how fast is too fast to reject a job candidate?

A reader writes:  

Sometimes we screen a job candidate and know pretty much immediately that the person won’t be a good fit. But I feel like it might be discouraging to be on the other end of such a situation (to interview and be declined the same day). Right now, I’ve been waiting a day or two before passing on a candidate in these cases. Does this seem like an acceptable timeline, or should I be sucking it up and letting a candidate know right away that they haven’t made the cut?

I answer this question — and four others — 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). You can read it here.

Other questions I’m answering there today include:

  • My boss interrupted me in a meeting
  • Mentioning to an interviewer that I’d take a more junior position
  • My new job just reposted an ad for my position
  • Why can’t I get promoted?

{ 107 comments… read them below }

  1. Augusta Sugarbean

    #1 – I agree that instant rejection would be really hard to hear but I’d rather hear sooner than a week, honestly. Right now, for example, I’m applying to two different jobs at once. If I get an offer from my second choice but am waiting to hear back from my first, I’d rather know sooner than later if my first choice takes me out of the running. My potential jobs aren’t so high level that I’d feel like I could ask for a whole week to decide (i.e., wait to hear if I get an offer from my first choice). So I’d say 2-3 days would be better.

    1. F.

      Yes, please do not leave people hanging for a week if you know they are not going further in the process. It is far more kind to let them freely pursue other opportunities than it is to give them false hope. Besides, how many letters do we get here complaining about the unnecessarily slow recruiting process? This seems to me like an unnecessary delay. I have gotten rejections the same day I submitted my resume. I just suck it up and move on.

      1. Anna the Accounting Grad

        Agreed. It’s good to be mindful of applicants’ feelings, but for many positions a whole week is a little too mindful.

        1. Dot Warner

          Yes. Plus, if it’s been an entire week, I’ve already assumed that I didn’t get the job.

          1. Anonymous Educator

            I don’t think you should. I don’t know what industry you’re in (I’m sure it varies by industry), but I work in education, and sometimes I’ve gotten interviews right away (like the day I submitted my résumé). Sometimes I haven’t gotten interviews until two or three months later (ridiculous, but it happens). A week isn’t long at all.

            But, yes, that’s always a safe assumption to assume you didn’t get a job, and then you can be pleasantly surprised later.

          2. fposte

            Wow. We wouldn’t even look at all the applications within a week. You must be working in a very speedy field!

            1. Anonymous Educator

              I’ve worked in places where HR holds the résumé and pre-screens them before sending them in batches to the actual hiring department, so no candidate, no matter how amazing, would be contacted within the first week.

              Most places I’ve worked, the hiring manager has a full-time job that isn’t hiring people, so she’s typically too busy to get back to candidates with 2-3 days.

            2. Dot Warner

              Nope, I’m just really pessimistic. Expect the worst and you’ll never be disappointed. :)

          3. CMT

            Where are you applying to? For every job I’ve ever had, the hiring process has taken much longer than a week. And it’s definitely always been at least a week between submitting an application and hearing back about phone screens or interviews.

            1. Ruby

              Not the same person, but I had that happen to me just yesterday! I think sometimes it also depends on the size of the company – if there’s no clear HR and the person receiving applications is reviewing them as they come in.

            2. Research Assistant

              My brother just got a new job. They called him the day after he submitted his application. They had a couple of weeks of phone tag because he was at work and couldn’t answer his phone when they called and he kept getting voicemail when he’d try to call them back. Once they got in contact they talked to him on the phone and scheduled an interview for a few days later. They offered him the job at the interview and he said it seemed like they’d mostly made up their mind to hire him before he even came in. This isn’t a very high level job, but everyone in the family was still very surprised at how fast the process went.

    2. Dot Warner

      I agree, especially if by “screening” you mean “reading the person’s resume.” If you know immediately after reading my resume that you don’t want to hire me, then I want to know that immediately – partly so that I can focus my efforts elsewhere and partly because that tells me that I might be applying to jobs that are out of my league and I should set my sights elsewhere.

    3. Anonymous Educator

      Yeah, but even if you weren’t rejected and they wanted to interview you, it can take at least a week, if not two weeks or a month, for them to contact you to be interviewed, so it doesn’t make sense that the rejection has to come in 2-3 days.

      I generally expect an auto-reply “We got your résumé, and we’re considering a bunch of candidates” email immediately, and then either an email invitation to a phone interview within the next three weeks… or a rejection a couple of months later.

      Sometimes I’ve gotten rejections six months later (!). Seriously?

      1. Megs

        I got a rejection letter several months after the fact, too. Considering how often I don’t hear anything at all, I guess it’s better than nothing?

        1. Anonymous Educator

          Yeah, sadly, that’s the low standard we’ve reached. I had a couple of jobs I’ve interviewed for and was a finalist for (interviewing multiple times on campus, full-day visits, etc.) and then got ghosted by the hiring manager—not even a form-letter rejection email.

      2. Augusta Sugarbean

        This question is about candidates that the hiring manager knows she wants to reject, not candidates still under consideration.

        1. Queen Gertrude

          If the company still has interest, then they should show signs of life during six months because otherwise people move on.

      3. Queen Gertrude

        Me too! It’s happened to me twice, both with big name corporations in Seattle. And both times I just thought to myself “Uhm, so what? I already accepted another job MONTHS ago, did you think I was sitting around by the phone/email this whole time waiting around for you? Why did you even bother getting back to me at all 6/7 months later? I’m pretty sure I got the message that you weren’t interested. Did you just want to make me feel bad today with a canned response that says nothing about me personally?”

        So yeah… you big companies out there should really stop doing that because it is both insulting and stupid.

    4. Ask a Manager Post author

      But if you have an offer, it’s perfectly appropriate to contact anyone else you’re interviewing with and let them know so they can expedite things if they want.

      I’ve received too many hostile emails from people who thought that a couple of days wasn’t sufficient consideration, and too many letters from people here who feel outraged by a similar timeline.

      1. Anonymous Educator

        Yeah, I had a hiring manager who kept interviewing me and re-interviewing me and every time would say “If you get an offer from another place, please let me know right away.” It sounded to me as if I was a top candidate the org didn’t want to lose, but they were looking to see if they could find someone better.

        1. CM

          I think this is standard practice for some companies, whether the candidate is at the top of their list or not.

          1. Anonymous Educator

            I’ve never had it happen in any other job search. Maybe it’s industry-specific for it to be the norm (i.e., not my industry).

      2. BRR

        I was thinking how many letters have been published along the lines of “I was rejected quickly, can I contact the company it must have been a mistake.”

      3. Stephanie (HR)

        I have to second Alison here. As the person sending these rejection notices, I’ve gotten a lot of kickback from candidates who are rejected within a couple days. Most people say they want to know, but then don’t believe that that HR or the HM could have possibly made a thoughtful decision so quickly. We can, but rejection can be emotional, and delaying the notification to 4-7 days (I never send in less than three days) significantly decreased the upset applicants calling/emailing/showing up. And these were usually hostile, aggressive, or emotional applicants, and avoiding creating that kind of relationship with the public is a huge win. (Though, it was nice to have the decision justified so blatantly.)

        I’ve also read comments about people getting rejection notices six months out. I’ve had that happen to me, and I’ve done it to others. Realistically, if you get that kind of notification, it means you were still an active candidate for that amount of time in their system, and either the HM wasn’t talking to HR to let them know you weren’t selected, so they didn’t notify you until the position was filled, or the hiring process hit a bump in the road, and you were really an active candidate for that long, but never made it to the next stage. I’ve seen both happen.

        As HR, I try to enforce a 60-day limit on HMs–If you are interested in a candidate, you have to contact them within 60 days. (For some positions, this is a long time, for others, this is pretty fast, so the HM had the opportunity to extend if needed, and I checked in every 30 days.)

        1. Stephanie (HR)

          Slightly tangential anecdote, I sent a rejection notice to a candidate once. At the time, the template I had inherited from the person in the position previously had Mr./Ms. and Last Name as the greeting. I got a name that I had no idea could also be a girl’s name, and I addressed to Mr. —-. This applicant’s mother called me and chewed me up one side and down the other for calling her daughter Mr. and told me that if I couldn’t be bothered to look at the gender, I clearly couldn’t have considered her qualifications very closely. I tried to tell her that we honestly don’t look at gender when reviewing candidacy, but she just wanted to tell me as loudly as possible what a big mistake we’d made.

          Needless to say, I changed the template that day. But boy, don’t ever let your mother call a potential employer. And yelling at HR is the fastest way to not get a job. (Three lessons in one phone call!)

    5. pomme de terre

      Seconded. I would think 24 hours would be plenty of time if the hiring manager is positive the person is not a strong candidate. Leaving me on pins and needles for a week would be harder on my feelings that a timely rejection.

    6. Always Anon

      I like to know immediately. Especially if it’s for a phone screen or something very early on in the process. It’s helpful to know my status before I get invested in the position and organization.

  2. SaviourSelf

    I usually wait until the next day to reject someone after a phone interview. A week seems so long!

    After an in-person interview I will consider it for a few days before rejecting/moving them forward.

    1. Anonymous Educator

      After a phone interview? I usually wouldn’t let that person know until we’d hired somebody. A week isn’t “so long.” For candidates, the assumption must always be “I can’t get hung up on this job. I have to keep moving and following leads until I get an offer” and not “They haven’t rejected me yet, which means they’ll hire me!”

      1. Elizabeth West

        True. I never think anything might happen after a phone interview. The only time I did was when OldBoss interviewed me for this job–but we did it over the phone because she lives in another state. The in-person was a meeting with the team and not the formal interview with the hiring manager, though I still took it seriously.

        And gotta keep moving is true of queries too–I just sent off another one.

      2. BRR

        That is what candidates should think but so many don’t (and I’m not saying you should bend over backwards for them. I wish more sites besides AAM would tell applicants to come to peace with they may not get a job.

        I think for a phone interview it can split into three categories: applicants you want to bring in, applicants who you know won’t be a good fit, and applicants that fall between the two.

      3. SaviourSelf

        If I know I am not interested in proceeding with them after a phone interview, I don’t see the purpose of waiting until I hire someone. Occasionally we’ll hire someone within a week or two but sometimes the process could drag out longer depending on scheduling, reference checking, etc. Why make someone to whom I’m positive I will not be offering the position wait for all that?

        I agree that they should mentally move on but I also don’t see the need to drag out the inevitable.

        1. Anonymous Educator

          Why make someone to whom I’m positive I will not be offering the position wait for all that?

          That’s very considerate of you, but they shouldn’t be waiting at all. They should be moving on with their job search and not putting all their eggs in one basket. They should be interviewing with other places and seeing where everything leads.

          The only time timing becomes a real issue is if you have a job offer on the table one place, and the other place you really like isn’t going to make you an offer any time soon.

          1. C Average

            This seems . . . kinda harsh.

            If you’re doing the job search thing right, you’re taking the time to look for jobs that are likely to be the right fit. You’re taking the time to tailor your resume to each application and to write a thoughtful cover letter. You’re educating yourself about the company and trying to envision yourself working there. If you’re already working but are looking for a different, better job, you may not have time to put in a lot of applications. I agree that candidates shouldn’t put all their eggs in one basket, but they also shouldn’t be flinging things at the wall to see what will stick. (What a horrible mixed metaphor! Now I’m envisioning teenagers egging houses on Halloween.)

            What I’m saying is that people invest a lot in their job search, and it’s nice when employers acknowledge that by being prompt and considerate in their communications of good and bad news. This kind of behavior can only be encouraged, as far as I’m concerned.

            1. Anonymous Educator

              What I’m saying is that people invest a lot in their job search, and it’s nice when employers acknowledge that by being prompt and considerate in their communications of good and bad news. This kind of behavior can only be encouraged, as far as I’m concerned.

              I fully agree. But if you submit your application on March 1, we set up a phone interview for March 10, and then we think you’re a bad fit, but we don’t let you know until April 1, you don’t have to do any extra work between March 10 and April 1.

              Same amount of work. Same rejection. You just know April 1 instead of March 11.

              1. C Average

                But assuming you know someone is a bad fit and you have a mechanism in place for sending them a notification, why not do it sooner rather than later? What’s the down side to that?

                (I’m assuming there’s no specific reason it couldn’t be done sooner. I know some places batch-send rejections or wait until an offer has been accepted or have one person who sends out rejections and that person chooses to focus on sending rejections on a particular day in order to streamline his/her workload. I’m instead envisioning a situation where someone tasked with sending rejections is asking “how soon is too soon?” as in this letter. In which case waiting for the sake of waiting seems kind of Rules-esque.)

                1. Anonymous Educator

                  Yes, if you have the time and the energy to do it, no point in waiting “just because.”

                1. Anonymous Educator

                  Because my full-time job isn’t getting back to rejected candidates. My full-time job isn’t even hiring candidates we want. So real full-time job gets top priority, candidates we want gets second priority, and then rejected candidates get last priority. Why should I waste all those 2-minute email sessions on all those rejected candidates when I can do a batch-rejection in two minutes for all of them at once?

      4. Artemesia

        We didn’t send the rejection of those who made the phone screen (about 6 for a single position or two positions). We had 2 or 3 flown in to interview on site and that often took a few weeks to arrange and complete, so we were not giving rejections for months after the phone screen. I always felt this was horrible but my management didn’t want to cut anyone who made it that far loose until the hiring was complete.

        I think if you really know it is is ‘no’ that about 3 or 4 days is as long as you should let it go.

  3. Wendy Darling

    I prefer a 24-hour grace period before any rejections, but other than that I’m not too fussy. I just get grouchy when I spent an hour customizing my resume and writing a great cover letter only to get auto-rejected by an algorithm after 15 minutes. 24 hours at least lets me nurture the illusion that someone looked at my resume.

      1. C Average

        I got the impression the question was less about how long it SHOULD take to evaluate a candidate (whether by man or by machine) and more about how long one should wait before notifying a rejected candidate, once the decision had been made. Especially when the decision was human-made but quick.

        Horrifying true story: My manager used to do phone screens in her cube in our open-plan office and would make faces and gestures indicating that a candidate was unsuitable. We’d know the person was toast well before the call even ended. I have no idea how long she waited to send rejection emails, but the decision was definitely made during the phone screen.

        1. Ask a Manager Post author

          Yeah, I’m talking about how long to wait to notify the person, not how long it takes to make the actual decision. I’d say that in 90% of the phone interviews I do, I know before the end of the call whether I’m moving the person forward or not. (But I do not make faces at those around me.)

          1. Artemesia

            Phone screens are magic; we could always eliminate many people who looked great on paper within 10 minutes or so in the phone screen.

        2. CMT

          Yeah, sure, but I when I submit an application, I honestly don’t expect that somebody is waiting on the other end to open it up right that second. I assume it can take a couple of days. Unless this question and answer are only about sending rejections after you’ve had contact with a candidate through a phone screen or interview? I was thinking about rejecting people who’ve just submitted applications and you’re sure you don’t want to interview them.

      2. Wendy Darling

        I don’t either but at least if it’s been that long I can pretend. Whereas if it’s been 30 minutes I can’t even fool myself into thinking a human looked at it.

        Like, even if I got rejected by your algorithm for not having the specific configuration of keywords your ATS demands, just have the ATS wait 24 hours before emailing me that it has decided to scan the resumes of other candidates so I can continue suspending my disbelief re: this decision being made in 5 milliseconds by an algorithm. :)

    1. BRR

      I think this is more about being reviewed by a person. Getting rejected because they ask if you have 5 years teapot making experience and you have 4.5 is a different story.

    2. Megs

      I like the 24 hour grace period. At least personally, I also think that “appropriate time” can really vary depending on the process. I apply to a lot of state jobs which can take ages between stages. On the other hand, I once got an email on a Monday asking for a phone interview that Wednesday, followed by an email the next day asking for an in-person the following Monday. Followed by an email *that same afternoon* scheduling a second phone interview later that day. Followed by three weeks of radio silence. That one burned a bit.

    3. Susan

      +1

      It’s just emotionally exhausting for a lot of people to write a cover letter. Let that nervous energy subside before rejecting us. 24 hours is good for me too.

      I will say, communication within 72 hours (even a rejection) does make me think better of the employer. It makes me feel like they’re organized and on top of things, which is what I prefer from a company I want to work for.

      1. Ask a Manager Post author

        Y’all are making me rethink my long-time one-week habit. I’m going to experiment with shortening it to three business days and see what happens.

        1. Queen Gertrude

          I know I really really appreciate it, but I am also someone who takes a rejection at face value and won’t dispute it.

          I don’t know why this has always happened to me historically, but when job hunting I’ve always seemed to have either no bites or all the fish biting at once. So working with people/organizations who make their intentions known sooner helps me a lot. It keeps me from expending energy in directions that are unnecessary or holding out for the bigger fish (who always takes longer to bite/release) when the scrappy smaller fish is offering me a bigger opportunity in a smaller pond.

  4. Meg Murry

    I think for #1 it also depends on what kind of timeline you told the candidate, and whether the person isn’t a good fit for this particular position or if you think they should *never* be hired for your company.

    If you were really specific and told them there were more interviews at the end of this week, and the hiring committee was meeting next week to discuss who to bring in for the next round of interviews, and then you rejected the person the next day – that would be a major blow to me, to know I was rejected before you even met with the rest of the candidates. The only way I think that could be ok if is there was a major dealbreaker that didn’t come up until that days interview, like you need a person to start very soon, and the candidate just told you they absolutely can’t start until January; or the candidate told you they wouldn’t accept the position for less than $X a year, and the top of the budget is very significantly below $X. But then when you reject the candidate, you would specifically cite that dealbreaker – and I would at least wait until the next day, so they aren’t getting an email they got rejected before they even got home, or you would let them know that was a dealbreaker directly in the interview.

    The only other time I could see a quick rejection making sense would be if you were able to honestly say “look, we really like you, but you are over/under qualified for this position we’re currently hiring for. However, we would absolutely consider you for a [higher/lower position, like Z]” – a former boss of mine was in this position, where the company knew she was too senior for most of their openings but she would be a great fit when a senior position did open.

  5. C Average

    I think that time spent job-hunting has a kind of reverse-dog-years quality to it: it moves so very much more slowly than real time. Given how agonizing the waiting can be, I think quicker is almost always better, whether the news is good or bad. I mean, yeah, an insultingly fast rejection isn’t ideal, but a day is totally reasonable. I’d rather know I’m out of the running after a day than wait a whole week for the same news. (Although I’d gladly settle for a week as opposed to never, which seems to be the prevailing industry standard.)

    1. AFT123

      “(Although I’d gladly settle for a week as opposed to never, which seems to be the prevailing industry standard.)”

      This is my thought as well. I’m so apt to just mentally move on from any interaction with any company at any stage of the application and interview process, that it almost feels like a compliment when I actually get a rejection email instead of hearing nothing at all. If I’m 1 or 2 live, in-person interviews deep and I’ve been told to expect a phone call for next steps, I still assume I will hear nothing, but in that case I will give them 1.5x times the timeline they gave me and then I will reach out, again assuming I’ll hear nothing and just move on. My current position took literally 5 months from phone interview to offer letter. I would go weeks without hearing anything, so when I did hear, it was a pleasant surprise, each time. If I had been actively looking at other companies or offers, they’d have missed the boat, but I wasn’t so it worked out. Now, in hindsight, I do see this is also reflective of the slow-paced culture here, but that is a post for a different day… :)

    2. BRR

      There is something odd though about being rejected after a long wait. I haven’t assigned a particular feeling to it but it almost seemed more aggravating to get a rejection eight months after when they wanted to interview me (I had accepted another position) than if they never sent anything. I had forgotten about that job and assumed I was already rejected.

  6. Mike C.

    Regardless of how long the proper wait time is for a rejection, any official rejection is preferable to being ghosted.

    1. Elizabeth West

      I don’t worry about it too much for applications. I try to mentally move on, and if I haven’t heard anything in a couple of weeks, I mark it as a no. But if I’ve interviewed, especially in person, I expect at least an email.

      Sometimes, I do get a call after I’ve dismissed a company who didn’t respond to an application. Then it’s a nice surprise.

      1. Megs

        Agreed – I’ll let applications go by the wayside, but if I’ve had an interview it really does raise the stakes such that a notice is a kindness.

        That said, I did once receive a rejection several months separated from the interview and that was freaking obnoxious.

      2. BRR

        I’m with you on applications, I’ve learned to just expect a no and don’t get too attached. My husband was told a couple of weeks ago the next steps an employer wanted to do with him and hasn’t heard a peep. That’s frustrating.

        1. Artemesia

          The best advice in the world is Alison’s suggestion to just mentally compartmentalize and move on after interviewing. Assume it is ‘no’ unless you hear otherwise and continue to search. When I was job hunting I always read tea leaves and anguished over it all and that of course didn’t help, it just made me miserable. My adult children have managed the anxiety a lot better by never counting their chickens. Job hunting sucks but understanding that ‘it is ‘no’ unless you hear otherwise’ helps you weather the misery a bit better.

          1. Megs

            I love that advice! One of my more frustrating job hunting experiences happened recently when both my spouse AND my father were super excited about a particular opportunity and kept bringing it up while I was moving through the process. This was really out of character for my spouse, not so much for dad but I usually keep him out of the loop to avoid just this kind of thing.

      3. Anonsydance

        I’ve been trying really hard to mentally move on. I’ve put out a bunch of resumes/cover letters so far and haven’t heard from them so I’m just going to keep on trucking.

        A little over a year ago when I was job searching, I had 2 interviews with a company, second one being with the president of the company. So it was pretty close, but I didn’t end up getting it. I found out, however, because I called to check in after 2 weeks of radio silence. To top it off, a few months later I saw the position posted again.

      1. Queen Gertrude

        Ouch, and I thought 7 months was bad… at least I was more than happy and gainfully employed by that point so I had that to soften the blow to my ego. Despite feeling good about having found a more than better job during that time, it still felt like a hot slap in the face when I got that rejection email in my inbox out of nowhere. It was just a canned response too, had no personal information in it whatsoever.

  7. Employment Lawyer

    I reject right away, as politely as possible. Why play games with the candidate? They know you may reject them; there’s no reason to pretend.

    1. harryv

      Thank you! A simple, “Thank you for your application. After reviewing your background and skills, we found other candidates that are more matched for the position. Please feel free to apply to other through the careers page, etc etc..”. That easy!

    1. anonderella

      I second this! One thing I like about this site (AAM) is the interface/look of it – very simple and not absolutely LADEN with ads, but at the same time totally navigable. If I’m going to a site I don’t normally visit, I want to know whether the material will be worth it to me.

  8. Imposter Syndrome at play?

    #2 If the OP is a woman and the boss is a man, this could be a case of the woman not being taken as seriously – or not taking herself as seriously – as she should be. I am a woman and I have a coworker who interrupts me and talks over me in meetings, which is outright rude whether or not my contributions/questions are scintillating. The OP shouldn’t have to be the world’s foremost expert in a particular topic to add value to a discussion.

  9. Always Anon

    I think #5 is a good one about passed over for a promotion 5 times in 6 years (twice internally). To me that does raise a bit of a red flag, but I wondered about the following comment about themselves: “I have gotten my MBA, taken additional training, and am in the process of planning an event for a staff of 50. No one has any complaints about my work to my knowledge”.

    Perhaps it was just the part of the letter used for Alison’s article, but I found it interesting that the LW didn’t discuss what she’s added to the department/organization. She didn’t mention successes such as increased revenue or participation, she didn’t mention taking on additional responsibilities, etc. Perhaps she has done those things, and if that is the case I think moving to a different organization would probably be worthwhile.

    1. Artemesia

      Organizations get mindsets about who is promotable. When you are passed over repeatedly the message is that you are not one of those people . Perhaps if they were counseling you on how they hope to promote you and suggesting things to do, you should be patient, but the bland ‘oh you are doing great’ while never promoting you after several attempts, is pretty much a message that YOU are not someone they want to promote. They may be dead wrong about you, but that is their frame and it is time to move on.

      Look at Samantha Bee, so clearly not promotable at the Daily Show — and how her own show runs circles around what they did decide to hire at the Daily Show. Sometimes you just have to move on.

  10. SusanIvanova

    I got turned down partway through a day-long interview, which came as a relief – I was trying to figure out how to tell them this didn’t seem like a good fit.

  11. nycanon

    Re: #1, I actually had the experience recently of being rejected at the end of a phone interview and I was happy for the clarity! This was a little unusual in that I applied for the job purely based on its location and I wasn’t sure at all I wanted it, so I think my heart wasn’t really in the call anyway. So I was actually very grateful when the woman said she thought I didn’t have the leadership skills for this job but that I might want to apply for the position just beneath it . I was so grateful for her candor and I told her that, and reiterated it when I e-mailed to say thanks for the call and to clarify that I would not be applying for the mid-level position (since my heart wasn’t in that either). Since I didn’t really want the job anyway and the call made me realize I wasn’t right for it, I was just as glad to hear it right away rather than to get an email a few days later or hear nothing at all. If I had wanted it, I guess it would have stung more, but I don’t know, getting honest and kindly delivered feedback sooner rather than later seems nice to me.

    1. Anonymous Educator

      I actually did the other way around. One time I had a phone interview, and immediately afterward I emailed the interviewer to let her know I’d enjoyed speaking with her, but I didn’t think it was a good fit. She agreed, and we both crossed each other off our respective lists.

  12. Roscoe

    I think 2-3 days can be good for rejecting someone. I once had an interview in the afternoon, and by the next day had a rejection LETTER in my mailbox. They literally must have mailed it the second I walked out of the door. it was a bit insulting. 2 days lets you think there has been actual consideration, without waiting too long

    1. The IT Manager

      What waiting does is create the impression that you were in the running.

      Basically sometimes people are a hard “no” and you know during the phone screen/interview that you’re not moving forward with them. For people who are a “maybe” you take longer because you compare them against other people you interview. It’s not like you’re learning new things about applicants after the interview is over. All the waiting does is create the impression for the people in the hard no category that they were actually in the maybe category so that they got farther along in the process.

      I’m saying that that’s a bad thing, I’m just saying that it makes the people feel better but doesn’t mean a darn thing.

      1. Lissa

        I’d rather think I’m a maybe rather than a hard no, unless they tell me why I’m a hard no. Knowing you got out of the running right away like that but not knowing why is, to me, the biggest blow. I am totally fine with either “you were in the running, but we went with somebody else” or “rejected for specific reason” but “immediate hard no with no reason why” is a real killer for me personally. It makes me think there is something terrible about me that is super obvious, and I will therefore never have a chance or a way to fix whatever the terrible thing is.

  13. ThursdaysGeek

    For #2, perhaps the boss interrupted you because she wanted the meeting to continue on and not get stalled while you figured things out. It sounds like you think you have a normally decent boss, and a decent boss recognizes that there are other people in the meeting too and it’s best to not waste their time if possible.

    When I have questions in a meeting that I suspect are just mine, I’ll write them down and ask them later. If I think the answers will help others too, then I’ll interrupt the meeting to ask them.

    1. fposte

      Yeah, I cut people off in meetings if we need to move on. It’s about the schedule, not the person.

    2. Pwyll

      In one of my first jobs I worked in a research organization. I decidedly did not understand the research, but I had a support role that I was good enough at. My boss was wonderful, and if we were in a meeting and I starting figuring things out outloud in a way that was slowing down the meeting or when I was absolutely wrong about what I was saying, she would politely interrupt with a “What I think Pwyll is getting at is (correct research statement).” I always interpreted it as allowing me to save face. “Yes, I totally meant that.”

      It worked because my boss told me in private that I was hired for my technical skills and not my research knowledge, though. If not done the right way, though, I can see how annoying it might be.

  14. Ambarish

    Just wanted to chime in that we’ve gotten positive feedback on our quick turnarounds, both when moving forward or rejecting. We’ve in fact started crowing about it to candidates before the interview (“we usually turn around in 24 hours from your interview, often the same day”), and so far candidates seem to like it. West Coast software firm.

    1. fposte

      I think if you say it up front that it’s your practice, people don’t feel singled out by it, so it’s a nice way to handle that. And good for you guys for making the process so quick!

  15. Ellen N.

    I would definitely want to know as soon as possible if I’m rejected as a job candidate. I know that my skills and my ability to play well in the sandbox with others are just fine, so I don’t take rejection personally. It’s also great when interviewers tell me the reason they are rejecting me. It’s good to know if there’s a skill I should learn. The worst, definitely, is interviewers who promise that they’ll let me know either way then don’t.

  16. Janelle

    My personal best for rejection was the auto-reject I received from a university 8 hours after applying in the middle of the night. Given that I felt I should have been a shoo-in for at least a phone screen, I wonder if I had some offensive typo that the software reacted to.

  17. Thornus

    Re #1:
    I once received a rejection letter that was dated the day after I interviewed. Got it about four days after the interview. I wasn’t insulted though. When I went in for an interview with them, it was abundantly clear that they were looking for someone with vastly different skills and experience than I had to offer (or had even indicated I had on my resume and cover letter). Quite frankly, during the interview, I was internally surprised I was even called in.

  18. AL

    I recently interviewed for a job, and I thought it went really well, but after I sent out my thank you emails later that day, I discovered they reposted the job while I was driving home from the interview (thanks LinkedIn, for showing exactly how many hours ago a job was posted…). That was super discouraging. I realize it MAYBE was a coincidence, but it’s not a big company, and the timing wasn’t a logical time period after the initial posting.

  19. ECB~

    I am pretty strict with myself about this sort of thing, in the three positions that I have held over the years that I did the hiring alone, interviews were always scheduled for Tuesday or Wednesday and applicants were told I would be contacting them again on Friday, either by email (or before that was common, mail mail). If I were going to do a second interview or follow-up interview with their future dept. head or supervisor, as the case may be, I would call them as well.

    I may have indeed made an immediate decision, but I always prefer to give it a day or two, give myself a chance to review it more than once, mentally. Plus if I have it scheduled for completion, I don’t feel pressure to “Get it done” one way or the other, and I have let the applicant know a time frame they can expect to hear from me.

  20. azvlr

    #2 I am not great at speaking in large groups, and I don’t have a lot of experience in my industry. I can prepare and script my presentation, but as soon as it goes off-road, I panic just a little. Also, my managers often have a perspective that I do not. I’m think of really detailed stuff and they can see how it affects the bottom line or that it will also have an impact on this other group.
    For these reasons, I’m ok with my boss jumping into my presentations. I sometimes talk myself into a corner. Even though I’m good at what I do, I’m not as good at selling the idea to others. Recently, instead of waiting to be interrupted, I will pause and ask if my manager has anything to add. It works well, because it gets me back on track without it appearing as though I’m being rescued. Don’t take it personally. In fact, take it as a blessing and learn what you can from their input.

  21. tandar

    I was recently rejected during a phone screen but it was a mutual rejection. I’d been surprised to even get the phone call because I’d already received a “thanks but we don’t think you’re a good fit” email. I got the impression they were having trouble finding candidates with the skills and experience they wanted for the salary they are offering since that was the reason for the rejection – my bottom salary requirements were at the very top of their range for the position. I appreciated being able to cross them off my list without having to wait to get (another) rejection from them.

  22. Vicki

    Alison –

    I want to thank you for adding that list of “Other questions I’m answering there today include:” on these! It’s very helpful, especially for understanding the comments or searching later.

  23. Jane

    This past winter, I went on two first-round interviews and heard back (through external recruiters who had submitted my resume) within 24-36 hours that I was not moving forward. In each case, the recruiter told me that I interviewed late in their process and they already had finalists in mind. That being said, I think telling a candidate “no” within a day or two of an interview is actually very kind. At first I was irritated, but then I came on askamanager and read an old answer (perhaps the same one as this one, since this one is an old one being updated) that said not to take it too personally because an interviewer will often know and have good reason to know that it’s a “no” fairly quickly after the first interview (but often it gets harder as you go through additional rounds).

    Does it sting to hear back after a day or two that you’re not moving forward (even if you’re not that excited about the job)? It sure does! But it’s way, way, way better than never hearing back after an interview and I think it’s preferable to waiting a week or more. I don’t really get why someone needs that much time. Either they’re excited about you and want to see what you’ve got in the next round or they’re kind of “meh” about you (in which case they really shouldn’t even consider moving you forward), or they’re sure (in which case they’re just waiting to respond for no good reason).

  24. Milton Waddams

    Pretty much the only speed likely to universally annoy is the auto-reject that implies a human being never even saw their application.

    The think that bothers people are non-rejection rejections — they’re in the passive voice, they’re not clear about what is happening or why — “the position has been discontinued” is a classic; did the hiring manager fill the position with another candidate? Did the big boss slash the department’s budget? Did the field go bust, throwing the company into eject mode? Who can know these deep and hidden mysteries? :-)

    Speedy non-rejection rejections are the worst because people fear it is something about them that makes them look like obviously awful candidates, but they aren’t told what the problem is — so they naturally assume it is whatever they fear the most.

    Speedy rejections that clarify why a candidate was rejected are a good thing, though — they free the mind up for focusing on the next interview.

    The best ones are those that not only give a clear rejection but also provide a set of guidelines for re-applying in the future; like, “An essential duty of this role is teapot crack repair. While your resume states that you took a course on teapot crack repair in college, we have found that for a mid-level position such as this one, it is best to hire those with X years verifiable experience in teapot crack repair, which we have done. Unfortunately, we do not have the budget for hands-on testing of each individual candidate. However, we consider B-level certification from the International Association of Teapot Crack Repair Technicians or a letter of mentorship from an A-level certified technician to be an an acceptable equivalent to demonstrated experience; feel free to re-apply for similar positions when you can meet any of the three methods of qualification.”

  25. Jack the Treacle Eater

    My partner works in the NHS (UK national health service). The shortlisting process always takes a while but once shortlisted, the form is for all the interviews to take place the same day, and for applicants to be told of the decision, good or bad, that day – or if that isn’t possible, the following day at the latest.

    I’ve had two interviews this week, one of which was a telephone interview and went really badly, the other of which was OK. For either, and the first in particular, if a decision’s been made there and then I’d rather know immediately – I can’t see any point in hanging on.

    Having said that, I can see in cases like those notified above, where companies find they can defuse the flak if the extend the notification time, that having a fixed policy is a good idea – but please, don’t keep people hanging on for no reason.

    Just reading this I also wonder if – in terms of people’s reaction to overly fast or slow notification – whether there’s a cultural difference between countries, and particularly US / UK?

  26. RDB

    I once interviewed for a position – in person, a panel interview – and I received a rejection via snail mail the very next day. I remember thinking at the time they could’ve just handed me the letter on the way out and saved themselves the postage.

  27. Justin McGuire

    I’ve been rejected within an hour, and it was fine. I knew I had handled the phone screen poorly, and getting the confirmation was a relief.

    Sooner is always better than later.

  28. Elizabeth

    I recently interviewed for an administrative assistant position at a major moving company. Long and short, I applied a couple weeks back, made diligent, but non pestering attempts to gain a face-to-face interview, interviewed this past Thursday, and was told afterwards they would be calling people in for second interviews ASAP as they wanted to fill the position within the next week. Lo and behold, the next very next day I received a rejection email saying this position had already been filled. Call me sensitive , but I have never been so hurt and humiliated in all of my life. That the contact I interviewed with couldn’t bother to answer my follow-up correspondence personally (the email was a jobs@…) was bad enough, but to essentially be told that the job had already been filled makes me think my interview was a gag! Surely there is no way of filling a position within 24 hours, unless of course, you already have someone picked out in the first place! Really? Who do you think you are to waste my time like that! It is waste of my time at best, and wholly dishonest at worst! This isn’t the first time this has happened to me either, it makes me feel like dirt!

    1. Kat

      This sounds like something similar that happened to me recently as well. I am in an industry that usually hires new employees quite fast, but I didn’t hear anything from them for two weeks. Or, better than that, until I decided to follow up. They called two days after I followed up to let me know I was rejected for that particular position and another candidate had been chosen. Now, this didn’t go down too well because I had applied online as well as in-house, and turns out they hadn’t even looked at their online applications yet. I felt it was quite a lazy recruitment style.

      Here’s the real kicker; I’ve worked at this place during the past and my references/skills/experience are strong as they live within the organisation itself. I’ve been told I’m always welcomed back which is why I applied for the position. But, it was certainly a waste of time to be hanging on for that long, just waiting for a yay or a nay. I’m quite sure that the person who got the position did not wait this long. To be fair to them, they were holding onto my application because they wanted to offer me another opportunity at a later date which they couldn’t tell me any information about it yet. However, I still would of preferred to get a rejection sooner rather than later. It’s just the kinder way to go. And, please, do not reject the candidate by phone, this crushes the candidate even more and puts you in a difficult position.

      1. Kat

        I have an interesting update on this situation which I want to share. So, while the job that I apparently interviewed for was indeed filled the day I interviewed, I received updated today with another consideration about different role. This particular role I had noted was actually closed and filled ( or so, they thought maybe ) the day after my rejection phone call, but it would appear that they really haven’t fully closed the door on me. Only just waiting for the phone to ring now. They did give me a firm date when they would ring again when I did get rejected, so I won’t get my hopes up too much yet, but it is sometimes hard to believe employers when it seems like they’re stringing you a long.. They did keep me in their original applicant pool and instead of chucking me out the door, left my status opened.

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