should I reach out to an employer who ghosted me?

A reader writes:

I’m writing in hopes that you can help me make sense of an experience I had during my recent job search. Several months ago, I applied for a position at a prestigious organization in my field. That same day, I received an email from Jim to set up a 30-minute phone screening about my qualifications for the role. We spoke a couple of days later, and Jim ended our call by saying that he thought I could be a great fit for their organization. I moved ahead to the second phase of the hiring process: mocking up a product like the ones I’d be making for the company.

I submitted my mockup within the timeline Jim provided, and he said he would be in touch “within the week.” That was the last time I ever heard from him, despite sending a polite follow-up email a couple of weeks after that.

I’m no novice to being ghosted by potential employers in early stages of the hiring process. However, after speaking to Jim on the phone and spending hours on my mockup, this one really hurt. I grieved the loss of a potential dream job, and I had some anxiety over whether my mockup could have been so off-base that Jim decided to cut contact entirely. Several months later, I saw that the position had been filled. I also saw that Jim was no longer at the organization. He’d started working at a different company a couple of months after we last spoke.

I’m now happily employed in a position in the same field, but I’m still holding on to the dream of working for this organization someday. However, I’m struggling to get over the nagging feeling that my mockup was seriously below this organization’s standard. I also wonder if I was never truly in contention for the job, or if my application was somehow overlooked as Jim was transitioning out of his job. Have I wrecked my chances of working for this organization in the future? Is it wrong to reach out to Jim and ask what happened or how to improve my chances of being hired down the road?

You’re reading a lot into what was probably a pretty routine ghosting!

Employers are notorious for never getting back to candidates — even candidates who have interviewed multiple times and invested time and energy into exercises like the mockup you did. It’s incredibly rude and inconsiderate … and it’s incredibly common. It sounds like you’ve encountered this at early stages but not at later ones — but unfortunately it’s really common at every stage.

And getting ghosted by an employer doesn’t indicate anything about the quality of your candidacy or the strength of the exercise you submitted. Employers who ghost people don’t usually pick and choose who they do it to. They’re not thinking, “Ugh, she’s terrible. She sucks so much that she is below my notice and so I will not even respond to her!” Instead, they’re not really thinking about it at all. Something shoves you off their radar (like a stronger candidate, or a hiring freeze, or a bigger work priority) and then they just don’t bother to close the loop with you at all. Some of them really believe they don’t need to bother to reject people, while others intend to but forget to do it.

A polite employer who decides not to hire you contacts you to let you know. This is not a polite employer. And that would be true if you submitted the best mockup in the world, and it would be true even if you submitted a mockup done by your toddler child.

(For the sake of thoroughness — the fact that Jim changed jobs soon after you spoke with him could be playing a role here. He might have been in the process of leaving when you were talking with him, or left right afterwards, and you might have just fallen through the cracks in that transition. Or not — this happens so frequently even when no one is leaving that there’s no point in speculating.)

To answer your questions:

1. There’s no reason to think you were never truly in contention for the job.

2. There’s no reason to think the ghosting had anything to do with your mockup. To the contrary, there is every reason to think that it didn’t.

3. You have not in any way wrecked your chances of working for this organization in the future.

4. But you also shouldn’t contact Jim to ask what happened. He doesn’t work there anymore so he can’t be a representative for their hiring decisions. He may not even remember your materials, and he won’t have access to them to refresh his memory. You shouldn’t ask him how you can improve your chances there for those same reasons, and because hunting down a former employee to ask about that will come across as overly invested.

If you see another job opening there that interests you in the future, apply! But as with any hiring process, (a) remember that you can never identify a dream job from the outside and (b) the best thing you can do for yourself is always to assume at every stage that you didn’t get the job and may not hear back, and then let it be a pleasant surprise if you do. Otherwise your mind invests you in the job in a way that’s rarely helpful, and job hunting ends up being a much more angsty experience than it needs to be.

{ 87 comments… read them below }

  1. Mid*

    I’d guess that Jim leaving the position might have added to the ghosting—he might have meant to follow up with you later but changed jobs, they hired someone else, and replying to you could have gotten lost in the shuffle.

    Take a deep breath or three, LW, and try to focus on your current position and letting go of the “what ifs” about this other one.

    1. Cat Lady in the Mountains*

      Agreed. Whenever I’m hiring I do my very best to get back to candidates — and I still have forgotten to send rejections to a couple of folks over the years. Nobody’s perfect. (I once was hiring during a difficult time in my personal life. I did a phone screen that I knew was a rejection right away, but needed to leave immediately due to a medical emergency and forgot to hit send on the rejection. I only noticed it 6 months later, and sent the rejection with an apology for how long it took. The candidate responded with such vitriol that I don’t think I’d repeat that next time I catch a candidate who slipped through the cracks.)

      That’s not to excuse employers who routinely ghost, or to excuse the mistake, just saying it’s not always intentional.

      But also – “hours” sounds like a long time to spend on a work exercise. I know every company is different, but if a candidate spent hours on one of my exercises I’d feel awful for the time investment they put in. I usually ask 30-ish candidates to send work exercises and narrow it down to 2-3 candidates to advance. What I’m looking for is gut-level thinking, not polished work. (I also explicitly tell candidates to spend more than 30 minutes on it.) Just throwing that out there to help you calibrate the level of investment to put into job apps, but I also know from reading this site that some employers do expect something much more polished.

      1. A Hiring Manager*

        Same here, I’m a hiring manager, every year I go through over a thousand applications and do dozens of interviews, on top of trying to manage a team of dozens and keep up with everything and deal with any emergencies that pop up. Not to mention any personal / family emergencies I’ve been dealing with over the past year.

        I do my best to keep all applicants in the loop at least once a week and not leave anyone hanging, but unfortunately it’s happened a couple of times over the years that someone just slips through the cracks. It sucks, I know, but I swear I’m doing my best. Just not perfect.

        OP it probably doesn’t have anything to do with you.

    2. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

      Or handed off the hiring process to someone who was covering the job while they tried to fill Jim’s role and you got lost in the shuffle. Something always gets lost in the process when things are handed over, especially if the person leaving isn’t the person to brief the person covering.

    3. quill*

      Yeah, the first thing to die off when people leave jobs, even if they were otherwise very well documented, is keeping in contact with anyone outside the organization who you aren’t, say, waiting on payment or a product from.

  2. Goose*

    I’ve been ghosted at that stage before. It sucks! There could be a million reasons why they didn’t get back to you, including just being inconsiderate. Put this guy in the same mindspace you put people who don’t return the shopping cart at the grocery store.

  3. ThatGirl*

    Back in 2007-8, I had a months-long interviewing process for a potential job – each time between contact was long enough that I was pretty sure I’d been ghosted, but I had a phone screen and two in-person interviews. They seemed to like me. I felt good about it. And then I never heard from them again and moved on and started a new job a couple months later.

    I got a form letter like… a year later saying the position had been filled.

    1. noncommital pseudonym*

      I had the opposite experience! I applied for a job that I knew would be a reach (and I wasn’t 100% sure I wanted anyway, as it was 100% remote).

      I got no fewer that 5 rejection emails over the course of 2-3 days, all from different accounts. I wasn’t crushed, but it was very, very weird.

    1. Mouse*

      I don’t think there’s any indication that they stole the LW’s work! Unless LW sees it out in the world somewhere, I wouldn’t jump to this conclusion.

    2. PT*

      That’s what I was thinking. And perhaps they didn’t steal LW’s work, but they were having the interviews and soliciting the mockups so they could have a pool of work to steal from.

    3. Ask a Manager* Post author

      There’s no indication of that. It’s really common to have applicants do exercises and it’s really common to ghost people. There’s no reason to assume it’s more than that.

      1. Fran Fine*

        Thank you. This is very alarmist thinking with no basis in fact (well, the ones presented by the OP anyway).

    4. LW*

      I can say pretty certainly this isn’t the case. The mockup I made was for a project that the organization had already completed, so they’d have no use for my work.

      1. NotRealAnonForThis*

        I’m glad to hear this.

        My thoughts immediately went there, but this “theft of intellectual property” is a thing that most in the design area of my background are aware of and on-guard due to. And yeah, I’ve actually had it happen on a small (and IRRITATING) scale to me.

    5. Mental Lentil*

      No, they didn’t. What on earth?

      My guess is that it probably went out in the rubbish when Jim’s office was cleaned out. Honestly, if I had a candidate do such great work in a mockup that I wanted to use it, I would just hire them. It is completely illogical to just keep posting a position, going through all the trouble of getting people to apply, then calling them, sending them the details of the mockup requirements, getting them to submit mockups, picking the best one, and then stealing it, and then……….doing this every time you need a mockup. Just hire the person already!

  4. Colette*

    Yeah, this is one of those things that is not about you. They may have meant to get back to you but didn’t (because it got lost when Jim left, for example). They may have put hiring on hold while they dealt with Jim’s departure with the intent of picking it up again and then sometehing changed. There’s a bunch of possibilites that are not about you.

    But if you’re still struggling with this after months, it might be good to look into help dealing with the anxiety, if you’re not already doing that.

    1. Lana Kane*

      Yes, I think this is less about the professional side of things, and is moving into ruminating. With kindness, OP, because I’ve been there – I think it’s worth considering.

  5. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

    If you’re an employee, no answer is the answer. You’ll go numb to it eventually.

    1. Zoodles*

      You’ve been all over the comments with some really cynical, unusual takes lately. I hope everything’s okay, but maybe think about giving useful, actionable advice to the LWs instead of just projecting your own experiences.

      1. Sleepless KJ*

        I haven’t noticed any other Zoodles comments but what’s wrong with this observation? They’re right. No answer IS the answer. If an employer wants you, you’re going to hear from them.

          1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

            Zoodles is right; the Bad References question did strike a nerve and dredge up some bad memories. I should probably lie low for a while until I return to an even keel.

            Receiving that advice from others has helped me move on from opportunities I was really excited about, but the businesses decided to go different directions. It stings a little less each time it happens, and I don’t think it’s right, but it is the time we live in.

  6. Kimmy Schmidt*

    I was an accidental ghoster once. I swore up and down I’d contact candidates when I chaired a hiring committee, and then I just… didn’t. Forgot, or got busy with other things, or got bogged down in university bureaucratic rules. I resolve to be better at this next time, but it had absolutely nothing to do with the candidates. I doubt this does either.

  7. many bells down*

    I once had two really great interviews for a teaching job and they told me “after the holidays we’ll set up a time for you to come in and observe some classes” and then… nothing. Until I started to get emails asking how my children liked the program and would I recommend it to other parents. My children were never in the program. My only contact with them had been the interviews.

  8. Wisteria*

    I’m sorry this happened, OP. I was once ghosted by a prospective employer, and I later found out that the HR rep, who would have been the person to contact me about next steps, had changed jobs. I’m pretty sure I just slipped through the cracks. It does happen. While it does stink, it’s not worth hanging on to.

    You can apply to that company again. I wouldn’t do so right away bc you haven’t been at your current job very long, but they are an option for the future if you are still interested in a few years.

    1. Fran Fine*

      I was once ghosted by an employer as well, right after submitting a writing sample as requested by the HR rep. The writing sample could have been interpreted as being politically motivated and I was applying to a pretty conservative company, so when I didn’t hear anything back from HR or the hiring manager when the recruiter told me she’d get back to me with next steps, I was convinced they hated my writing sample (the topic – my actual writing skills have never been questioned by an employer).

      Well, seven months later, the HR rep calls me out of the blue and asks if I’m still interested in working for the company. If so, she could bring me in for in-person interviews with the hiring panel (I’d only done the initial screening with her before submitting my writing sample). By that point, I had already made an internal transfer at my then-current employer, but was still curious about this position, so I said yes to the interviews.

      The hiring manager was so apologetic when she met me – it turned out, she hadn’t meant to ghost. She meant to have the HR rep contact me to let me know they had gotten over 200 applications for the two roles they were hiring for, and my resume was one of the last that came in the door. They were already in the process of interviewing earlier applicants and had interview fatigue, so decided to just cut off any additional interviews, but they’d keep my materials on file for the next round of trainee spots. After two in-person interviews, I was hired as one of the two trainees, so this shows that I was way overthinking what happened initially. I suspect the OP is as well.

  9. knitcrazybooknut*

    I will share my moment of shame: I once failed to notify applicants that the position had been filled. Both of my team members left within the same week — planned, not a flounce out the door — and I was faced with hiring, training a new temp, and running all of payroll twice a month at the same time. I do not know how I survived that period of time, but I did. I interviewed three people, and I did manage to call those I didn’t select for the position.
    But by the time I realized that I never notified the remaining applicants, it was six months down the road, and by then, a notification would just have caused more ill will.

    Reasons, but not excuses. It definitely will not happen again!

    1. knitcrazybooknut*

      I’ll edit: Mostly planned. One had given two weeks notice, and the other had her background check finally come back for a job with the government. She’d been waiting on that job for a year, so we knew it was coming, but the timing was bad for me.

    2. Firecat*

      This is completely different though – you did notify everyone who interviewed which is what most candidates expect.

      Although I will say getting a “this position is filled” email six months later would not have caused anymore ill will then one recieved a week later. Hiring can take a while and unless your not says ‘Hey we filled this 6 months ago” people will probably assume it just closed and move on.

    3. londonedit*

      To make you feel better, I’ve never been notified that a position has been filled unless I’ve been interviewed. Job adverts in my industry get so many applications that it’s extremely common to see a line on the initial advert saying ‘Only successful applicants will be contacted’ – i.e., they won’t contact anyone unless they’re inviting you for an interview. Yes, it’s normal to at least receive a ‘Sorry, it was nice to meet you but I’m afraid you weren’t successful on this occasion’ email after an interview, but if I don’t get called for an interview then I don’t expect to hear anything else about that job.

    4. DataSci*

      Don’t be too hard on yourself. It’s incredibly common for companies not to contact candidates they don’t interview – I’d say that being contacted in that situation is the exception, rather than the norm!

  10. Khsd615*

    I had something similar happen to me this year: a few years ago, I was one of two finalists for a position I really wanted but they went with the other candidate. I had spent the day at the organization (taking an unpaid day off from my current job) and met with the entire team so it was hard to be rejected but the supervisor took the time to explain to me why they chose the other candidate and it made a lot of sense. He also enthusiatically encouraged me to apply again in the future, in a way that really did not seem like he was just being polite. This spring a position opened up again. The supervisor I spoke with last time had since left but I reached out to the new supervisor, a team member I had met a few years ago, after submitting my materials, and she responded warmly and was very specific in her recollection of my previous visit. My new cover letter was, in my opinion, even better than the previous one because I was able to discuss my knowledge of and experience with the organization a few years prior and I really highlighted where our values aligned.

    And then…nothing. No interview. No rejection email. The position was taken down and I have no idea what happened. It is SO HARD not to take these kind of rejections personally when you feel like you’ve made a personal connection and put time and effort into doing so. I don’t really know if this helps other than to say that we’ve all been there. We all obssess over it afterwards. But if it happens so frequently it can’t truly be as personal as it feels, right?

    1. Fran Fine*

      But if it happens so frequently it can’t truly be as personal as it feels, right?

      This is such good framing.

  11. Anon for This*

    Where I work, once I have selected my candidate (and up to two alternates) I send the whole package to HR. They take it from there. I am not supposed to have any contact with the candidates once I hand off to HR. (I suppose so a candidate couldn’t play us off one another over salary, etc.? They will contact me when a candidate wants to negotiate, but they are the only ones in contact.) So I honestly would not know whether they contacted the unsuccessful candidates or not. If I were the “Jim” in your story I would not have contacted you, and would likely not know that you were ghosted. In my world it is definitely not personal.

    1. alienor*

      Same here–when I’ve done hiring in the past, it’s all been through an HR recruiter. I’ve had interviewees find my email address to send a thank-you note, and that’s fine, but if they ask any questions about the hiring process, salary, what their chances are etc, I direct them right back to the recruiter. I’m literally not allowed to do anything else.

  12. Pikachu*

    Ha! This happened to me, with an extra twist. I interviewed with the guy and he said he’d follow up in a week. I sent two followup emails after just to be sure, but he definitely ghosted me.

    Plot twist: about 4 years later, he reached out to me on LinkedIn asking for an introduction so that he could sell me whatever his company was selling.


  13. Tizzy*

    I’ve only asked for feedback from an interviewer once, and it was because I knew her from a previous job. The reason they went with a different candidate was conpletely different from what I had been assuming.

  14. Jam Today*

    Ahhh free work for the company you’re interviewing for! I’ve done it twice, been ghosted twice.

    No more!

    1. Fran Fine*

      Except the OP clarified above that her mockup was based on something the company had already completed, so it wasn’t free work for them.

    2. Allypopx*

      Serious question – what are you going to do if this kind of exercise comes up again? Self select out of processes that ask for it?

    3. Mental Lentil*

      It’s only considered work if they use it, otherwise it’s just part of the application process, like filling out an application, doing a drug screen, or doing some sort of evaluation.

      If they do use it, they are obligated to pay you for it (at least in the US). There have been a couple of well-documented cases about this, IIRC.

      1. PollyQ*

        And if the work is something that has a copyright, they can’t legally use it without your permission.

        1. ecnaseener*

          No, but it’s probably one of those things where if they DID use it you’d be hard-pressed to do much about it.

  15. Red Swedish Fish*

    It could really be any reason, the bigger the company the more reasons for it. Don’t contact the guy that left, he likely doesn’t remember you and it would be weird. At my company we are not allowed to contact applicants that are rejected (we were sued over someone doing it badly) so we have to have our HR rep do it through our automated system. Last time the automated system emailed me all of my rejected applicants rejection emails, we have no idea if anyone ever got theirs.

  16. jodie*

    Charming director, loves my background and will definitely be in touch- contact us if you don’t hear back within two weeks. I do. Ghosted.

    Award-winning org. Weeks in between contact. “Oh, we just take long bc *reasons*”. Wait. Wait some more. Nothing.

    Good interview. “We take long”. Try to set it and forget it, but really wanted the job. Crickets.

    All this to say, it’s becoming increasingly common, even after screening employers. It’s not you.

  17. Guilty Ghoster*

    I realized a few weeks ago that I ghosted a great candidate at the beginning of this year. At the time I was interviewing her, I was 8 weeks pregnant and dealing with 24/7 morning sickness that included throwing up 3-5 times a day, 24/7 debilitating nausea, and brutal insomnia. More often than not, I was writing emails/slacks on my phone from my bathroom floor for 3-6 hours of the day. I was also preparing for my own boss to go on parental leave within 2-3 weeks (I was interviewing people to help while she was out), and was training two new people on my team. And my husband and I were moving apartments.

    None of this excuses the ghosting or makes it not rude! It is always, always a priority for me to never ghost a candidate, and speaks more to the fact that I should have asked for more help (but…no one knew I was pregnant! So it was tricky.) instead of trying to do it all myself. But maybe it helps show what it can sometimes mean when we say that it’s often not about the candidate. In this case, I was really at the brink, and could not physically or mentally do anything more — and so, because I had to prioritize training my team and prepping for my boss’ leave and maintaining my own health, I ghosted a great candidate who I had decided not to hire and who typically would get a warm, personal follow-up from me. :(

    1. ecnaseener*

      Another commenter below also accidentally ghosted someone for months, and what I said to them was you can still send the rejection now (maybe add a sincere apology for the delay) to close the loop – I think a lot of candidates would prefer to hear back months late vs not at all.

  18. InsufficientlySubordinate*

    Here’s a story for you: I was in a graduate program and there were about 60 of us in a pilot program for, um, Red Llama Grooming, and, as we were going to graduate in a few months, an internship showed up on our job board that sounded ideal, a perfect fit as it pertained to Red Llama Grooming! And I’ll bet at least 2/3 of the class applied, and a couple got interviews (including me), and….nobody got chosen. Dead silence. So everyone looked for other jobs as a couple of months pass, and mostly found them except, well, I was going to have to move home with my parents in a far off state and gave a month’s notice at my apartment, and had started packing up at about the two weeks mark. Phone call, can you come in tomorrow? Sure, and, I got the job. At the last minute, probably partially because I didn’t yet have another job. (It turned out later that there was some sort of drama with the Internship coordinator, which I never heard the details of but involved her leaving in a huge huff and puff.) The moral is: you never really know why stuff happens unless you’re already in the company. There could’ve been politics, or the recruiter could’ve checked out or…..a million things. The best thing is to assume it was something weird and put it out of your mind. Apply again in the future. Be at peace that it probably had nothing to do with you.

  19. learnedthehardway*

    Allison is totally right – your being ghosted means nothing about your value, the quality of the work, etc. etc. All it means is that something happened and nobody got back to you. And that’s unfortunate and shouldn’t have happened, but there are many, many things that get lost or fall through the cracks when recruiters are dealing with dozens of positions and hundreds of candidates.

  20. Jennifer Strange*

    OP I’m sorry this happened. It really sucks. Given that Jim was soon at another organization, though, leads me to believe it’s most likely a matter of things getting lost in the shuffle during his departure. It still really sucks! But I wouldn’t take it to mean your work was subpar.

  21. LZ*

    I was referred to a job in another state by an external recruiter, went through 2 rounds of phone interviews and then flew out (they paid) for a half day of in-person interviews. The Director and hiring manager said they planned to offer me the position and promised to follow up with me in two weeks, tops, and then disappeared. The recruiter contacted me a week later to ask if I had heard anything from the company because the Director asked to restart the search process, and he had already been told that they wanted to hire me. Turns out that the Director I met had abruptly left the company, and his incoming replacement had, quote, hated everything about the hiring process and wanted to bring in his preferred candidates. Later on the Director I had met contacted me to let me know that I had dodged a bullet by not coming to work for this company; we have kept in touch over the years and he’s personally referred me to open positions in his network during my last two job searches. TL;DR sometimes being ghosted is for the best.

  22. Dorothea Vincy*

    I’m so sorry you were ghosted, LW. That’s a common part of the process, sure, but it sucks.

    On the other hand, the very fact that it’s common is a good reason not to take it personally. I’ve been on both sides of a long hiring process. In one case, it turned out that a company hadn’t contacted me because one of the hiring managers had had a heart attack and basically no emails were being sent or hiring decisions being made while they worked on juggling everyday work processes around this sudden gap. In another, a candidate I was interested in speaking to was unreachable by phone or email, and contacted me several months later to let me know that she’d been forced out of her housing by an abusive partner and had been dealing with a mental health crisis because of that. I didn’t get the job in the first case and we couldn’t hold the job open to interview the candidate in the second one, but it was a good reminder to me that, in the absence of any information, you might as well just assume that they had an excellent reason for not contacting you as assuming they had a bad one; there’s enough data to support either.

  23. Clementine*

    Adding my very similar experience in 2009. Was moving states and had just finished grad school. I was young and dumb and moved with two ‘almost’ jobs and no actual offer in hand. It stunk.

    Had multiple interviews with Job A, to the point where my last job was literally an ‘HR formality’. Interviewers came down and enthusiastically started talking about what I would be doing. I basically moved assuming I would be taking this job. I got a form rejection the next day. I immediately saw the job re-posted and emailed my contacts asking if it was a reposting or a second job and sending materials with a note about how I felt like Job A was a great fit. Ghosted. Forever.

    Job B was an interview that went so well that the woman started talking about me starting an internship program up and she was supposed to follow up after looking at the proposal I had drafted (free work). I never heard from her again, but heard a year later that she had Major Health Issue.

    Both of these rejections really stung in the moment, but writing them out now I realize that this wasn’t on me.

  24. Bookworm*

    No way to know what the internal politics and dynamics were around your hiring, or if it was more of your application was a casualty of those same internal politics and dynamics. I couldn’t say for you, but after leaving an organization that was in tumult not long ago, it could be very well it had nothing at all to do with you–Jim may have had the process removed from him and was told it’d be handled. So therefore, no follow-up with you at all.

    There’s no certainty, but I’d chalk this up to being a “dodged the bullet” scenario rather than you did something wrong in any way.

    All the same, I’m sorry that happened.

    1. Fran Fine*

      Right – Jim could have even been fired, so the company decided to scrap his hiring suggestions on the way out the door. OP will never know.

  25. Meep*

    I am very good at interviewing for jobs and thinking “x” would be a good fit for this role. Sure enough, if x applies they usually get the job while I am out!

    One such company waited until a friend had accepted before rejecting me because I was their second choice. I know because she approached me about it. I still keep in touch with them as they are a great group of guys and they have offered me other positions in the past.

    If I had to guess, you are on the shortlist but not #1. You may hear back sooner than you think.

  26. Jenny*

    I’ve discussed the ghosting topic with a European friend recently and he said that coming from working in the UK to working the US, it throws him for a loop every time it happens. In the US, he’s heard “here’s where you will be sitting” and “I can’t wait to get to know you more” then rejection. Apparently, employers in the UK are much more upfront about your chances. Any UK readers that can weigh in on this? Would love to know more about the cultural norms.

    For this scenario specifically, it does seem like you COULD have been dropped in the shuffle but was Jim the only person who was involved in any of the hiring or saw the project? I guess it’s possible but unlikely IMO. Probably a dodged the bullet scenario like other commenters have said. It’s unbelievable that this happens to anyone but especially someone who spends time outside of the interview doing a “take home” project. It’s borderline unethical to me and and a total dick move.

    1. londonedit*

      Yeah, I’ve never had the whole ‘Here’s where you’ll be sitting/come and meet the team/can’t wait to get to know you more’ then rejection/ghosting thing. Interview processes in my industry tend to be quite short – you have an in-person first interview with the person who would be your line manager, and maybe one other senior member of the team, and then if you’re moved forward from that, you have a second interview with the line manager and someone higher up, and after that they make a decision. So you don’t tend to get that stringing along over several interviews thing, and I’ve definitely heard things like ‘Well, we have a few more interviews to conduct, so we’ll be in touch later this week’ whether I’ve ended up getting a job or not – people do tend to be quite cagey until they actually offer you the job.

      As I said to a comment further up, in my industry it’s normal for companies to only contact the people they want to bring in for interview – you don’t get a rejection unless you’ve already interviewed. That’s simply because of the volume of applications, and they’re always upfront about it on the job advert, so you don’t expect a response unless it’s a ‘We’d like to invite you for interview’. I’ve never been ghosted after an interview – I’m sure it does happen, but I’ve always at least received a ‘Sorry, you weren’t successful on this occasion’.

  27. M313*

    So, I don’t disagree with any of today’s advice, or yesterday’s advice, and I realize these are written to address the world as it is, not the world as it should be.

    But I have to say, there’s something *infuriating* about “prospective employees should send thank you notes to their interviewers (even if employers shouldn’t disqualify anyone who fails to send one)” and “employers ghost prospective employees so routinely that it would be a big mistake to read anything into it” both being true things . It really seems like it shouldn’t be normal for employers to be so inconsiderate while job seekers are simultaneously expected to be so thoughtful and know these rules of etiquette that not everyone is taught, but here we are.

  28. Help!*

    This week I discovered an email in my drafts folder. It was for a job applicant we had interviewed who wasn’t selected. I hadn’t hit “send”. I was mortified to see it. It’s more than 2 months later and I feel like sending it now would be (1) rubbing salt on the wound and (2) make my organization look ridiculous. We would not want to hire her for a future position. Our last communication was along the lines of “Thank you, we’ll be deciding within the next week and expect to be in touch then…” What would you do in my shoes?

    1. Gumby*

      On one hand, you said within a week and it’s been 2 months so the applicant probably already assumes it was a “no.”

      On the other hand, 2 months is not too long in my experience; my first job out of school went interview 1 – 9 week gap – interview 2 – 2 day gap – interview 3 – job offer the next day.

      On the third hand, one of my current co-workers started here as her first post-grad-school job. She got a generic “we’ve filled the position” email from one job that she had applied for a little on the late side. By which I mean “after she had worked at our company for over a year and a half.” A year and a half. And they still sent the rejection.

    2. ecnaseener*

      It’s honestly not that uncommon to receive ridiculously late rejection notices, so the candidate won’t be super weirded out by it – but if you want to acknowledge it, you could add “my sincere apologies for taking so long to get back to you” at the beginning of the message.

  29. Mrsturtle*

    Lots of good advice here.

    Unfortunately I had the exact same experience. Then about a year later I found an email in my spam folder saying that I’d been selected as a finalist for the job – but of course by the. The position was filled. The email was from the hiring manager rather than the recruiter I’d been corresponding with and somehow it got flagged as junk.

    Just mentioning it in case I can prevent someone else from experiencing this!

    1. ecnaseener*

      Ha, that is literally the very first post Alison ever wrote for this website! May 28 2007: “if you’re job-searching, check your spam folder”

  30. Lizzie*

    In Australia – back in the dark ages (1970s) when jobs were advertised in newspapers, employers generally would put in a follow up notice which said Thank you to all applicants for the XYZ job, the position has now been filled. A few employers didn’t bother, and job seekers would write indignant letters to the paper pointing out how rude this was, and distressing for them to not be treated politely.
    So, t’was ever thus!

    1. ecnaseener*

      At least those dark-age employers had the excuse that the follow-up notice cost money!

  31. Nightengale*

    I was finishing my medical training and looking for a job as a doctor. My first job as a fully trained doctor, but not exactly “entry level” work. I had e-mail and then phone conversations which led to an interview out of state. They brought me in, interviews with a bunch of people, showed me around the hospital. It was EarlyJune. They said, “I will call you on DateinLateJune, one way or the other, to let you know if we are going to do a second interview. I don’t want to leave you hanging.”

    He made a point of that specifically.

    That was 2014

    Reader, I am still awaiting that phone call.

  32. Sleeping Late Every Day*

    “I grieved the loss of a potential dream job.”
    This is worrisome. LW, you should never be so invested in a what-if that you describe the situation as causing grief. That’s setting yourself up for a lifetime of disappointments.

  33. Mr Appleberry*

    Ghosting is unfortunately all too common. Recently was ghosted after a second interview that I had thought went well. Followed up a week later, then two weeks after that, nothing. Then saw them repost the job on LinkedIn, but now asking for someone with more experience. Who knew.

    Currently, I interviewed for a job with a local government. They told me in the interview they would be bringing me to the next step. A week later, nothing. I email. A week after that, still nothing. I email again, nothing.

    I know I should follow the advice of “always assume you’ll never hear back and that you didn’t get the job”, but this one seemed especially strange. Earlier this week I call, and they actually put me through to the head honcho and he assures me they are just having difficulty scheduling with the board this time of year but that I’m still in it.

    So, it’s possible I’m getting the runaround, but maybe sometimes scheduling really can be a problem.

  34. Susie Q*

    So from a potential Jim’s perspective: I’m the manager of a growth team at my company so I hire a lot for my team. I am not allowed to communicate directly with interviewees. My HR department controls all the communication with the interviewees so even if I wanted to not ghost an interviewee, I am not allowed. I know our HR used to not ghost but they got too much push back from people who were rejected (and even harassing, there was an interviewee who harassed several people on Linkedin due to being rejected). It’s complicated.

  35. SelenaAcademia*

    I was the head of the hiring committee in my university department a few years ago. We went through the preliminary Zoom interviews to narrow it down to finalists, and I sent emails to the others letting them know that it had been a pleasure but they were no longer in consideration, etc.

    Turns out HR had already let them know. I got an angry, pointed letter back from one candidate, telling me I didn’t have to double reject him. Better or worse than ghosting?

    1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      I represent no one but myself; as long as both messages were respectful and not identical, I wouldn’t stay upset by getting a second notice. It might irk me in the moment, but that’d pass relatively quickly.

  36. Greg*

    Agree with all of Allison’s advice, but I would also say that if you really want to work for this organization, don’t wait for a job posting! Do what you can to network your way in there right away. See if you have any friends or friends-of-friends who work there. Go to industry events where you think they might have a presence. I’m not the biggest fan of blind LinkedIn requests, but if you handle it the right way it could be effective (the right way being to find people there you might want to talk to and including a short note in your request like, “I’m a big fan of the Llama Groomery because of A, B and C and would love to chat with you and learn more about the organization.”)

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