    I respond to all candidates to thank them for the application and tell them I’ll be in touch after the deadline has closed. This could be up to 100 people, so it’s not just a couple of minutes out of my day. Then I contact them to tell them if they’ve been shortlisted or not and set up interviews for those who have. Then I contact those candidates to let them know whether or not they’ve been successful and begin the new starter process for the candidate we want.

    I mentioned this on a thread the other day – while we do get people who respond to thank me for keeping them in the loop (and I always do) I’m also getting an increasing number of people questioning either why they weren’t shortlisted for interview or wanting more details about the interview process like if there is a test exactly what will it be, etc. So I’m not just copy and pasting the same email out to umpteen people, I’m then getting emails back, and I have to respond to them as well. And don’t get me wrong, I always do respond because it’s professional and nice, but I can understand someone else in a similar position with a heavier workload not being able to get round to it all as it is time consuming and does cause even more work.

    1. Greg*

      See, while I do think you owe applicants an up-down notification, I don’t think you owe them much beyond that. I mean, if you can, that’s very nice. But if you reject someone and they write back demanding a more detailed explanation, I think it’s fine not to respond, especially if they’re rude about it.

      That said, in cases where rejected applicants sent me nice responses and asked constructive questions, I’ve been more than happy to help them. I once had an applicant who made a huge mistake in an interview (it was a customer-service job, and when I asked him what he typically did with irate customers, he said, “Pass them on to my boss”). I reminded myself that I wasn’t his career coach, so I wouldn’t bring it up unsolicited, but after I rejected him he asked if he could have done anything better, so I told him how his answer immediately made me think he would be foisting all his problems onto me.

  33. newlyhr*

    HR employees are often the first “brand ambassador” of an organization that somebody interacts with. .People who are applying for jobs are also potential customers, sources for referrals (of employees and customers) and can also be ambassadors themselves. All they need is to be treated with a little respect. HR people need to remember that.

  34. Eric79*

    I say “no response” is a response. Do you really think these companies are like, “gee I wish I would’ve remembered to call that great applicant?” No, of course not, if they want you you’ll know.

    So just keep on looking and looking and looking till you get an offer.

    And to those who says it’s rude, I disagree, but fair enough, let’s say I agree that it is rude, then if so, ask yourself, if they’re this rude to someone they are trying to GET to work for them, then how do you think they’ll treat their employees.

    Certainly not any better, consider yourself lucky.

  35. Josh*

    Here’s the truth. Unless you are in Tech or Healthcare which are generally high demand industries, you are nothing more than a piece of you-know-what. Companies behave this way because they CAN and face no consequences for their behavior. They do not care if they are rude. What they do pay attention to is how they can get someone cheaper or eliminate the position all together through automation or consolidation.

    What will the economy do when there are no jobs left and therefore no one to buy their products or services?

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