how long should I wait for a job candidate to respond when I’m scheduling interviews?

A reader writes:

I am in charge of our department’s intern program. It’s highly competitive and seen as fairly prestigious in our field, as paid entry-level positions are very rare.

I initially sent out emails to six candidates to let them know that we would like to schedule interviews with them. Two of the six took over five days to respond to the request for interview. What is a reasonable amount of time to wait to hear back from a candidate about scheduling an interview? Frankly, I wanted to move on as there were plenty of other great candidates we could have brought in. Would it have been recommended to send follow-up emails or, if I don’t receive a response within a few days, is it appropriate for me to just move on?

If you haven’t heard back two business days after sending the initial request (or three, if your timeline allows for it), I’d send one follow-up just to ensure the original email made it to them and didn’t get stuck in their spam folder or whatever.

Don’t frame the follow-up as a nudge; frame it as closing the loop. For example: “Since I haven’t heard back from you, I’m assuming you’re no longer interested in the position and we’ll move forward with other candidates. However, please let me know if that’s not the case and I’ll see if we still have interview slots available at that point. Either way, best of luck in your search.” That way, you can move on immediately, while still leaving an opening for someone to say they’re still interested but were out of the country/in the hospital/on vacation without internet service/swamped with finals/whatever.

If someone were a truly stellar candidate, I might wait an extra day … but it’s really reasonable to expect people to respond to hiring-related correspondence within two days (and most people reply within one, or will include a brief explanation if they’re much later than that).

{ 230 comments… read them below }

  1. Mike C.*

    Wow, I think anyone having been on the other side would be shocked to find people were waiting 5 whole days to respond.

    Is this a normal issue for you? Did you communicate your interest in an unusual manner? Not that I presume you’re at fault for this, it’s just bizarre.

    1. AndersonDarling*

      Yep, even if I was sick, vacationing in a vacuum, or if my house burnt down and I didn’t get the initial email right away, I wouldn’t expect a recruiter to wait for my response. I’d assume they would move on and it would be up to me to apologize for my delay and ask if there was still a chance to interview.

      1. Jessesgirl72*

        If the Professor who wanted you to Ask The Readers a few weeks ago about the importance of deadlines is reading today, I’d like to say to her that this is the kind of thing she’s training her students not to do.

        1. Anonymousaurus Rex*

          Yes! Unfortunately, as an ex-academic I can say that professors themselves are often notoriously bad at responding promptly to requests. It’s a problem endemic within the academy. In fact, I hate to admit I picked up some of this foot-dragging in responding to emails. It’s something I had to unlearn very quickly when I left academia, and it’s amazing how the moment I started promptly returning emails my stress level dissipated considerably.

          1. DArcy*

            It’s definitely endemic to academia, and the really annoying part is that the same professors who ignore deadlines are consistently the exact same ones who hold students to unforgivingly tight “no exceptions” deadlines. It’s all about feeling entitled to their own convenience at the expense of everyone around them.

            1. Julia*

              THIS! I’m currently in grad school, and the office sends out requests for documentation suuuuuuper late, but then expects a reply with a dozen of hard-to-get documents within a ridiculously short time frame. It’s infuriating.

          2. Cassie*

            What I’ve noticed is that some professors don’t want to respond with a “no”, so they just don’t respond at all. Like to prospective students who want to join their group or to a former student who is asking for a recommendation letter. It drives me crazy – just respond and simply say “sorry, I won’t be able to [whatever]”. I’ve even had one professor tell me to just not respond to a student, and I told him that he should at least let the student know the answer was “no” so the student wouldn’t keep trying to ask.

      2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        I was going to ask about this. What’s the timing of the letter, Alison? I assume OP’s email didn’t overlap with finals, but if it did, it may explain why the students are so slow to respond. Otherwise five days is way too long, even for students.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Oh, that’s interesting. I got it about 10 days ago, so yeah, she might have been referring to something happening during May finals.

        2. Lizzard*

          I was thinking the delay was due to finals. If so I’d be inclined to be more patient/lenient with response times. Coordinating internship applications with final schedules is not fun.

        3. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

          I’m basing this entirely on my own experience, but I’d argue that finals aren’t a reasonable excuse. Finals are demanding (in some cases), sure, but they are scheduled in advance and allow for highly flexible timing of activities (unlike, say, folks who work 40+ hours a week). It takes under five minutes to respond to an email. Even the most dedicated students at the most challenging institutions have five minutes.

          1. JB (not in Houston)*

            Sure, they technically have five minutes. But I remember during my finals I was often so stressed that I felt totally overwhelmed and lost track of time. Five days could pass without me realizing it had been five days since I got the email.

            I realize that in the work world, you can be very stressed but can’t let things drop. However, they are still in student mode, and finals really can mess with you. I think Alison’s advice is great, and the OP shouldn’t just wait around for people. But if it was during finals, I wouldn’t necessarily write them off as not interested or see that as a definitive sign of how they’ll act in the internship.

          2. The OG Anonsie*

            Excuse because you literally don’t have five minutes vs understanding that interns are people without experience who may not know this is unusually long, then also adding that they may have also been in the midst of finals and therefore particularly likely to be slow without realizing how long it has been or that the length of time would stand out as abnormal.

          3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            I understand that take, but I think it also depends on your relationship to email during finals. I used to disappear because otherwise I would waste hours procrastinating and feeding emails instead of studying. So it’s not that they don’t have the time, but I think it’s possible that some folks have gone off the grid.

          4. JamieS*

            I don’t really understand why finals would be a tough time for students to respond either. Although in the interest of full disclosure in my college days I was so well known for not studying that one of my classmates thought she saw me studying and had a literal panic attack because she thought me studying meant we were having an incredibly hard test in the class that day which was starting in a couple minutes. So I’m probably not the authority on how stressful/time consuming finals are.

          5. PersistentCat*

            I personally work 40 hours a week, go to school full time, and volunteer. Anyone who calls/texts/emails during finals week is burnt. There’s not enough time in the day to do end of quarter stuff and do extra.

        4. Courtney W*

          I’m a college student right now, and honestly I still don’t feel that this is a reasonable excuse. It’s worth noting that I’m in my late 20s, so not a traditional student, but based on observations of my younger classmates I would still say this is true. The ones who are hard workers and on top of things (so, the ones you’d want to hire for an internship) are checking their school email on a regular basis (because you never know when the professor will send an email!) and would respond to an interview request very quickly.

          1. Karen D*

            Yeah, I think this is where I come down.

            The OP is responding to the email address the internship applicants provided. It’s reasonable to assume they should know to check it regularly.

          2. Bostonian*

            Good point. If they’re using their school email to apply for the internship, that means they’re still logging in (if they’re conscientious) to make sure they see any last-minute assignment/exam changes and updates from professors.

            1. Elsie*

              As a grad student in recent years, one of the most important things to do, to keep focus on task, was to avoid checking email in addition to social media. If there was an emergency, family knew to call (where I could see their name on the call ID.) Checking my school email account would lead down an endless rabbit whole of emails from classmates, campus organizations, and other things not relevant to the number one task of acing the finals. So I definitely wouldn’t have seen that. Taking 5 minutes to even look at my account (to see the endless emails piling up that I needed to discipline myself not to look at) would never be 5 minutes, but end up a tremendous time and energy suck—because each emailing wants a response and you end up… responding. At least that was my experience anyway…

            2. Callie*

              You would think so, but I had four students this spring who didn’t log on to Blackboard to take their online final, I assume because they didn’t read the email announcement saying it was available (which they were told in class would be coming).

        5. Gingerblue*

          On the student issue, if that is the population OP has applying for positions, I’d add that finals can be the least of it–by mid-May and into June people are moving out of dorms, packing and unpacking, traveling home, starting or looking for other summer positions, seniors are graduating and may have family in town for it, etc. While I’m guessing this is less of a factor these days, for me the end of the year always meant some significant interruptions to email; students may or may not have the same level of email access at home that they did at school, and if they’re graduating, may be in the process of switching from a school to a personal email account as well. Basically, if your’re talking about college-level interns, be aware that this time of year pretty much everybody’s routines are disrupted and lives are in flux in myriad ways, big and small, which leave even the very responsible dropping the occasional ball. Also, speaking as a professor, they are stressed as hell.

          It’s easy to say that they should be perfectly on top of everything, but on a practical level, if you can push your process back next year to not coincide with graduations and move-outs, you’re likely to have less of a headache with responses. Also be aware that if you do expect quick turnaround, you may wind up inadvertantly screening out, e.g., the student who doesn’t have a smartphone and has to check email over the summer from the public library, or the student who is driving home to California from New York with their stuff crammed in a car when you try to reach them.

          None of this is to suggest that you can’t or shouldn’t expect professional norms from them once hired. But if you’re dealing with a group with a particular set of situational stressors every year during the same period, and you hire in a way which ignores that, the weeding process for this prestigious internship is going to affect less advantaged students much more sharply than more advantaged ones.

          1. Dead Quote Olympics*

            As someone who works academia-adjacent in an area where large areas are rural poor and people still have to use dial up for internet access, thank you so much for pointing this out.

          2. Anxa*

            Yeah, this was my first thought.

            Not so much with the stress and the being busy, but just not being by your computer for a few days.

            1. Bea*

              But most college students have cellphones and a huge chunk have smartphones. That puts email available unless you’re living in an area that doesn’t have reception.

        6. Non-Prophet*

          Yup, I was also wondering about timing. If this was during or right after finals, it could explain some of the lag. After finals was actually a very busy time for me as a student, since I would need to pack up my dorm room, get all my stuff into a storage facility, and/or move my things into summer housing. I still wouldn’t have taken 5 days to respond to an email– that’s way too long. But when I was in the middle of packing up my dorm room/apartment at the end of each year, I’m sure there were 24-48 hour periods when I didn’t check email at all.

        7. Callie*

          It doesn’t matter. They should be checking their email at least once a day even during finals.

        8. Kitty*

          I agree with posts below – I don’t think this is a valid excuse, particularly if you have applied for a prestigious internship and are waiting to hear back about an interview. Checking email once a day doesn’t seem like too much to ask.

      3. Callie*

        I am a professor and I have found that about half my students are very email savvy and the other half say things like “I don’t do email.” I tell them ONCE at the beginning of the semester (and put in my syllabus in bold) that I communicate through email and not through texts, facebook messages, etc. If they do not respond to their .edu email, I am not responsible for information they miss. I had four students this spring not even log in to take their final exam (which was online) and I assume it’s because they did not pay attention to the email announcement that it was available.

      4. Dorothy Mantooth*

        I work at a college and hire students year-round and can confirm. Of course it’s not all the students, some are really on top of things, but some are just really not.

        I’m not even the one trying to schedule interviews – they have already been interviewed and selected – I’m the one trying to schedule their paperwork/hiring appointment. It’s not unusual for us to make multiple calls and send multiple emails to make contact to finalize their hire. Typical reasons include: doesn’t check email; phone disconnected; saw the email/call but just hasn’t gotten to it yet. It’s exhausting.

    2. LBK*

      Yeah, that’s insane to me. If I get an interview request I’m jumping on that the first second it’s possible for me to do so – I think 2 days is more than reasonable.

      1. Cobol*

        I think it’s a bit different for students. One they may not naturally check email that often, but more importantly for some the idea of what prompt is can be a taught behavior for some people.

        1. CMart*

          I TA’d for a little while in the business department of my state university and a shocking number of my students (sophomores and juniors) wrote down their school e-mail addresses as the one to use to contact them, but then never ever actually checked that e-mail. Because this is the time they’d also be applying for internships, I have to wonder how many of them missed out on opportunities by doing this on applications/resumes.

        2. Jubilance*

          Ehh, that’s not really true. I started college in 2000 and even back then there was an expectation that we check email as that was the university’s official way to contact us. It was the same when I started grad school at another institution in 2004. For kids in college today, they’ve had exposure to email their entire lives, not to mention it’s available on their phones. If they truly aren’t checking their email everyday they are missing out on more than just internship interviews, they’re probably missing important information about classes, grades, financial aid, etc.

          1. CMart*

            I replied above you with an experience as a TA (just last year) that SO many of my students never, ever checked their school-provided e-mail address.

            And yes, they missed out on so much. Deadline changes for assignments, study guides, notifications of new projects, comments for improvement on assignments, etc…

            It honestly baffled me. I’d wager at least 50% (of my business school students!) would come to me at least once a term wondering why they missed out on XYZ, and then when I’d reply that I had sent however many e-mails they’d say “Oh, I haven’t checked that ever.” As if that was a valid excuse? Despite them giving me that e-mail as the one to use to contact them?

            So I’d just tell them I was sorry, but by this point (sophomore or junior y ear) they really, REALLY need to be checking that e-mail, as really important school things come through it. I’d say maybe 10% of that group would actually take that to heart. So frustrating.

            1. LBK*

              That is totally weird to me. I graduated 7 years ago and checked my email constantly, for exactly the reasons you said – I pretty much wouldn’t have been able to get through my courses without it given how much professors used it for communicating with us.

              1. Anxa*

                I actually am really sympathetic to not checking email during breaks because I might be out of town or on the road.

                I graduated about that time ago as well and was checking email all of the time, but not during thigns like moves.

                I work at a college now, and you would not believe how difficult it was for me to get students (of all ages) to check their emails. I was paid hourly for client and had to go schedule my own meetings, and I almost went to my supervisors about how to handle administrative hours, because instead of firing off a tweaked email I wrote during open hours with copies of my schedule, I had to get into 15 minute texting scenarios with each student or never hear from them again and lose them as a client. I needed the hours so I gave up on email and succumbed to texting, but it sucked.

                1. Callie*

                  I do not text students because I want to have documentation that I contacted students about whatever (so they can’t go to my department chair and complain that I didn’t contact them) and texts don’t last forever, at least on my phone.

            2. Emilia Bedelia*

              I graduated last year and checked my email (personal and school) every day. I still do check my personal email account every day.

              If the young people you are emailing are not responding, that’s a them problem. It’s truly not that difficult to respond to an email, even during finals. Expecting students to reply within 5 days is really not an unreasonable expectation.

              1. ThatGirl*

                See, I’m fascinated that you say every day because I check my email all the time and get alerts on my phone. At work I leave my email open all day. I’m 36 though.

            3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              That’s certainly possible, but my experience was also like Jubilance’s. Sure, some people did not check their official school email addresses regularly, but it was hammered into my head at least 50x in the first semester that you had to provide an email address and that there was a presumption that you checked it. And people suffered tangible consequences when they failed to pay attention and missed things like deadlines.

              1. CMart*

                I mean, my experience personally was also like yours: I nearly always had a browser tab open with my school e-mail and my personal gmail, and once I got a smartphone I pushed all of my e-mails to that so I could also get them on the go. I would also frequently check Blackboard (my schools’ preferred catch-all platform) multiple times a day until they came out with an app which I then set up notifications for. That behavior was learned because of how every single professor printed on every syllabus and said during the first class that checking e-mail/Blackboard was required for success.

                This was both in 04-08 and 14-16, which I think are shockingly different technological times.

                And yet I had all those students who nearly failed my class because of their refusal to check/ignorance about checking their e-mail. It was really a fairly significant portion of my class.

            4. DArcy*

              The last university I went to didn’t even cover e-mail setup during student orientation, so you had to be relatively old-fashioned and at least moderately tech savvy to get your school e-mail configured. As a result, pretty much no one was able to use the “official” e-mail even if they wanted to, and the vast majority of professors would have people write down their e-mails on the first day of class rather than using the address book that automatically provided everyone’s official e-mail.

              The school then provided zero transition support when they changed from their old school e-mail setup to an Outlook cloud based setup, which broke things even more — you basically could not sign up for an account on the new system if you had one in the old system because “this student is already registered”, but you couldn’t actually access the new system. You couldn’t even go to IT because it was a satellite campus and the IT people who actually had access were halfway across the state.

              No one really wants to use it beyond setting up a forwarding address.

          2. Cobol*

            CMart’s experience is more valid than mine, so I’ll mostly defer, but if you started college in 2000 you predated the wide adoption of social media. Email was much more prevalent in college then.

            1. Otra*

              I didn’t check my school e-mail very much when I was in school, but my school had a system that would forward all e-mails to my Gmail so that was helpful.

              1. smthing*

                Most students are tech savvy enough and responsible enough to do this when they have a preferred alternate email account. We took to reminding students at the beginning of the term that they needed to periodically check their school email inbox to be sure it wasn’t full. In our system, if the student hadn’t set their forwarding up so that messages weren’t deleted off the school server when they were deleted remotely, their inbox could fill up and the messages would cease forwarding.

              2. Pam*

                My campus no longer allows email forwarding. We want the students checking their campus email directly and regularly. It’s web-based, and not hard to access- they just need to get in the habit.

                I’m imagining some of them in the work force a few years from now- ‘Sorry, Ms. CEO, my Yahoo account saw your email as spam, so I didn’t get it.’

                1. blackcat*

                  I have had students get cranky when I refused to respond to a gmail address. Guys, FERPA basically says I need to be sure I’m only sharing your grade info with you! Even if your gmail is JohnSmith2000 at gmail, I have to email John.Smith at .

                  Training undergrads on email is hard.

                  That said, many undergrads are great at it! They tend to be more organized all around, so they’re the ones you likely want to hire anyways.

            2. Recovering Lawyer*

              I have had a really similar experience. I work with Law Students in a volunteer program and they give me their school email and then tell me they never check it while begging to still be included! Totally weird!

              1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                This was my experience in law school—people didn’t realize they could set up their email to forward to their personal account, so they would just forget to check their school account (both my undergrad and law schools required that you use an institutional account). But people who failed to set up forwarding and who were young enough to “know better” did not get a free pass for failing to configure their settings in a more sensible way.

          3. AcademiaNut*

            I think this has changed over the past decade. We run a summer student program (basically an internship) and had to explicitly tell students to monitor their emails *while at work*. Many of them communicated almost exclusively via text messenger, and it hadn’t occurred to them to check their emails, and they were missing things like meeting, and announcements for lectures.

        3. The OG Anonsie*

          Yeah, a lot of people will say “well I knew better” but plenty of people do not. And while that may be disqualifyingly out of touch for most employees, with interns the wiggle room needs to be wide.

          I know I harp on this a lot, but a massive portion of people you get in as interns new to working are also not people who have any models for professional norms that many take for granted. Largely, this is going to be a class split. Mislearning is also especially problematic early career– it’s obvious to us that the one week as a normal response window probably doesn’t apply here, but that’s not obvious to someone with no experience.

          1. Mike C.*

            Not to mention the fact that there were several candidates who didn’t respond in a timely manner, which also points to a more systemic issue.

          2. CMart*

            Your remark about it being a class issue just made me stop and reflect about my students who never even thought to look at their school e-mail. I TA’d at a large, state university and now that I’m looking back, the most confused about e-mail importance (and the worst about timeliness) were by and large my students who were the first in their family to ever go to college.

            That said, I had them as sophomores and juniors so I would have thought this would have been an issue for them long before they made it to me, but who knows.

            1. The OG Anonsie*

              It takes a long time to fumble through just suddenly being in a different culture and actually understanding it. My first full year in college was a shit show, but it evened out the second year and after that I was on top of it. I was at a big state school.

              But I have noticed that tech schools and community colleges (I did postbac over the years) often have different norms as well, and those students are much more likely to be folks to transferred in rather than started at the big school. I took prereqs for grad school for three years in a huge community college network, one that feeds into the state school system there, and not one single professor heavily used email or didn’t also give the same information in class time to make sure everyone knew.

      2. CMart*

        When I was searching as a graduate student for my first full time job I always had to hold myself back from replying instantaneously. I don’t know how legitimate this feeling of mine was, but I had a sense that it would have been weird to have a candidate reply a minute after sending out the interview request. I was afraid of looking overeager, or that I wasn’t doing anything with my time, or that I hadn’t put any thought into my reply if it was too swift.

        I’d sit on it usually until 4pm so I could reply same-day, but not *too* quickly.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          It’s not weird to respond immediately. Lots of people do. This is one of those things where you’re thinking the employer is reading a lot more into your behavior than they are; they’re not thinking anything about it other than “oh good, that one is handled.”

          1. CMart*

            Well that’s good to know! I don’t plan on job searching for several years, but I’ll make sure to remember that interviewing isn’t internet dating, and functional places don’t have arbitrary rules about an appropriate response time.

            1. Crystal*

              OP here – Absolutely agree. When people respond 10 miunutes later or something I just assume they were on their email when it went through anyway and they’re excited about the job (a trait I’m definitely looking for). Definitely not the online dating rule of thumb with responses haha.

        2. JG*

          In the business world, many people keep thier email open all day and are expected to deal with email in real time. It would not seem strange to me at all for a candidate to respond immediately.

          1. consultant*

            You mean work email, right? Or are you encouraged to check your private emails at work?

            I do check my private emails in the office, but only if my boss and clients can’t see it, because they wouldn’t be happy about it. And with them sitting right next to be/ behind me it’s not so easy to make them not see it.

            1. JG*

              I was referring to work emails (from hiring manager’s point of view it is a work email).
              This comment is saying that quick replies are OK and do not appear over-eager – not that quick replies are expected.

    3. Mme Marie*

      This is anecdotal, but I work with a lot of high school/college aged people and technology – and I have found that very few of them actively use or check email. I’m not sure if it’s a generational thing, or a result of how email use has changed so much in the past 20 years (there is so much more spam/junk email than there used to be). It’s definitely been a surprise to me – especially considering that a majority of Americans in that age group have smart phones.

      1. Anonygoose*

        I think the use of email has changed, certainly, but I think young people do email! I’d almost never email my friends, for example, and I gather that was significantly more common 10-15 years ago. But for job searching or other business/professional things, I use email almost exclusively. If I’m job searching, I’m probably checking email 12 times a day.

        I think 5 days is a really long time, and it would definitely be a red flag for me.

        1. EddieSherbert*

          Yeah, I was going to say – even if it’s finals or I’m on vacation or ANYTHING…. If I’m applying to jobs, I am checking my email so much. so this is weird.

          The only I would think of is if they students had to apply for this months and months ago, and they’re just now doing interviews?

        2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          I think it’s that young folks are also using different communication platforms more frequently than email. I use email for things like coordinating with people and scheduling, but it’s totally different for my younger sister. Until this quarter, she would never check her email more frequently than once every two to three days. But she’s constantly on her phone coordinating logistics and friend communications through Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, text messages, etc.

          1. Spammed Out*

            I hate e-mail. No matter how actively I try to get off spam lists, I’d say well over 50% of what I receive in my personal e-mail is spam, newsletters, surveys, etc. I don’t check personal e-mail religiously any more. (Now, to be sure, if I were applying for jobs, I’d make an exception for that.) However, the point is absolutely valid that people are gravitating from e-mail to IM, and this trend will probably accelerate.

            1. Anxa*

              This is so strange to me because I feel like I never see people on IM anymore (gmail, aim, etc.) and haven’t in years. I feel like SMS text is clunky and you could have a contact’s number and not realize it’s a landline number.

              I cannot imagine having to respond to things from a phone keypad or even a touchscreen. My SO has a smart phone and I cannot stand trying to send short texts on that thing, never mind longer correspondence.

              I feel like email is something that you don’t expect the other person to receive in real time, but that they’d check once they had access to it and fairly often. I like it because it’s more device independent than most other things.

              I have been noticing that more and more people expect me to have a smartphone, which I just don’t have. I’d much rather spend the money on wireless. I really hope I don’t have to cut internet to get a smartphone and I dread the day I can’t type a message and have to tap it instead.

          2. DArcy*

            I’m definitely in the “young folk” cohort here despite being a little older, because I was raised fundie and all my actual socialization and pop culture is a half generation to full generation later than people who are “my age”.

            Our mindset is very much that e-mail is the equivalent of snail mail: it’s for relatively formal communications that are not time sensitive. If it’s time sensitive and has to be e-mailed, you treat it like a fax machine and inform people that a message was sent — you don’t assume e-mail is constantly monitored.

            1. Callie*

              But you/your cohort are going to have to learn that work, especially applying for a job, does not happen over snapchat or text. You are more than likely going to be contacted by email or phone. If you apply for a job they are going to ask for your email, not your snapchat. Unless you are applying at snapchat, I guess.

              1. Kitty*

                Agreed! I used to hire for our student placements and internships, and we’d receive hundreds of applications for 2-3 positions. If someone didn’t respond to an interview request within 2-3 days, I would move on. If they did reach the interview stage, I would remember any unusually delayed responses and it would hurt the applicant’s chances if they hadn’t given me a good reason for it.

                Students should monitor whatever email address/contact info they provide in their application, and make a point of checking that address if they want to get the position. I might make an exception for heavy workload or stressful times like moving or finals, but this is pretty basic job search stuff here.

          3. Darwinite*

            I agree with the generational difference. I have emailed people to arrange actual job interviews. No response. It wasn’t until I called them and asked if they had received my email that I got a response.
            These were good jobs they were keen to get.

  2. Wannabe Disney Princess*

    When I’m job searching, I’m nervous if I take a day to respond. I’d never imagine taking a week or so. That said, sending an email like Allison suggested wouldn’t be a bad idea. Sometimes I open the email and mean to respond and forget to hit send. I close my email and it’s saved as a draft. Since I typed it up my scumbag brain thinks I’m done (not that this happens frequently, and if it’s a position I’m REALLY interested in I darn sure check my sent folder). Maybe that’s the case here…?

    1. sunny-dee*

      It also depends on what email the OP is sending to. If I’m on vacation (where I have a hard no email / social media rule), I set an autoresponder on my work email but I almost never do on my personal email. Of course, I would respond the next week with “I’m sorry I’m so late, I was in Tahiti!” or whatever and let them know why.

      1. HisGirlFriday*

        I think, though, that if the OP is sending the e-mail to whatever address is on the person’s application AND the person knowingly applied to this internship then it’s incumbent upon the would-be intern to be available.

        And, TBH, if I sent something to someone’s e-mail and heard crickets for a week, I’d move on. If you got back to me later and said, “I was in Tahiti!” I’d think, “well, good for you, but we’ve moved on.”

        If you have a hard-and-fast “no email/no social media” on holiday rule, that’s fine, but the consequence of that action is that you might miss important communications.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          The other side of that, though, is that when you’re hiring, you want to hire the best candidates — and if one of your strongest candidates was in Tahiti, you should make room for them if you can. Sometimes you might not be able to, of course, but when you can, you shouldn’t refuse on principle.

          1. HisGirlFriday*

            Oh, I agree. And what I was saying was more that, if I hadn’t heard anything in a week, AND we had moved on in the process to the point where the person really couldn’t be accommodated, I wouldn’t care what their excuse was — Tahiti or scaling Everest or just going off-grid.

            To me, if you’re applying for jobs, you are holding yourself out as interested and available. If I send a message and I hear crickets, I might send another, but I might also move on, depending on what other factors are in play.

            Now, if this were a particularly strong candidate and they had an auto-response that said, ‘I’m in Tahiti until 27 June,’ I’d make a mental note to circle back and/or give them more time, because they’re giving me front-end information that I don’t have. But silence means a lack of interest generally (to me.)

            1. CAA*

              I think it depends on the level you’re hiring for too. My experience with interns has been that the candidate pool is usually large and the strongest candidates just aren’t so far above the rest that I have to go out of my way to accommodate the late responders for fear of losing out on the ideal hire. But sometimes when I’m looking for a more senior person and someone who looks like they’ll be an ideal fit pops up late in the process, then it does make more sense to be flexible.

          2. Koko*

            What about setting a vacation reply on a personal email account? I do a lot of freelance work in addition to my main job, and always set a vacation auto reply when I go away. I also have done this when applying for jobs.

            1. sunny-dee*

              When I did freelance work, I set it on my personal account, but that was because my personal account *was* my work account, and clients could be trying to reach me.

              My only point was that there is an assumption that people are just ignoring the email for 5 days, but it’s possible they didn’t see it for Reasons. I agree, if I were actively job searching, I would set an out of office response, but it’s also possible that people aren’t, and it’s almost impossible to judge when you’ll hear back from a hiring manager. I’ve heard back 6-8 weeks after sending in an application. I’m not going to sit on the edge of my seat and hit “Refresh” every five minutes just to make sure I don’t miss something.

              Professional norms obviously indicate that you should respond within a day, but there could be a decent reason why someone would take a week without indicating sloppiness or laziness (although it could also indicate that — it’s something to note but not necessarily an immediate disqualification).

  3. Berry*

    I don’t schedule interviews, but I’ve often sent other emails on a timeline for work and usually end with “looking forward to hearing back by [date],” so that way they have something they’re being held accountable to and I can move forward on the timeline if they don’t respond. I do usually send a follow up, but it’s less stressful this way.

    Maybe doing something like that, giving a defined date to respond by, would help?

    1. Coalea*

      Yes, I would recommend something like, “If you are interested in setting up an interview, please respond by XX date. If I do not hear from you by that time, I will assume that you are not interested, and I will proceed with scheduling other candidates.”

      1. KTM*

        This is what I was coming here to say. I would recommend giving a deadline, then you can still follow up with a second email as Alison suggested, but this way you can move on to other candidates.

    1. ThatGirl*

      Right? I got a message about an interview request at 6 pm tonight and I’m antsy to call first thing in the morning!

  4. Ophelia Bumblesmoop*

    This is one of the ongoing issues I have with my college students. I’ve learned to deliver a hard deadline. “I am scheduling interviews for 22-23 June. Please notify me of your availability by 16 June.” Even then, I’ve noticed a tendency to miss deadlines. Our new program director has made the decision that hard deadlines will be truly hard deadlines; no more letting it slide. In a business environment, if you don’t meet a deadline, you have consequences. If you don’t respond to an email within a day or so, you will lose the job.

    With instant access to email on a variety of devices, there’s no reason for a response to take 5 days unless the individual is away from electronics or traveling or ill, and those responses are appropriate after the fact.

    1. Academic Addie*

      I agree; students can just be a challenge. I hire a pretty good number of students. I do academic research, and they often have really goofy ideas about timeliness and about scheduling enough time to do tasks properly. I can see doing either Allison’s advice or treating it as a hard deadline, depending on the goal. Since my goal is much more training-oriented, I usually follow the format Allison lays out.

      1. Professor Bullfinch*

        “I do academic research, and they often have really goofy ideas about timeliness and about scheduling enough time to do tasks properly”
        …and faculty don’t?

        1. Academic Addie*

          Some do, some don’t. I personally don’t, good time management has served me very well, and I try to instill it in students who work with me.

  5. The IT Manager*

    I understand there’s not an alternative to email, but honestly my personal email gets nothing but junk, form, email now-a-days. I really don’t use it to communicate with any human beings – that’s been replaced by Facebook, IM, and texts.

    OTOH I would be expectantly checking email if I had applied for a job. So that’s not a real excuse, but I do wonder if it will be replaced. That’s not the same as work email so perhaps not.

      1. The IT Manager*

        That’s not relevant because that was over 20 years ago.

        I had a school email address as my only email address because my university provided my very first access to the internet.

        Until 5-10 years ago (before smart phones and Facebook), I used email to keep up with friends and family so checked it regularly with expectations of receiving something interesting. I still check regularly but I have low expectations of receiving actual human communication instead of spam, newsletters, etc.

    1. Clever Name*

      This is one example of how personal communication is different than business communication. I use facebook messenger almost exclusively to communicate with my friends. Texts too. I rarely email them and never call them. At work, however, I am constantly communicating via email and yes, phone. I don’t think it’s an unreasonable expectation that people be responsive via methods other than their preferred methods when they are looking for a job.

    2. CMart*

      Several companies I applied to for internships have begun using LinkedIn as their main point of contact. I missed out on two opportunities because I wasn’t in the habit of looking at LinkedIn and saw the interview request invitations three weeks after the fact.

    3. AnotherHRPro*

      But when job searching, it is sooooo easy to set up a separate email account just dedicated to that so that you won’t have to deal with junk mail. I have my personal email, my interviewing email, my junk email (that I never check and is for signing up for things that I don’t want to overload my real accounts with spam) and my work email. When job searching I set my interviewing email account as a priority on my phone and immediate am notified if there is a message.

      1. EA in CA*

        I have the same set up and with my interviewing email I can set up a vacation auto reply (I use Gmail) when I know I won’t be able to respond to email for a few days.

    4. Rusty Shackelford*

      My daughter just graduated from high school and I was shocked to discover the only way she had to communicate with her future roommate was through Instagram messaging

  6. Biff*

    Why wouldn’t you just call to set up an interview? Email is so fickle when you are using web-app mail.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I never call to schedule an interview. Email is easier because people can respond when it’s convenient, they’re in front of their calendar, etc. and you don’t get into phone tag. Email is way more efficient for this kind of thing.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        I’m the same way—I almost never call. Email is way easier to track and to deal with in my own time.

      2. ZSD*

        I think the first contact should definitely be by email, but I could see making the follow-up by phone if they haven’t responded within 2-3 days (and if you’re still interested). That way it keeps you from having to worry that both your initial invitation *and* follow-up have gone to the person’s spam.

      3. AndersonDarling*

        It’s been 7 years since I was job searching, and I am SO happy that recruiters are now using email instead of the phone. It makes life so much easier! One email “Would you be available for a phone call at ___ time?” , one response “Yes, thank you.” and the appointment is set! It used to take days of phone tag because I would have to hide in a storage closet to return the phone calls.

    2. LBK*

      I think the unreliability of email has waned significantly, especially for personal email where you’re not dealing with unseen and uncontrollable firewalls that might bounce messages without you having any clue. It’s reliable enough that the pros outweigh the cons, IMO.

      1. mousanon*

        email is reliable for getting to your account. Gmail is unreliable for figuring out if something important should be in my inbox or promo or spam. I’d say 2-3% of my important emails get to promo or spam.

        1. Jessesgirl72*

          You need to train Gmail by moving things. Promo stuff ends up in my Inbox unless I’ve told Gmail otherwise. And I very rarely get things stuck in Spam that I don’t want there. The only thing that drives me nuts about Gmail is at least once a year it seems to reset what it used to send to my Spam box and I have to train it all over again with “Mark as Spam”

          Gmail is really good about not sending things to my Spam folder that I’ve told it is not Spam, and that doesn’t seem to reset ever.

        2. BethRA*

          Right, but if I know I’m waiting on any kind of important email, I’m checking my spam folders, etc.

          1. Clever Name*

            Exactly. If I want to get a job, you can bet that I’m going to be setting myself up for success by checking my spam folder daily.

          2. Steph B*

            But in the case of something that you may have put an application in a month ago, are you checking your spam filters daily? I can see how something could have been missed.

        3. nonegiven*

          I gave up on my ISP email address that I’ve had for 20 years. They kept bouncing legit messages without notifying me. I’d log in somewhere and there would be a big red notification, “we need a new email to contact you because our messages are bouncing.” Meanwhile still getting plenty of spam, even phishing messages claiming to be from the same organizations were getting through just fine.

    3. all aboard the anon train*

      Honestly, I’m pretty annoyed if someone calls during the work day to schedule an interview. I work in an open office plan and taking a call is pretty noticeable. Taking a call you want to keep private is even more noticeable and aggravating because I’d have to go to another floor since our conference rooms are around our open floor plan and speaking in a normal tone will be overheard by anyone outside.

      I kind of think that interviewers who call are being disrespectful of my time as an employed job seeker. Not to mention, I’ve definitely had recruiters and potential interviewers consider me not interested because I couldn’t answer or said it wasn’t a good time to talk when they called.

      1. mousanon*

        If you are job searching and put your personal cell phone on your resume, why wouldn’t you expect them to call that number during business hours?

        1. Catty Hack*

          Sorry to be harsh but got to agree with this – I don’t get people who give out contact details they DON’T want to be used. I will caveat that with I think it’s reasonable to give a preference e.g. ‘I’d prefer to be contacted by email but, if it’s urgent, you can reach me on this phone number’ but, unless that’s expressly stated, I’m going to assume it’s all equal to you and pick the one I prefer. For all I know, you could be off work today or work in a soundproof office or multiple other reasons why it would be ok for you to take my call.

          That being said, I do think writing people off because they can’t answer or can’t talk at that very point in time isn’t great practice. I mean, I can understand if it happened every time they called but, surely, when you make a call you know part of the deal is that the person might not be there/might be too busy to speak and you’d be prepared to try back later?

          (On an off-topic flip side, can I also just say how much it annoys me when you DO give a preference and it gets ignored – not a ‘Sorry, I know you prefer email but I need to talk to you about this now’ or a ‘Sorry, I know you prefer email but office policy says this has to be done by phone’ but just a call from a person who assumes I’ll be overjoyed to hear the sound of their voice….)

        2. all aboard the anon train*

          I don’t. I only put my email on my resume. But some applications require you to put in a phone number and won’t let you submit without one (I’ve tried 000-000-0000 and it doesn’t work), and that’s the only time I’ve put my cell phone because that’s the only number I have.

          1. Catty Hack*

            Ah. Now I do feel harsh because I feel you – I hate those forms too. I’m all like, ‘Well, here’s my mobile. I can almost guarantee you won’t get a response during business hours but knock yourself out!’. (At risk of going off-topic – Had to fill out one of those for a non-work thing recently and despite writing in the message space ‘Hey – don’t call me on weekday mornings because I’ll be in and out of meetings and won’t pick up’ they still left me 8 missed calls during the time period I explicitly said I wouldn’t be about in! :: throws phone across room::)

            1. KellyK*

              Oh, I hate that! If I take the time to let you know how & when to contact me, that’s information you should *use*!

              Also not work-related, except for having people call you when you’re *at work,* but I had a medical office that Just. Could. Not. manage to take my cell phone off my patient record, despite repeated requests. And cell phone reception in my office was dodgy at best, so I would miss calls. Meanwhile, my “landline” is VOIP, so voicemails go to my personal email, which I had regular access to. (I didn’t yet have a smart phone at this point.)

              It’s kind of a problem when you miss the call about your lab results and they want you to come back in the next day.

        3. LBK*

          I put my phone number on there because I think it looks weird and cagey not to, but I usually nudge them towards email in my cover letter by saying that I’m available by phone in the evening or by email any time.

        4. Antilles*

          It’s perfectly reasonable for them to expect that the number you put down is one they can call you at…but on the flip side, an interviewer should be reasonable enough to realize that it doesn’t mean you can drop everything to answer instantly at any time it rings – so they shouldn’t penalize you for letting it go to voice mail and calling back a little while later.

          1. KellyK*

            Yes, absolutely. They can see from your resume that you’re employed, and they certainly don’t want *their* employees dropping everything the minute a personal call comes in for them.

      2. Cobol*

        I prefer email, but I think calls are fine. I never answer, but wait to listen to the voicemail.

      3. Lily Rowan*

        In my old job, I was in an open office, so left my phone on silent and didn’t necessarily pay that much attention to it. So I missed a call that turned out to be a job offer that came at 3pm the Friday before a long weekend! That was a long three days before I actually got the offer…. (In my defense, I didn’t expect them to move to an offer that quickly.)

    4. Recruit-o-rama*

      I always email, if I call to schedule I get drawn into longer conversations that I can afford to have and I don’t want to be rude and cut people off when they have questions, but the interview is the appropriate time to ask questions.

      To answer the OPs question, I wait two days and then move on. I don’t follow up. If they respond later with an appropriate reason for the delay, I’ll schedule them of our process is in a place for additional candidates, if not, then I move on.

      Responsiveness is only one of many metrics, but it’s a biggie.

    5. Bertha*

      I was thinking something similar to this — I was waiting on a response for a job a while ago, and I was absolutely mortified when they called me and said that I hadn’t responded to their email. Somehow, I’d missed it. While in theory I prefer email, I may not have noticed it without the call, and I think because in 95% of situations where I’ve gotten an interview, I was notified over the phone. I think I’ve had one position that has emailed rather than called out of the last 10– although a couple of them said “email may be better to set up a phone interview.”

      Well now I’m searching my emails paranoid I missed ANOTHER message.. but nothing is popping up so far. :-D

    6. Risha*

      Conversely, who answers the phone when it’s a number you don’t have in your address book? I did it, reluctantly, while job hunting and unemployed and desperate, but I literally don’t know anyone under the age of 60 that willingly picks up unless they know the caller or are expecting a call at that exact time. Even if I recognize the number, I’ll let it go to voicemail during the workday – if it’s important, they’ll either leave a message or send an email.

      1. TL -*

        I am nowhere near 60 and I answer my phone whether or not I recognize the number. I don’t always call back but I answer if I see it ringing and have time.

        1. ThatGirl*

          I get so many spammy calls that I let most unknown numbers go to voicemail, but since I’m job searching I do answer calls with area codes from my region.

          1. SusanIvanova*

            Spammers have a new trick – they’ll spoof both the area code and the next three digits of the number they’re calling.

            1. Bertha*

              That explains a lot of recent phone calls I’ve gotten, I didn’t realize it was a spoofing trick!

            2. LBK*

              Yeah, I noticed this has been happening to me a lot lately. I assume it’s supposed to make me think they’re more legit, but all it makes me wonder is if someone’s trying to start a cult of all their fellow 513ers and they’re calling to recruit me.

      2. Kyrielle*

        I’m under the age of 60 and I routinely do this – habit built growing up before we had caller ID.

        And today I ended up talking to a group that figures that since I sign their petitions, I’d love to have a call asking me to donate time and/or money. Uh, no. Y’all may email me that stuff, but get off my phone. (Which may be part of why people don’t answer their phones if they don’t recognize the ID….)

        1. Risha*

          That’s a lot of the reason, yes. The assumption is that most unknown callers are looking for money (as donations or as a scam), or some other sort non-personalized contact that people have little patience for these days, like polls. Your friends and family and work contacts, otherwise known as people you actually want to or have a need to talk to, will show up with their real names because they’re in your address book.

          Just about the only exception I can think of that I’m actually willing to speak to is the Red Cross, who will call if I haven’t donated platelets recently.

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            I’m like you, Risha—I never pick up if I don’t recognize the number. And I am vicious about reporting telemarketing calls. But I’m pretty bad with charitable groups cold-calling me, too, especially if I have never donated to them. I won’t even respond to Red Cross anymore (they were calling me with the frequency of debt collectors, and it was making me extremely peevish).

            1. KellyK*

              Yeah, I ignore the Red Cross too. I haven’t been able to donate blood for a while (technically I *could* but chronic illness means my energy level is already crappy without being a pint low), and I think they may have *finally* stopped calling me when I mentioned medical stuff, but my husband’s got a blood type they really want, so they’re regularly bugging him.

        2. Nolan*

          I usually answer unfamiliar numbers, but lately have been getting a rash of spam calls, so I ignore those now unless the number is local-ish.

          But I hate Hate HATE listening to voicemails, so if I think it might be legit and I’m able to answer, I will. And I’m only 35

          1. The New Wanderer*

            99% of the spam calls to my cell phone are from local numbers so I never pick up. If there’s no voicemail I assume it’s spam, except for the one today from an insurance agent leaving a message for a name clearly not my own. There’s been a significant uptick of spam calls lately and I can’t figure out why – I’m on the Do Not Call list, supposedly.

          2. ThatGirl*

            The best thing about my iPhone is transcribed voicemail and the ability to play it without dialing. I can tell if it’s important much faster.

        3. Elizabeth the Ginger*

          Yup. 90% of the time I get an unexpected call from an unknown number, it’s a solicitation – usually a robocall trying to sell me a timeshare or a credit card. The other 10% of the time it’s usually a real human but a wrong number.

      3. mousanon*

        I think it’s good etiquette to answer the phone when you have requested someone call you, whether job hunting, house/apt hunting, requesting a contractor .

      4. Kyoki*

        I always answer my phone no matter what, and I’m in my late 20s. I don’t have the patience to dial my voicemail, and many times, the unknown number is usually from the builders of my townhouse complex, so its usually something worth answering for.

      5. Catty Hack*

        Sorry, another under 60 here who answers numbers they don’t recognise although I suspect mine is more of an industry-drilled-in-habit than anything else.

        1. nonegiven*

          Exactly 60 and quit answering numbers that are not in my phone. I get 3-4 robocalls a day on it and 90% are now are spoofing numbers using the first 6 digits of my cell and GV numbers to get me to answer. If it’s important they can leave a message. Both numbers have been on the Do Not Call list for 10+ years.

          1. 'Nonzer*

            Aha! So that’s why I’ve been getting so many calls from familiar-looking numbers! I had no idea that was a thing, thank you for enlightening me!!

          2. The New Wanderer*

            Yes, this is the thing happening to me, referred in my comment above. So annoying!

          3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            This started happening to me about 4 weeks ago! After years of pretty successful Do Not Call list blockage, I’ve been getting 3-4 telemarketing calls/day. I have become unhealthily familiar with how to submit complaints to the FTC.

      6. Zinnia*

        I (40 something) do not answer unknown numbers unless I am expecting a call at a specific time.

      7. Gov Worker*

        I’m over 60 and do not pick up unless the caller is identified or I am expecting a call at that time. Stereotypes are not useful.

      8. Lady Bug*

        If I’m at my computer I’ll Google the number if I don’t recognize it. If I can’t google I don’t answer. Even if I’m job hunting I won’t answer, but I like to take some time to refamiliarize myself with the job before I answer anyway.

      9. JG*

        I never answer the phone for unknown numbers and I wouldn’t expect anyone else to either.

        Recently, I had to call several intern candidates while I was traveling, so I had to call from my personal cell phone (which is a different area code than my office). 4 of the 5 didn’t answer on the first call. After 2 calls I left voice mails. One of the candidates never checks voice mail and sent me a rather terse follow up 2 weeks after his interview asking for the status of his candidacy. In that case, he wasn’t our top choice anyway and I typed out the same soft rejection that had been sitting in his phone for weeks. Funnily, it had been a tough choice and it is possible we would have chosen him and then he’d have never called back to get an offer. I should have known, during the initial phone screen he’d told me that he was best reached by text. (I told him our office phones don’t do that!)

        1. JG*

          I oversimplified my call attempts in my first comment.

          On the first call i left a voicemail so they knew who the number was. On the second call the next day, if they didn’t answer I left a nice message with the results of their candidacy (the candidate that we did accept called back within 10 minutes, before I needed to call her back).

    7. Elsie*

      Calling creates, as AAM notes, a phone tag thing. Most people I encounter (at least non-old people?) would never answer a call from an unknown phone number. So that person has to leave a message. Then if you call them back, you may get their voicemail. And definitley folks on the younger side HATE voicemail—and often never check it (you see the name of who called on your screen, then decide whether that’s someone you wish or need to speck with.

    8. Callie*

      I wouldn’t call because they could be at their current job where they couldn’t talk about an interview for a new one.

    9. Lizzie*

      Agree! I had two emails of this nature go to deep spam, and was so happy the hiring manager called! I had no idea. The same happened to her when she applied to the organisation (large research university). I got the job, so if they are a great candidate it may be worth calling just to be sure.

  7. MommyMD*

    I’d find it hard pressed to wait five minutes to respond to an interview I’d really wanted. I’d have to force myself lol.

    1. Recruit-o-rama*

      As a scheduled, I appreciate the immediate replies, it allows me to put it in my calendar and check it off the list so an immediate reply is perfect.

  8. Cobol*

    I said this in a response, but for me there’s a big difference between students and professionals.
    For real jobs I’d give two days max without a great reason why, and frankly if it takes you more than half a day I’m going to be on the lookout for further slow responses.
    For students I have a lot more leeway. Some are more polished/better prepared, but the whole point of internships is supposed to be teaching.

    1. Jessesgirl72*

      Sometimes the only way to learn something is by the natural consequence of losing out on an internship you wanted because you didn’t follow up in a timely manner.

      1. Cobol*

        Sometimes, but I think that’s harsh. It depends on the transgression. The way internships are treated us kinda a pet peeve of mine. They’ve moved from in school learning opportunities to post college trial jobs.

        It can (and often does) inadvertently penalize those who come from less favorable backgrounds and weren’t taught the proper way to do things.

        1. Jessesgirl72*

          I came from a blue collar background in a public school system that was 50% minority, so your argument doesn’t fly with me. Not for this. Quite the contrary, the flexibility of taking your time to get around to responding to a job offer or academic opportunity is much more prevalent among the more privileged.

          The kid trying to educate himself into a better life would respond right away. He wouldn’t know where to apply, or how, or even be able to take an unpaid internship, but once he’d applied, he wouldn’t wait days to schedule the interview.

          1. Cobol*

            I have a similar background and disagree with that statement. I link to an article below that sheds some light (it’s about high school students, so there are differences).
            Personality comes into play a ton here. Everybody is different, but often things that are considered innate skills are actually learned behavior. Those who have to learn things on their own don’t have the same benefits as those who were actually taught.


          2. The OG Anonsie*

            That’s great. I also came from such a background, and I 100% solidly and firmly disagree with you on all points here.

      2. esra (also a Canadian)*

        Yea, if four of them did reply in a timely manner, why would you go for one of the other two?

        1. Cobol*

          Having trouble with the nesting, so not sure if the question is for me, but my answer is because I’m looking for the person I can turn into the best professional. Responding quicker can be taught, other things can’t.

          Note, I only believe timeliness can be taught to interns, and maybe people 1-2 years in. Anything more senior a long response (without a reasonable explanation) is a very big negative.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      For what it’s worth, half a day isn’t something you should hold against anyone! (I realize you didn’t quite say that but it sounds like you think it’s not something good candidates should be doing.) People are busy! Expect a response within a business day, yes — but a half day is too short.

      1. Cobol*

        I never hold it against somebody by itself, but I look for indicators because I have to take the inputs I get to figure out who I think is the best fit. Same thing if somebody isn’t pleasant with the front desk (that’s a cliche I know just using as an example). I’d never penalize them for that, but if they were and were more terse in the interview I’d wonder if they had issues with coworkers and do what I can to figure it out.
        For what it’s worth, I’m only hiring for desk jobs, so the likelihood is people see my email and have at least access to mobile email (also my job involves working with the media so prompt response is more important). I also count a “I don’t have access to my calendar, but let me get back to you with some times,” as a full response.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          See, I would penalize someone for being unpleasant with the front desk! That’s a big deal. But half a day to respond wouldn’t even register with me.

          1. Cobol*

            Unpleasant (i.e. actively rude) I would hold against as well, but I wouldn’t for not actively pleasant (i.e. potentially distracted thinking about the interview, or worried that they left something on their plate at their current job).

    3. TL -*

      Presumably some of the people you’re interviewing have jobs and can’t respond within half a day. There are aspects of my job where I couldn’t access my phone or computer for 4 hours at a time, or occasionally all day.

      1. Cobol*

        Just responded above, but totally get that and agree. A not immediate response doesn’t mean anything by itself. It just gets me looking to see if there is a pattern.

  9. Hannah*

    I think that the time that has elapsed between the application submission and the time you are contacting applicants might also play into how long is reasonable to wait. If an applicant submitted their application four or five months ago, moving on after two days might be a bit rushed, since they may not have been expecting a response and could be on vacation or something where they were not checking their email.

    If you are following up with them in a timely manner, or during a timeframe that was otherwise communicated to them (for example, “We will be scheduling interviews in June”), it’s reasonable to expect a timely response back, but an email out of the blue I think needs a bit more flexibility.

    1. Crystal*

      Totally agree. I’ve tried to be very timely and professional with the process. Applications closed on a Friday (stated on the job announcement) and these invitations to interview went out the following Tuesday. If this was several months after applications were submitted I think I’d be more understanding.

  10. Danny*

    Our emails are tracked by our ATS and often end up in the spam box, and I think for many university emails, the students have no access to those. If I haven’t heard back in a business day, I call the next day and let them know I emailed if I get their voicemail.

    1. Clever Name*

      and I think for many university emails, the students have no access to those.

      Honestly, I’m baffled by this. These students took it upon themselves to apply for openings at your company, no? Are you saying that they provided contact information to you that they have no ability or intent to be able to use?

      1. Danny*

        They have access to the email address. They can’t check the university’s spam filter. I ran into this regularly this past intern season.

        1. The OG Anonsie*

          Wow you know I forgot about this, but my university’s spam filter also had a weird thing where emails flagged as spam were essentially binned. We didn’t have a spam folder to check, and sometimes emails didn’t go through. Due to this (and chronic login problems where sometimes subsets of users wouldn’t be able to get in for anywhere from 1-4 straight days) they moved over to a hosted gmail thing at some point.

          I also worked with a university whose email system automatically converted all incoming emails to plain text only, so if you sent something with a hyperlink it would be stripped. This lead to a lot of confused back and forths with people saying there were no links and other people looking at their sent emails and seeing functional hyperlinks.

          I don’t think that’s what happened here, but it’s something to know I guess: University email systems can be garbage in unexpected ways.

    2. nonegiven*

      Yeah, I don’t have email on my phone but when I look at it on my tablet, it’s a big deal to try to download the spam folder of my main email address

    3. CB*

      I had this happen for an interview with the World Bank! Luckily, they called me about a week after they sent the initial email invitation, which then ended up being the day before they had an interview slot open for me. Apparently their emails often got sent to spam, but if they hadn’t called I would never have realized that they had tried to contact me.

  11. DJ*

    Silly question I suppose, but why wouldn’t they follow up with a phone call? If it’s just a small number of candidates you are offering an interview to and they are within the range of qualifications you are looking for, would taking a few minutes to make a call to offer them an interview/follow up on the email really be that outside the norm?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      If someone was an incredible candidate, I’d do that. But otherwise, and if I had other good candidates I could move on to instead, I wouldn’t spend time chasing them down. Phones calls usually take more time than sending the quick “closing the loop” email I describe in the post.

      1. CMDRBNA*

        Alison, do you have any tips for when people who are taking forever to respond are friends that have asked you to help them find a job?

        Recent example, a friend of mine is interested in moving back to our town. I sent him an email with a personal contact for a job that I had been contacted about but wasn’t really a good fit for, but he was (think: his professional/education background was directly related and mine is not). I had also told the recruiter I had spoken to that I would be passing this information to a good candidate.

        Well, he never responded to that email/followed up with the recruiter, and nearly a month later, contacted me to let me know that he really was now interested in moving on and could I put him back in touch with this person?

        This is not the first time someone has asked me for assistance with job hunting and then either taken forever/just not responded to my connecting them with someone who could get them hired. I feel like this reflects badly on me, and it’s the complete lack of follow-up that really irks me.

        Do you think it’s fair of me to let friends know that I’d help them network, but only if they can promise that they’ll respond promptly even if they’re not interested in a particular position? Often this isn’t just me sending them job openings, it’s me connecting them directly with someone who can get them an interview or get their resume to the right person. In fact, I even had to nudge him to follow up personally with the recruiter!

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I would be really direct: “Hey, it’s making me look bad that you haven’t responded. You asked for help and I want to give it, but you need to be really responsive if I’m connecting you with people.”

          And if that happens more than once, I’d stop helping unless they show they now get it.

          In answer to your question about whether it’s fair to let them know up-front: Yes, absolutely.

          1. CMDRBNA*

            Thanks Alison! I’m going to do exactly that – I find it really odd that someone who is requesting help is then not being responsive. Even if the answer is no or they’re not interested, they should reply with that. In this case it was with a contracting company so even if that exact job wasn’t a fit, they likely had others in the same industry. Next time before I send an introductory email I will tell them they need to commit to responding promptly before I’ll send it.

            I am fairly new to AAM but it’s been really helpful! I’m also in the whole “offer with start date BUT it’s contingent on references and background check” black hole and without AAM’s archives I wouldn’t have known how to push back on that. As it is, I’ve agreed to accept the offer IF they can confirm they’ve completed their checks satisfactorily and not before.

      2. DJ*

        But is emailing someone for an interview a normal thing that’s done in the US? Or is it just because they’re “only” interns? I’ve never been offered an interview by email before in all my years, it’s always been by phone. I’m not sure if it’s a cultural thing (Canada vs US) or industry or because it’s unpaid(?) interns, which tends not to be as much of a thing here compared to the States (in fact, I don’t know if it’s a thing at all here, it might be against our labour code unless it’s for course credit?). It just seems to odd to me to invite a candidate for an interview by email.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Very normal. I set up everything by email, and most people I know who hire also do. It’s definitely not because they’re interns.

          1. DJ*

            Huh. Interesting. I guess it must be a US cultural thing. I work for a medium-sized institution (200 people) and our HR department calls every candidate to set up an interview, often twice when necessary if we haven’t heard back within a couple days.

            1. LaurenB*

              When I was last looking for a job in Canada, probably a majority of my interview invitations were by email. I got some phone calls, but probably 70% emails.

            2. Crystal*

              Yea all our interviews are set up by email, whether full time or internship. FWIW I work for a large government organization. Maybe at the absolute tip top where people are being head hunted they might do initial outreach by phone, but first interviews are always set up by email.

        2. Neisa*

          I would never answer a call from an unknown number, and when I’m busy and have endless work and family responsibilities on my place, taking time to review unknown callers is a low priority indeed. Whereas an email I can see who it is and a header about why they contacted me, thus knowing without extra effort who/what/when.

      1. DJ*

        I don’t know, I mean I’ve never been invited to an interview by email before. Maybe it’s a US vs Canada thing or an industry-dependant thing? Or is it because they’re “only” interns? I don’t think we’re as big on unpaid interns here as the US.

  12. Nonprofit pro*

    I would also like to recommend that if a candidate isn’t getting back to you, you might also want to double-check things on your end. I almost lost out on a job because the HR person who wanted to schedule me for an in-person interview spelled my name wrong on my email address. Luckily the hiring manager had been impressed by my phone call with her the day before and called me to followup when I hadn’t replied and the HR person wanted to move on to other candidates. HR person was being all cranky about millenials who don’t follow professional norms and rudely ignoring emails.

    1. HR Caligula*

      100% of the of the emails from hundreds of candidates I’ve responded to in the past few years have come directly from their resumes.

  13. Lauren*

    Just curious, how long was it between when they initially applied and when you sent the e-mail to schedule interviews?

    I’m not excusing their behavior, especially since 5 days is absolutely too long. But, I can sympathize with entry-level workers taking their cues from you, absent other information. If there was radio silence for several weeks after they applied, they may be misinterpreting that to mean that a few days more won’t make a difference. I know that was a trap I fell into when I was just starting in the working world.

    1. EddieSherbert*

      I was thinking this too (and mentioned it above). I just had a friend who applied for a job in January, got a callback for an interview in April, and then finally started the job last month!

      I check email a lot and would see if, but if I had applied for something a couple months ago, and then it was finals or something now…. I wouldn’t be thinking about it anymore.

      1. Crystal*

        Oh I completely agree! The job posting was ‘open’ for two weeks. We closed it on a Friday (which was stated on the job announcement) and I sent invitations to interview the very next Tuesday. So all applicants who were invited to interview were invited to do so within 2.5 weeks of applying. I try to be really respectful of their time once we’re ready to hire.

  14. HR Hopeful*

    I am currently looking for other positions and I find that I get a lot of recruiter spam since I posted my resume on a job board (it is off now and it will not be going back up). A lot of this does go to my spam folder now that I have rooted out some of the fake job postings but I always check my spam just in case a real email from a company I applied to comes in. I am a student but I also have been working for 8 years and I understand that you have to reply within one business day. Other people have jobs to do and they are not going to wait on you in order to get them done.

  15. KR*

    I feel like most people my age, especially those who may be in school, either get their email on their phones or do a lot of their schoolwork online which means they are on the computer. So really no excuse to take 5!! days to respond to an email. I usually either follow up with emails about potential jobs the moment the email hits my phone/inbox or a few hours later if I need to think about how to respond because I want the job and don’t want the hiring manager to think I’m not interested. OP, I wonder if you have problems with your interns not getting things done on time or being responsive and whether that’s linked to which candidates take a long time to respond. Alison has great advice. Hope you have better luck in the future.

  16. kb*

    Could the delay be related to Memorial Day weekend? I saw above that Alison received the letter about 10 days ago. If it took the students 5 business days (not including the weekend and Memorial Day on Monday) that’s definitely too long. If the LW means 5 days total, I could see if the email was sent Thursday, perhaps the applicant didn’t see it until Friday afternoon then decided it would be best to wait until Tuesday because Monday is a holiday.
    It could also be travel-related as people have said above– I know it’s not uncommon for college students to use the gap between finals and early June internship start dates to go abroad.
    Regardless of the reason for their delayed responses, I think Alison’s advice is the best move.

    1. Steph B*

      I came here to say the same thing (already posted below).

      Also, I remember back in college there were years where I used the long holiday weekend to pack up my belongings and move home, if I didn’t already have a job set up for the summer.

      If it is students and you are waiting to hire the interns until Memorial Day weekend that is probably too long, IMO.

      1. kb*

        I was also wondering about the timing of this. I’d guess/hope that this is for an internship this fall (or maybe next spring or even next summer if it is very competitive).
        If the internship is for this summer, the applicants may been trying to figure out if the logistics could even work before they responded (could they move/find housing/quit jobs they had already taken, etc.)

  17. Noah*

    I don’t think these people are waiting 5 days to respond. I think they’re not responding at all. College kids often apply for tons of internships, including ones they aren’t really interested in. And they haven’t really been taught that you have to reply when you’re contacted (or they don’t care what they’ve been taught because they know employers don’t respond if not interested so they reasonably think they don’t have to respond to an employer if not interested).

    1. DJ*

      But why should they respond to a position they’re no longer interested in interviewing for when most organizations don’t give you the courtesy of responding to your application to say they’re not interested? Should it not work both ways?

  18. Borgette*

    Is the guideline different for getting back to recruiters? When a recruiter contacts me about a position, it can take me 3-7 days to take the time to look at the role, read up on the business, evaluate my interest, and compose a response. I tend to over-analyze my communications and tend to take more time than average to respond, so this is an interesting topic for me.

    1. Ramona Flowers*

      If you don’t send a holding message to let them know you’re looking into it I think that’s too long.

    2. CMDRBNA*

      I think maybe a better course of action would be to respond to let them know you received their email and that you’re going to do more research into the opportunity and will get back to them with an interested/uninterested in X days? Unless the offer is obviously scammy or completely out of line with your resume?

  19. consultant*

    Sorry, I don’t think 2 days are enough. As a general rule I would give people 3 days, then write another email asking them to contact you within 24-48 h if they are interested.

    I normally reply quickly, but working in a job where emergency situations happen a lot and make me focus only on them and travelling a lot I sometimes have so much on my plate that it’s not possible for me to check my availability and reply quickly.

    Not to mention that HR departments normally need weeks or months to reply to applications, so it’s a bit unfair to expect candidates to answer within 48 h.

    1. Steph B*

      Yeah, 3 days seems more reasonable to me. At my old job, I sometimes wouldn’t get a chance to check my personal email for a few days because I was so busy with work work work during a majority of waking hours already.

  20. MissDisplaced*

    I’d say 2 days. But it could be possible you caught the college students in-between or on a semester break?
    I know that happened once with my company.

  21. The OG Anonsie*

    Seeing that you’re dealing with interns, I might add a brief “please let us know within the next three business days for scheduling purposes” or “please contact us by Friday if interested.”

    You don’t have to, but this should achieve two things: One is that anyone who was leaving these delays due to a lack of awareness will reply in your timeframe, so you get your scheduling done more easily. The other is that then you know anyone who takes longer than that is potentially problematic vs just inexperienced, which is information. All in all, easier for you.

  22. Steph B*

    We are talking two business days here, right? Because I can see a case where someone sent out emails Friday afternoon before a holiday weekend and expecting a response by the time they get back Tuesday morning, when there may be legitimate reasons that might not happen (not everyone has internet access everywhere they may go).

  23. mugsy523*

    During our current round of interviewing for summer interns (which began before spring break), I received responses sometimes 10+ days after my email. Twice the response was “Sorry, I don’t check this email account very often.” I asked if there was a better email address to use and I got a “No, this one is fine.”

    I would have been more direct with the potential intern, letting them know that decisions and interview scheduling needed to move along more quickly, but the potential interns are all the children of personal family friends of my VP. Which basically means, it doesn’t matter how the interviews go, this kid has already been promised the position,. I am not permitted to give any critical feedback, the interns are allowed to come and go as they please, work from home whenever, and if they get stuck in traffic, we pay them for their extra time because “commuting is tough and a waste of their time and gas just sitting in traffic jams.”

    I guess I’ll go post on the toxic jobs and how it affected me post next :-)

  24. Shadow*

    My cutoff Depends on how good I think you are. I schedule interviews about a week out so as long as they contact me before then I will make room for a good candidate. I won’t go out of my way for one who’s equal or lower than someone who called me back within 1 day. Because nearly everyone calls the same day or by lunch the next day.

  25. Grumpy bear*

    Several people have mentioned that this might be a particularly busy time for students. If you have a general idea of your timeline in advance, can you pop in something that asks that students let you know if they won’t be available? My workplace will often include in application materials something to the effect of “please let us know if you will be unavailable between X date and Y date”. Obviously, this doesn’t help with people who just don’t respond to/check emails, but might help cut down on any “I’m so sorry, I was moving/taking exams/vacationing on mars last week”.

  26. Lost In translation*

    First time commenter. I didn’t get through every comment but didn’t see this mentioned. When did these students apply? If it was months ago and the internship is so competitive, it’s likely that most never thought they would ever get a reply at all. If this is the case, 5 days is reasonable based on end of the school year upheaval. But if it was common knowledge that calls for interviews would be going out now, I would be checking my email every 5 minutes (college and grad school were a long time ago for me though). Did you set expectations as to when applicants would hear back about moving forward?

  27. consultant*

    I would add one more thing here. Not sure what the law is in the US, but at my globally active employer I have to confirm that I agree that my employer can see everything I do every time I start my work laptop.

    So I avoid checking my private emails at work. I don’t want my employer to know that I’m job searching.

    And it can be complex to get internet access on my cell phone in some locations.

    So yes, expecting a very quick reply is unreasonable. Especially if it’s been weeks since I applied.

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