can I ask interviewers to get back to me either way?

A reader writes:

I have recently re-entered the job search market at the ripe old age of 60. It’s been years, if not decades, since I last interviewed for a job. I’ve had five interviews so far that have gone nowhere. One thing I’ve noticed is that even after having an in-person interview, I am not hearing back from these companies, not even a “thanks but no thanks” reply. I always send a thank-you email to the person who interviewed me within a day of the interview.

So my question is, when the interviewer asks if I have any other questions, can I ask if they will let me know, either via email or phone call, whether or not they will be moving forward with my application? Or is that being too pushy and needy?

It’s not that it’s too pushy or needy … although it does subtly change the power dynamics a bit since in the strongest interviews, you’re both making a decision about whether it would be a good fit. But the bigger reason not to ask is that it won’t make a difference either way.

This is just the nature of job-searching — it’s incredibly common for interviewers not to bother getting back to candidates, even if you devoted a significant amount of time to their process (and even if you took time off work or flew across the country). It’s horribly rude, but it’s so common that you’re better off just expecting it to happen.

If you specifically ask them to get back to you, nearly every interviewer will say that of course they will … but a very large percentage of them still won’t. They’ll say they will because it feels like the obvious answer in the moment (after all, it should be the obvious answer!) and often they truly believe it … and then lots of them won’t get back to you anyway. They also ignore direct requests for an answer via post-interview emails and phone calls, so a request during the interview itself will be just as ineffective.

In every interview you do, you’re dealing with an employer that either does or doesn’t bother with sending rejections. If they don’t, you’re unlikely to change that by anything you say in the interview. It’s much better for your peace of mind to just assume you might be ghosted, and then it can be a pleasant surprise if they do get back in touch with you. I know that sounds discouraging — you’re supposed to put in all that effort, only to assume you’ll never hear from them again? — but it can be really liberating to choose not to anxiously wait around on a response that may never come.

{ 140 comments… read them below }

  1. Lacey*

    Yup. Even interviewers who voluntarily make a statement like, “You’ll hear back from us either way in 2 weeks” often never follow up.

    And even if they want to move forward with you – you’re probably hearing back later than they promised. Even when they’ve got “an accelerated timeline”

    1. HotSauce*

      I love when they act shocked when you tell them you have accepted another position. Like how dare you have the audacity to move on with your life & not hang around waiting to hear back from them?

      1. Chilipepper Attitude*

        This reminded me of my dad (likely on the spectrum but undiagnosed). Back in the 50s, he would date a woman once or twice, then call her for another date about 6 months later and be genuinely shocked that she was married or engaged by that point! Happened quite a few times we were told.

      2. Never Boring*

        Yep, the last time I was looking for a job, I applied to a promising posting the day it went live. My field (immigration law) was, and is, pretty hot the past few years. They contacted me four months later and seemed surprised that I had already found another position.

    2. ThatGirl*

      Yep, my last interview I talked to the recruiter, I sent him a bunch of portfolio stuff to share with the hiring manager, he swore he’d close the loop….. nada.

    3. Orora*

      As someone tasked with recruiting, you’re right on the mark. Many of us try, but often our best intentions just don’t allow it to happen. I try to always follow up with people I’ve spoken to (whether by phone, Zoom or in-person) and I try to hit my deadlines for that, but…work happens and often the issue is timing with some other member of the interview team.

      We do appreciate your patience, and I will never fault a candidate for not waiting on us to get our life in order.

  2. T.N.H.*

    Unpopular opinion: please ghost me after an interview if you don’t want to move me forward. It’s so much better than constantly responding to “updates” about a job that never moves anywhere. I suppose a rejection letter is ideal, but really, who cares? If a hiring manager doesn’t respond, I have my answer.

    1. ButWhythen*

      +1 to this. I realize this is something that really upsets a lot of people, but I don’t get it. This is a stranger that has nothing to do with your life, and there are a million reasons why they won’t hire you that have nothing to do with you. Any feedback they would give you would be BS anyway, and it’s super awkward. If they want to hire me, they’ll respond. If not, who cares? Move on.

      1. Boolie*

        Because it’s not feedback I want, it’s a straight answer. Really can’t be too difficult or time-consuming to send a cookie-cutter email saying they’re moving forward with someone else. Most interviewees aren’t going to write back to that.
        And besides, it really can go either way if you don’t hear back. I had two interviews for a military contractor, hadn’t heard back for months. Interviewed for a different company, accepted and started there within two months. Six months after THAT, Military contractor calls me back and asks if I’m still interested in a third round interview. Huh??

        1. T.N.H.*

          But how would a rejection have changed your actions? Presumably either way you would have continued to apply for jobs and eventually move on. That’s my point – a rejection vs. a ghosting doesn’t change what I do at all.

          1. Boolie*

            Here’s my story which I’m sure is not unique: Last year when I was on the market I would be simultaneously going for a hundred jobs, but I would hold out for something I really wanted. I did three interviews with a place I really liked, but didn’t hear back. I only got my “no” from that place because I reached out to them three weeks later. If I had an offer waiting for me at any point during those three weeks, I would have placed them on hold to hear back from the first company.

            My current job is a way better fit, so no hard feelings to that first company of course. But it is still discourteous to build a bridge with someone over months and then not hang a simple sign on the gate that says “closed.”

            1. Rose*

              Placing an offer on hold and passively waiting to hear back from a company I’d a horrible idea and no one should do it.

              If you have an offer contact the other company, give them a timeline, and let them know when you need an answer from them. If they don’t even bother to answer you then that’s a clear no.

              It’s rude and obnoxious but it’s not like you’re ever really missing the data points that you need, unless you have a job offer that someone is pressuring you to accept or decline very very quickly, which I would take as a red flag anyways.

          2. 15 Pieces of Flair*

            When I’m job searching, I’ll typically receive multiple offers. If I’ve managed to align the timing, which I always attempt to, these offers come in around the same time. Therefore, the consideration isn’t simply whether I’m interested in this specific job; it’s also how this offer compares to the other jobs in my pipeline.

            Let’s pretend I’m job searching because I was laid off. The market in tech is lousy right now, so my first offer may not be great. Whether I accept a not great offer would depend heavily on what my prospects look like at the time. When I have good final interviews or even promises of a forthcoming offer that never materializes, that can inflate my perception of my options for a couple weeks until I realized the company ghosted me. The impact is that theoretically I might pass on a meh job that I may have accepted if other companies had bothered to reject me.

        2. Kindred Spirit*

          Exactly this. Just four words would do it: “We’ve gone another direction.” That’s so much better than never hearing anything.

    2. pally*

      They will let you know if they want you. And there will be no mistaking their interest, if they do.

      1. Chilipepper Attitude*

        There are those stories where all the emails went to spam or whatever and they did want you but you never knew!

        I think that is a real fear but you have to move on anyway.

        1. pally*

          Some do try alternate methods -phone, snail mail. If they have this information.

          Decades ago (before Internet), I’d reformatted my resume and knocked off the telephone number. Never noticed.

          An HR person phoned and asked if she’d reached [first name] [last name]. I said yes. She explained that she’d found this number via the phone book. The “why” puzzled me until she pointed out that there was no phone number on my resume. Oops!

          Fixed that straightaway.

        2. Rose*

          Sorry but in 2023, I don’t think anyone’s missing email offers sent to their spam.

          If a company really wanted you, someone who had emailed you previously would reach out at some point, or if no one meaningful to the process, had emailed you they would try to contact you in whatever way they had previously.

          I’ve never seen a process in my life where you only get an offer email from some as yet unknown bot email address, and then know when you’ve spoken to is interested enough to even follow up and make sure you received it.

    3. Antilles*

      Hiring processes can easily take several weeks or more, depending on the industry, time of year, bureaucracy, company timetables, and basically anything else you can imagine. If you haven’t heard back in two weeks, what do you do?
      Maybe your personal answer is that you don’t care, because you mentally moved on immediately and have been going full-bore on other opportunities. So the fact it’s been 9 days and you haven’t heard a peep doesn’t bother you. If you hear back on day 10, you’ll be glad; if you don’t, you won’t *shrug*. That is a completely reasonable mindset to have and probably a very healthy one.
      But many people (most?) aren’t that way. They wonder “am I still in the running”, they try to think through whether or not it’s appropriate to send a follow-up email, should I try to ask for more timeline, etc. And for this group of people, getting that final closure of “sorry, we moved in other directions” is pretty important.

    4. Dr. Hyphem*

      Same… Especially if a month (or more!) has passed. I once got a rejection six months after the last time I spoke with anyone from the organization. I was well into my current role, which I love, but it still stung to get the rejection, even in that context.

    5. Quill*

      An email about whether or not I got the job: Good!

      Automatically signing me up for your corporate announcements email that announces jobs in other states / other disciplines / other metro areas: Bad

      Signing me up for your marketing emails: Very Bad

    6. Loredena*

      It’s the many many times I was ghosted after the final interview that’s so aggravating. Including once when they wanted me to commit to accepting if offered. No second interview? Whatever, I moved on. But after multiple interviews and flying out…. Oof.

      1. CrackerJaxonApple*

        This is a “I want to ask you on a date, but only if you promise you won’t reject me if I do.” How ridiculous!

    7. Bea*

      I’d like to know because I’m likely fielding other offers and I would like to know all of my options before making a decision.

    8. Rose*

      I feel this way about jobs I’ve applied to but not interviewed for. I’m always shocked when people tell me they’re mad when they don’t hear back from those. Unless I have a personal connection, I wouldn’t even expect to. A lot of companies are getting hundreds of candidates these days, so my expectations for hearing back are pretty low. I don’t want to be reminded that I applied and you didn’t want me. I mentally forget about jobs the second I apply.

      If I’ve actually made it past a phone screen, I do like to be told just so that I’m not holding onto hope, esp because so many hiring process is take so incredibly long that it feels reasonable to hold onto hope for a pretty good amount of time.

      Either way, I’m glad to hear I’m not the only person with this very unpopular opinion. Just ghost me!

  3. Qwerty*

    I find it worth asking what their timeline currently looks like for filling the role or what their target is for a start date. Assume that they are underestimating.

    It doesn’t hurt to reply to your thank-you email 1-2 weeks later with cheerful checkin for an update on the timeline (notice the focus on timeline, not candidacy)

      1. negligent apparitions*

        When my internal recruiter asks me for my target hiring date I want to say “put whatever you want, we’re never going to hit it”

  4. Ben*

    The silver lining is a place that fails to get back to interviewees — especially when they promise you they will and then never do — is often a place with deeper problems that might well be frustrating to work for anyway. The hiring manager thinks HR is going to handle it, HR thinks a panel interviewer is going to do it, the panel interviewer doesn’t even know the person didn’t get hired, etc., etc., etc. Not always true, but often enough that it should help temper the disappointment.

    1. Freya*

      Gotta be honest, I am an HR DOO (Department of One), and I handle all recruiting for our small company (150 EEs).

      When I post a position, we can get multiple applications through various methods (Application Portal, Walk-Ins, Company Website, Employee Referral, etc.) I try my best, but I can’t get back to every single person that applies for a position, especially if they don’t even make it to the first round.

      We do have a generic “Thank you for applying. We will reach out if we would like to schedule an interview.” message that any applicant gets if they apply through the Application Portal, but its not possible for the other application methods without me doing it manually. Even with that, I still have multiple candidates calling almost daily to “check” on their application which takes time for me to look them up and see where we are at in the process.

      1. Ellis Hubris*

        Is this true for you for those who interview, Freya?

        I agree with Ben, my experience was a lot of temping for a few years and also consulting, that companies don’t follow up after in person interviews (anything beyond a phone screen) always have other issues. It’s the nature of their company, doesn’t always mean it’s a bad thing, but it’s the nature of someone not owning that process.

        1. Freya*

          No, most applicants who make it to the interview round get some sort of response back. It’s not always quick, but they usually get something within a few weeks.

          That I can understand being frustrated about if you took the time to come in and interview. However, I am both experiencing and reading on AAM more and more applicants being frustrated by the lack of response at just the application stage.

          1. virago*

            “I am both experiencing and reading on AAM more and more applicants being frustrated by the lack of response at just the application stage.”

            The OP was referring to never hearing back from the person who interviewed her.

            1. Freya*

              There’s actually a comment from someone saying they would prefer to get some sort of response just for applying down further in the comments.

              As I said, I’m seeing that sentiment more and more.

              1. Cyborg Llama Horde*

                Particularly for an employer that has an applicant tracking system that requires me to fill out multiple pages of form fields just to apply, I think it’s polite for them to have their system configured in such a way that when they either classify me as “will not hire” or select a different candidate for the position, I get an automated email to close the loop.

                I can see that just one person fielding multiple streams of applicants would find this challenging, but the vast majority of places that ghost me have systems where telling me either way ought to be trivial.

      2. Antilles*

        Are we talking about applications or actual interviews?
        If it’s simply submitting an online application, then yeah, I don’t expect a response beyond that automated email. Perfectly fine.
        But if it was an actual interview? Much different. If you can’t even be bothered to spend 2 minutes on a generic thanks-but-no email after all that effort on the candidates part? That’s not quite a “red flag”, but in my experience, it’s at least a “yellow caution” flag.

  5. English Rose*

    I feel for you LW, this is so disheartening.
    One thing I’ve had success with in the past is asking some variation of when you might hear (not if you will hear). Something along the lines of “May I ask how far along you are in the interview process and what the next steps would be?” Again it might mean nothing but said right it subliminally reinforces that both you and the interviewer are busy professionals with lives to live.
    And if it helps, I got the job before my current one at the ripe old age of 59.
    Good luck!

    1. Juggling Plunger*

      This also does a good job of telling you when to interpret silence as a rejection – if they say “we’re doing the first round of interviews over the next two weeks and you don’t hear anything for three, that doesn’t mean anything, but if they tell you they’re doing the next round of interviews next week and then you hear nothing for two weeks, that means you’re not moving on.

  6. TheMeg*

    As a manager who does get a lot of candidates that don’t make it past first round – I purposefully do not have strict requirements on education or experience but ask questions to see application and critical thought – I always send a no thank you email. BUT I’ve gotten really aggressive emails in response – “you don’t know what you’re missing” etc. so I’m rethinking that process.

    1. Peanut Hamper*

      Yeah, I have found that any contact after that initial interview sometimes opens you up to even more–and more aggressive–communication.

      1. Boolie*

        Couldn’t you just…ignore the email and move on? Like if you’re already not interested in the person and they don’t write anything legally actionable, what does it matter that they’re spewing off? Laugh about it later. But don’t punish benign (i.e. most) people because of it.

        1. Peanut Hamper*

          Because it’s one more thing to do.

          And this goes both ways–the number of times I would call and leave messages to set up an interview and never hear back from people, or send an email and never hear back, or set up an actual interview and the person is a no-show, or best of all: actually hire the person, have them do paperwork and then they never show up.

    2. Melissa*

      Yes, but the fact that you sometimes get an aggressive response does not mean you should punish all the polite, normal, reasonable job-seekers by refusing to tell them anything.

      1. Peanut Hamper*

        But if we say “if we plan to move forward with you, you’ll hear by X date” then our silence is telling them that they should move on and stop worrying about their application with us.

        I literally had people call back three months after this, asking us if we were considering them for a second round of interviews. Um, no, move on with things. We certainly have.

        1. Melissa*

          As long as you phrase it that way — IF we decide to move forward, you’ll hear from us by April 11th– I think that’s better than what most companies do. But still, dude, just man up and send a mass email to everyone you’re rejecting. One sentence: “Thank you so much for your interview; we have decided to go with a different candidate.”

          1. Just send an email already*

            I agree with Melissa — if we interview you, then you should get a response.

            I’d caution against the ‘if you don’t hear from us by x’ approach though.

            Too much can go wrong even in an utterly smooth recruitment process. Such as someone critical taking leave suddenly.

    3. pally*

      I’m sorry things are like that.
      When I do get a personalized rejection response from HR, I try to thank them. They closed the loop on the process.
      Same with HR. If they keep to their word and get back to me, I recognize that by thanking them.
      Part of me thinks I shouldn’t do these things because it clogs up their email.

      No point saying something snarky to HR. It just leaves them with a negative view about you. And there will be a next time *job-wise* where you’ll wish you hadn’t been snarky to the HR.
      (show some class!)

    4. Qwerty*

      Aggressive responses seem to be reduced if the form rejection comes from someone who clearly is just the messenger and not a decision maker, like the internal recruiter or HR.

      It sucks. I’m sorry you are dealing with it.

  7. Mairzy Doats*

    This just happened to me. I had gone through two rounds of interviews, which all had a very different, positive vibe from any others I’ve experienced. Then nothing. Now since the company is defense-based, I assumed they put hiring on hold due to the debt ceiling debate, with the threat of government contracts being paid late. But here we are, 4 weeks later, and not a peep. That’s OK, I have a phone screen tomorrow with another company.

  8. Coffee Please*

    I always let people who have interviewed who we don’t move forward with know with a kind note, recognizing their talent and thanking them for their interest and time. I also always email folks who applied to let them know the position has been filled. It’s amazing how many emails I receive back THANKING me for letting folks know either way. It takes 10 minutes out of my day. I work in a competitive nonprofit field.

    1. Boolie*

      You rock! Thank you for doing that. It really is a kindness even if it’s an impersonal, copy-and-paste note.

  9. Anne of Green Gables*

    Our system sends automatic “this position was filled” responses once the job is filled, but ours is a slow hiring process, so it can take a while (3 months would not be super unusual). At the final round, I do send individual emails to anyone I interviewed letting them know “we offered the position to another candidate and they have accepted.” But if you just had a first round interview and weren’t selected for the second round, it will feel like we ghosted because there is a long delay. And HR doesn’t want us sending emails after that round in case we end up going back to those candidates.

    1. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

      DING! Unless my hiring manager is absolutely sure, i.e., we’d repost before considering these candidates at all for this role, I am hesitant to let them contact with a “thanks but no thanks” until the candidate starts. Ours is similarly lengthy with background checks and approvals.

  10. Lirael*

    Genuine question for the UK contingent: is this your experience? I don’t think I’ve ever heard nothing after an interview, I’ve always had a yes or a no. but maybe I’ve been lucky?

    1. English Rose*

      Yes it can be the case here in the UK. My experience has been about 50/50 whether I get a response. Friends and colleagues have said the same. On the plus side, when I have heard back I’ve often had some really helpful constructive feedback.
      I do wonder if we are generally a less litigious country though and maybe that makes a difference.

      1. Voluptuousfire*

        That tracks for me. I had an interview with a British company two years ago and the call went incredibly well but I was rejected for my salary requirements since they were out of range for the role. It confirmed something I had suspected but hadn’t proof of and I respect them for that. (My salary range was commensurate for my experience/role but they were paying a solid 10k below my lowest number.)

    2. Big Pig*

      Once, for a retail job that made me do a presentation. I have refused to buy anything from them since for their rudeness. I don’t think ghosting after an interview is considered socially acceptable here.

      1. Tute83*

        It’s not socially acceptable anywhere and it’s too bad that companies who ghost interviewees don’t suffer any kind of ramifications.

    3. Former call centre worker*

      Only a couple of times I can think of and that was in the days of handing in printed CVs. Most places I’ve applied to in the last 15 years have had online application forms that presumably automate the task of sending rejections. Small organisations might be different though.

      1. Cyborg Llama Horde*

        You would think, but a lot of the US employers that do this have online application systems, too.

    4. workswitholdstuff*

      UK based.

      Normally hear either way after an interview – phonecall if successful, if unsuccessful, it’s often been an email.

      Only one job didn’t get back to me – it would have been a stop gap job whilst still looking for museum roles, and I got offered the other job I interviewed with that week – 14 years later I’m still with the organisation…. It still irked me they never bothered – but I never bothered to chase either, give the success with the other role…

      Ghosting completely after interview is defo outside the norm in the UK. You might not get a call, (letter or email instead), you might get feedback, but generally if you were near enough to get an interview they tell you the outcome!

    5. Cordelia*

      only once, and it was so outside the norm that I remember it years later and have always felt negatively towards that organisation! which has since turned out to be something of a disaster area, so I was lucky as it turned out. But no, I would always expect to hear, and when I’ve been the interviewer I’ve always got back to people. That’s the process wherever I’ve worked (public sector) – interview, choose your candidate, offer them the post, once they accept then let the others know they have not been successful and offer feedback if they want it.

    6. Lessa*

      I’ve been ghosted after a number of interviews. Not enough that I would call it the norm, but enough that it is not unusual (an it has put me off dealing with some companies). This is for customer service/call centre type jobs, so that may factor in.

      It doesn’t seem like it is as normalised here as it seems to be in the US.

    7. Dread Pirate Roberts*

      I didn’t hear back after a UK interview once – usually there was a form email, sometimes a personal email or call to say how close it was and encourage me to apply for other openings. The worst was a vague request for a shorter second video call that ended up being the interview panel telling me why they didn’t want to hire me. It was excruciating and I said my okthanksbye as quickly as I could so I didn’t burst into tears in front of them.

    8. Sebastian*

      I don’t think I’ve ever not heard back after an interview (although my interview to offer rate is about 75%, so the rejections are a small sample size).

      Even at the application stage I’ve had at least a form rejection email most, of not all of the time.

    9. londonedit*

      UK here and I’ve always heard back after an interview, but I work in a small industry (book publishing) and once you’re at the interview stage you’re one of a small group and communication is usually handled by the hiring manager rather than HR, so it’s all a bit more personal than in other industries, I think.

      It’s absolutely the norm to hear nothing back from an application if you’re not selected for interview – to the point where most job adverts will have a line in them saying ‘We are expecting a large volume of applications for this position and will only be contacting successful candidates to invite them to interview’. Sometimes they also say ‘First interviews will be taking place during the week of 26th June’ so that you know that if you haven’t heard anything before then, you’re not in the running. But once you’ve actually had a first interview, the norm in my industry is for someone to get back to you with a ‘Thank you for coming in; we enjoyed meeting you but unfortunately you were unsuccessful on this occasion’.

    10. Rey123*

      I’ve always gotten the rejection after an interview in the UK (and everwhere else I’ve applied) but tons of times not heard anything after an application.

  11. NotAnotherManager!*

    This is my recruiting manager’s pet peeve. If you make it to a phone screen, you get notified one way or another (even if it’s just an automated we’ve-moved-forward-with-other-candidates). Anyone who did an interview with a hiring manager gets a direct status email of some sort, too. They do not send emails to every candidate who submitted an application because we do not have the manpower for that. But, if you made time for an interview you’ll hear one way or another.

    Our hiring managers are generally not supposed to contact candidates – all of that is handled via HR, which I appreciate from a time perspective. I have gotten enough positive feedback about candidates’ dealings with HR recruiting that I think they’re doing something right.

    1. Human Resorceress*

      I am now a year into my job search after being laid off from a small tech company. I’ve made it through several rounds with a dozen companies and I’m really still stricken by the ghosting from the hiring managers who swear up and down that they will let me know what is happening. These are all HR / recruiting roles that I’m interviewing for which makes it feel just that much more fun and not demoralizing at all.

    2. BBB*

      that’s the stance I take as well when it comes to hiring. hr assures me than everyone gets a rejection email from the system once the position is filled, even if we didn’t interview them (cannot confirm or deny if that happens) but I reach out direct to anyone I had at least a first round interview with. it may take a while because I don’t like to send those out until I have a signed offer letter from the top candidate, but I do send them out to every single person. it’s really just closing the loop as far as I am concerned.

    3. Tute83*

      No one, including the litter writer, is suggesting that every applicant get a personalized response. An automated email is fine. We’re talking about people who get interviews and then get ghosted.

  12. Peanut Hamper*

    At my last job I always ended interviews with “You’ll hear back from us by [date] if we decide to move forward with your application.” And I tried to make that date as short as possible.

    There simply isn’t an efficient way to make that many phone calls/send that many emails. (I handled recruitment and HR in addition to wearing a bunch of other hats.)

    Sadly, a lot of applicants don’t realize how very time consuming it is to post jobs, sift through resumes, reach out to set up interviews, prepare for those interviews, conduct those interviews, make assessments after those interviews, reach out to second round candidates, conduct a modicum of background research (yes I looked at your social media accounts), etc., etc. It takes a tremendous amount of time and energy, and while I wish I could be all things to all people, it simply isn’t possible. I’m going to put what little time and energy I have into the people that we are moving forward with.

    In an ideal world it wouldn’t be like this, but this is far from an ideal world.

      1. Peanut Hamper*

        This is why I always said that I would usually get back within three days if we were going to move forward with them. The hidden message there being that I expect you to keep moving forward with whatever other applications you have open out there and not get hung up on us. Move on with your life. You’ve got better things to do than to wait to hear back from us.

        1. Boolie*

          You are doing a kindness by actually giving a solid time frame of when someone should move on. In that case it’s acceptable to not send an email to every candidate. Others in your role give a wishy-washy non-answer leaving the candidate to wonder what is the magic number for how many days this company will make you wait.

    1. Lessa*

      How many people are you interviewing that sending out rejections is more than a 5 minute job when you fill the position? That is a lot of depth to be going into for more than a handful of candidates.

      1. Peanut Hamper*

        Have you…never done this? For a small company, on top of a million other duties to do? And making sure that you get it right, so that you don’t accidentally send a rejection email to someone you are actually interested in?

        Recruiting is a lot more work than people think. I can tell from the responses here who has never had to do it.

        1. Lessa*

          Not for a long time, and only as support, I admit, and I was actually hired to ensure there were enough resources to do the work, and avoid the situation you are in. But I have done hard jobs, and understaffed jobs, and it took me a while after getting out of the last such one to realise how badly it had skewed my perception of normal. Sorry if I came across a bit flippant, s I do understand that sometimes 5 minutes is five hours more than you have.

          I’m sympathetic that you aren’t being given enough resources to do the work you are being expected to do and are having to make compromises. But that doesn’t make it any less rude to ghost someone who has taken the time to interview with you, especially as it seems this includes people who have got pretty far through your process (though I do appreciate you try to warn people, which makes you better than a lot of companies). Don’t let your current situation trick you into thinking that you shouldn’t have to get back to interviewees.

          I do genuinely hope that you get the resources you need to not have to make these compromises in future. Having been there, I know how demoralising it can be. (I don’t know your industry, but it might help to raise the issue of reputational damage, there are several companies I no longer do business with after being ghosted, and I know I’m not the only one).

      2. BubbleTea*

        If it takes five minutes per applicant and you got over 20 applicants that’s easily two hours. Some jobs get hundreds of applications.

        1. Sebastian*

          But how does it take five minutes per applicant? Surely it takes no more than five minutes per vacancy to paste the job title into a form ‘thanks for your application but the field was very competitive, and we’ve decided to move forward with other candidates’ email, and then at most five seconds per applicant to type their email address into the bcc field?

          1. J*

            That’s literally all it takes. It can often be done even faster in a hiring software. I have literally been the person taking the long way so I have little patience for those who 1) insist it’s overly burdensome or 2) insist they can’t do it on top of their normal job because rejecting candidates is part of the job.

            1. Freya*

              That’s assuming that we all have HRIS/ATS systems, AND our company bought the full package, AND that is the only way we are getting applications.

              Any variation in any of these will lead to a ton more work and hassle for a recruiter or HR person.

        2. Hyjinks*

          But how many do you interview? Even with just 20 applicants, you probably don’t interview all 20.

        3. Lessa*

          If they are interviewing even 20 applicants, much less hundreds, then frankly, not sending out rejections to interviewees is the least of their problems. Even then, 20 copy/paste emails shouldn’t take any longer than 10 minutes. And if they are interviewing that many people it starts becoming worth setting up some systems to automate parts of the process.

    2. Bea*

      I hear this a lot but sending out an email is not particularly time consuming. Even if it’s to multiple people you can just BCC them all. You don’t need to do individual emails. Are y’all just really slow typers?

    3. J*

      I think you might be underestimating applicants and how much they know about the time commitments. They do the same on their end, often with competing interviews, many applications and companies. There’s very easy ways to send quick acknowledgements to the rejected candidates and you might ask your team for help on those ways rather than discounting that applicants are the problem for wanting communication.

  13. pally*

    Ghosting beats confusion:

    After two rounds of interviews, I receive a rejection email.

    Then I receive a “Congrats on your new job! Tell us about your hiring experience by completing this survey for us!”

    I emailed HR. No mistake, I have been rejected for the position. This is final.

    So I fill out the survey and explain that receiving their survey really hurt. To my surprise, they reach out and apologize. And they send a second survey to evaluate them on the hiring process given I was rejected for the job.

    1. Calyx*

      I’m sorry. What a discouraging experience. Glassdoor might be a great place to recount your experience; maybe after a few months when you’ll have more anonymity?

  14. BBB*

    I once had the opposite happen to me with an internal position. had an interview, didn’t hear back, assumed they ghosted me, I accepted a different internal position literally months later and then got a rather pissy email from the first department that basically said ‘we see you accepted a new position so I guess that means we need to remove you from consideration’
    like… I didn’t realize yall were still deciding since I interviewed with you months ago! lmao
    that interview had not got well either so it felt insanely petty and stupid on their part – dodged a bullet, I guess :)

  15. Fluffy Fish*

    Not advice per se but just an acknowledgement that job hunting is not for the faint of heart. It can be really draining when it feels like someone else holds most of the cards. And rejections, whether by never hearing again or direct suck. They just suck.

    Make sure you build in self-care. Best of luck in your search!

  16. Samwise*

    Sometimes the search chair desperately wants to do the right thing, but is under strict orders from HR not to because “candidates can see the status of their application online”

  17. Cease and D6*

    I think my favourite (read: Least Favourite but in a Funny Way) version of this is when the place gets back to you… six to eight months after you last heard from them. It’s pretty common in academia.
    Manages to combine all the anxiety of radio silence with the rejection of an impersonal ‘thanks but no thanks’ letter. What better!

    1. Hyjinks*

      I get a ton of those. It’s like my application just stays open in their system for months. The funniest one was when I had applied for multiple openings at the same company, and I got an offer from one of them. Months after I started, I got an automated rejection from a different application I had put in. I mean, I realize it was a very large company and different groups don’t have insight into hiring for other groups, but shouldn’t there be something corporate-wide that flags when a candidate has started working there and closes the rest of their applications?

    2. Avery*

      I’ve gotten a few of those. Funny thing is my field isn’t even close to academia, it’s law, which isn’t exactly known for dragging its feet on these things. But just the same, I’ve gotten a few rejection letters fairly recently for a job search that ended nine months ago…

  18. Hyjinks*

    My favorite (/sarcasm) ghosting was when I had traveled for the interview and not only did I not get a response, but I didn’t get reimbursed for my travel. Just, no communication at all. Fortunately, I had taken my own car and stayed with a friend, so I was only out the cost of gas.

  19. may spring rain*

    What’s awful too is when they tell you over the phone they aren’t moving forward with you. Please, please tell me that in an email or via snail mail. At least I can cry openly, rather than to feel as though I have to play the “Sure, okay, thanks!” cheery professionalism. It’s just so clueless to CALL. Because if that’s how it’s gonna be, ghost me instead.

  20. goducks*

    Speaking as a hiring manager, and as an HR person who is a non-hiring manager who is often a point of contact for candidates. Getting back to people we know are a no after an interview is easy and I make sure it’s always done. It’s the people who aren’t a no but maybe aren’t really a yes that get lost in the communication shuffle most of the time. I tell them we’ll get back to them within X amount of time-and when I say it it is fully my intention to meet this pledge- but some of the time the process lags and lags for all sorts of reasons. That leaves nothing to really communicate to the maybes in the process, the people who maybe we aren’t super excited about because we have another candidate who we really like, but we don’t yet want to tell them no because they might get bumped up the list if our lead candidate or candidates drops out of the pool. Then time goes by (maybe a couple of months) and the maybes are either forgotten because the process took forever (and yes, we feel it took forever too, we just know all the annoying or unexpected reasons why it took forever) or it feels weird to reach back out to a candidate who we haven’t talked to in months to tell them they didn’t get a job they already figured they didn’t get.
    And if you ask me why not tell them they’re still in the pool, it’s because candidates don’t like to hear “well, we’re not a no on you, we’re just looking more closely at another candidate or two, but we might come back and take another look at you if things don’t work out with them… standby”, which would be the actual truthful update. So instead, sometimes those gaps in communication grow. Is it what I’d like to see happen? No.
    When I’m a candidate for a job and an interviewer tells me that they’ll be in touch- even if they put a timeline on it- I always treat it like when you go out with an distant acquaintance and at the end of the night you say “We should do this again, really soon!” and you really and truly mean it in the moment, but then it never actually happens because all the things in your life get in the way.
    None of this is me claiming ghosting is a good thing, just that it’s rarely an intentional thing. Add to it that for most managers (and even HR folks) hiring is a task that is super-involved but is done on top of all the other stuff that’s part of their normal jobs (and in the case of hiring managers, on top of backfilling parts of the open position as well).

    1. goducks*

      lost in the communication shuffle most of the time

      To clarify that line, I don’t mean they’re lost most of the time, I mean when they’re lost most of the time it’s the not yes or no candidates who get lost.

    2. Hyjinks*

      That leaves nothing to really communicate to the maybes in the process

      If I was given a timeline, it would be nice to receive a communication that the timeline has been expanded and things are still in work.

      I’m still a little vexed over the company that took longer than their timeline to get back to me, and when they did, I had already accepted another offer and had a start date. I really wanted to work for that first company! If I had heard anything, I would not have written them off and I might not have been so quick to accept the offer that came first.

      1. goducks*

        I hear that, but the maybes are a weird case. I would absolutely not want a maybe to turn down another job on the possibility that at some point they might turn into a yes. And so often there are multiple extensions to hiring timelines, so it’s just an exercise in non-update updates, which I have done, and continue to do when time and circumstance permit, but I can tell you– job seekers hate it. And it feels unfair to the candidate if the update that they’re still in the running makes them think they’re likely to get an offer because they didn’t get told yet that they didn’t. There’s not a good answer here a lot of the time.

        As a job seeker you should be acting with the information you have. If you have an offer in front of you, that’s the only information you have that you can rely on. If you knew that first job was still considering you and you turned down the second job, you’d have been without either job if the first job decided not to hire you two weeks later, KWIM?

        1. Hyjinks*

          If the information I have is that I am still in the running, then I can inform the first company that I have an offer and ask if they are interested enough to make one to me before my deadline to accept said offer, KWIM?

          1. Anon for this*

            Hyjinks: I can understand your frustration, but I think what you are asking for is unrealistic, and I think goducks is doing a good job of explaining why (and I say this as someone who is currently job searching, but has also done hiring). There are certainly exceptions to this, but I think generally trying to pressure one company to make an offer to you before they are ready by telling them you have an offer from another company is not going to work. If someone had said that to me when I was doing hiring, I would have told them to go ahead and take the other offer.

    3. Ghoster in the Machine*

      I’m in this same boat! The hiring process can sometimes take months, and I struggle with how to handle “lukewarm” candidates that we aren’t quite ready to cut free. I truly want to keep them informed, but when they’re a “backup” candidate and we’re still searching for better, I’m often end up leaving them hanging. And I hate that.

      1. fieldpoppy*

        That is the hardest zone. The hard noes are simple. The yesses and second string are more complicated. I just hired for three (PT) people to do the same role but for different zones (say, teapot handles, lids and glaze, all on a team working collaboratively). We had a short list of 9 we interviewed. We had three people who were the clear top of the field, three who were clear noes, and three who were more like, if handle #1 doesn’t say yes, person 4 would be the best fit, but if handle 1 says yes but lid 1 says no, person 5 would be a better fit with the other two, etc. So we sent quick “noes” to the bottom 3, and offers to the top 3, but had to wait for two of them to clear it with their other roles, sign off the contract, etc. So in the end, while I sent nice “noes” to the 4th and 5th from the bottom when it was clear that they wouldn’t be a fit anymore, candidate number 4 was in limbo for about 3 weeks while we made sure everything on the top three was signed off. It would have been VERY VERY easy to lose track of still needing to send the note to #4.

        (And when I did send it, I gave some feedback that they were close and maybe they might be interested in a spout-training role and they shot back “if I’m not good enough for lid, handle or glaze lead, why am I good enough to train spouts?” Not fun. Lots of emotional labour. So no the thought and energy that went into that was WAY more than “5 minutes”.

  21. Anon for this*

    Where I work, I am not supposed to contact applicants after the interviews. I turn my selection/priority list over to central HR and they supposedly contact the applicants. Note that they often do not contact them until the successful candidate has accepted the position, gone through necessary screenings, and has a start date. So it will be a loooong time before the not-successful candidates get their rejection form letters. And I can’t do anything about it without violating policies. To all those out there who never hear, I am very sorry!

    1. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

      Yup, this is common. It’s because we don’t want to send a rejection to the top second choice candidate until we know for sure.

      A more strategic way to handle this would be to confirm if that hire falls through for ANY reason, is there anyone else they’d want to consider from that pool? But see upthread from Peanut Hamper, this is not always realistic.

  22. Lobsterman*

    You can ask, OP, but you’ll never alter anyone’s behavior for the better.

  23. AnotherOne*

    A friend recently went thru 3 rounds of interviews for a job.

    Got a form rejection letter.

    Really, they couldn’t even send her a personalized email that they went with someone else?

    1. I should really pick a name*

      I actually don’t see a problem with that.

      As has been mentioned in the column several times, it’s not a great idea to provide feedback to the candidate unless they explicitly ask for it, so there’s not a whole lot that a personalized email would provide.

  24. Baron*

    I feel very fortunate – almost every job I’ve ever interviewed with has gotten back to me. (Usually with a “no”, so I don’t feel THAT fortunate.) I’m in Canada – possibly the stereotypes are apt and we’re simply more polite?

    The exception is a job I was offered on a Friday, and told the formal offer would be coming on Monday. Technically, they didn’t say which Monday – but 143 Mondays have passed and I’m starting to think they might not get back to me.

    1. Melissa*

      Oh gosh, that’s worse– they actually offered you the job and then ghosted you? Did you ever hear anything about it?

    2. BubbleTea*

      143 Mondays ago was deep in Covid chaos – I wonder if the org even still exists?

  25. Jeanette*

    Yeah, ghosting after getting to the interview stage is very frustrating (especially for anyone who’s in the midst of a difficult job search), but I think Alison’s spot-on that asking the interviewer to follow up isn’t likely to change what they do. It’s unfortunate, but putting the job out of your mind once the interview is over is probably the best way to save becoming too frustrated.

    I once had an organisation email me an offer letter…for someone else. Turned out they’d send the successful candidate’s offer email to everyone who applied. Only in that case would I have preferred the ghosting!

  26. MeetMoot*

    Maybe I’m alone in this but I think even applicants that don’t make it to interview deserve communication; they may still have been super excited about the role and put a lot of work into their application.
    It is easy enough to set up a spreadsheet with yes/no/maybe columns and just add emails to that as you go, then send your generic rejection en mass.

    And if not that, at the absolute minimum I’d expect a line on the job advert saying “if we are proceeding with your application we will notify you by X” so people can have a breathe-out day.

    1. Peanut Hamper*

      Yeah, the spreadsheet sounds simple enough, but the work entailed ends up being a lot more than a simple spreadsheet.

      I have used your second approach though, and I have always tried to keep that time frame as short as possible–a week or less. That said, I certainly expect good candidates to not put all their eggs in one basket and apply only with us. Job hunting is something you do in parallel, not sequentially.

      1. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

        Going back to the “but it is only 5 minutes of work!”

        Narrator: It was not, in fact, only 5 minutes of work.

        I don’t disagree this is a best practice – I don’t think ANYONE is disagreeing with this. It’s just not something resources are getting dedicated to on the front end, therefore it seems insurmountable on the back end.

        What I would LOVE: An ATS* where I could assign candidates into 2 buckets – interviewed and not interviewed, with the latter I can just hit a button and it sends a form letter.

        *Well, I would love any kind of ATS at all, but I don’t even have that!

  27. Fluffly jellybeans*

    Here’s to hoping memory serves me well as it’s been years since I read the book . . . In David Brinkley’s book, Washington Goes to War (1988), he relates a story where an individual applied for a really, really, high-level government job in Washington, D.C. He ultimately did get the job, and several months later, he opens his mail. Inside is a rejection letter for the position he now has. The twist — he signed the letter.

  28. Kindred Spirit*

    A family member of mine who has been job searching has been ghosted after interviews many times. For one position there were 7 (!) interviews with managers, the director, a VP, the team my family member would be working with, etc. The company said they would let my family member know one way or the other “in a couple of weeks.” No work ever came. Friendly “just checking in” follow up emails and VMs went unanswered. After more weeks of silence, you can infer the answer, but what a terrible way to treat someone.

  29. CoinPurse*

    Flip side of the coin (retirement)…..I have people damn near stalking me, calling me, texting me, emailing me….please work for us. I have a weird and apparently in demand skill set but bullying me will not get me back to a cube farm.

    Maybe they should take that manic energy and treat the people who ARE applying better.

  30. Ugly World*

    One reason in the US that organizations ghost candidates after interviewing is to avoid possible Equal Employment Opportunity complaints. EEO requires initial filing within 45 days of the “date of harm”, and this is a drop-dead date. If orgs never give you a definite rejection, and has illegally discriminated against you (age discrimination perhaps in the case of OP), you never have a date of harm and a jumping-off point for filing a complaint.

    I have personally experienced this, and what I do is contact HR if there is one to get the status of my application and the hiring managers have been non-responsive. Somebody needs to tell me something! I then present the dates of my efforts to get status and file a complaint anyway, after waiting at least a month post-interview with no communication.

    These kinds of companies and organizations should be ashamed of themselves. Good luck OP. Age discrimination is RAMPANT, and don’t be afraid to assert your rights.

    1. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

      More often than not, the hiring managers are just not finding time in their schedules to go through applicants and schedule interviews timely. Not everything is a conspiracy.

      1. Anon for this*

        Manic Pixie HR Girl: Exactly!

        Ugly World, please stop looking at something that happens incredibly frequently (job seekers not getting back to applicants) as some sort of conspiracy against you/people in your age group. If you are presenting this attitude when you interview/try to follow up, I can understand why people are not responding to you, and it has nothing to do with your age. I think you are taking things personally when you shouldn’t.

    2. Scandinavian Vacationer*

      Whoa! Would love to read Alison’s take on this, either reply or an entire column devoted to EEO Date of Harm.

  31. SB*

    When I was in recruitment I would always get back to everyone I interviewed regardless of the outcome & give them a brief explanation of why we went with another candidate (usually more experience in memory supported clientele) but if you didn’t get an interview it was unlikely you would get a response due to time constraints.

    I think it is pretty basic courtesy, plus, I may want to revisit some of those people who only just missed out if another position opens up & I don’t want to leave them with a bad taste in their mouth by ghosting them after asking them to clear their schedule for a phone interview & one or two in person interviews.

    1. J*

      Your comment about the opinion of a company if another position opens is so key. I had a horrible interview and application process with a company. I’ve since seen positions open up, newly created ones, that look perfect for me but I will not apply again because of the previous experience. I know several people who work there and many like it but it was so dehumanizing that I just can’t put myself through that again. (Think people who didn’t show up for interviews on time, yelled at me for scheduling it when they had another meeting even though HR scheduled it, and don’t get me started on the screening and application) I’ve told recruiters exactly that.

      The way I’ve been rejected or guided through the process sticks with me. I don’t love no contact and I go in with some wariness that the process will be successful. If it’s outright rude or bad, I will just write off the employer entirely. Thankfully I’m in a position to do so. I can’t imagine going back to the same HR teams if my chronic health issues recur and I need their support. I wouldn’t be able to trust them if I couldn’t trust them to hire well.

  32. Michelle Smith*

    I like to ask at the end of the interview what their timeline is for making a decision and what they expect the next steps in the process to be for candidates moving forward. Alison is absolutely correct that it doesn’t increase my response rates. It does, however, alleviate my anxiety about following up. I HATE having to try to and guess whether I need to follow up in one week, two weeks, two months, etc. without seeming either pushy or disinterested. If I asked you in the interview when you plan to get back to me and you say 1 week, I don’t feel anxious about follow up after a week and a half to say I’m checking in for updates on the process. It’s more about my comfort around navigating this weird dance of will they/won’t they get back to me than anything else.

    If you want to ask, ask. Don’t do it in a needy or entitled way. Just matter of factly ask what they expect the steps in the process to look like and their current timeline and go from there. This information can be relevant for your decision making process as well. If you received an offer from Company A and need to make a decision on it, it’s helpful to already know that Company B anticipates at least one more round of interviews that won’t be scheduled for another month. That may influence how and if you follow up with Company B. It also is helpful to know that Company C’s interview process is 3 rounds plus a project over the course of 2 months, whereas Company D’s process will wrap up in after a day of panel interviews and a presentation. You can make a more informed decision about whether to stay in an interview process at all if you get in the habit of asking up front what it will look like.

  33. Dances with Light*

    LW2: “In the past, I have managed to defer the invitation with responses like “Yes, we should do that sometime,” and then I move on without us ever making any solid plans.”

    That’s part of your problem; it sounds as if you ARE interested in going kayaking with them and they’re reading it as such. They probably think that, if you keep saying that you two should do that SOMETIME, then all they need to do is find the right time to do it. This is NOT unreasonable on their part! On your part, it’s also not a direct (or, let’s face it, honest) statement that you prefer to go kayaking alone and have no intention of EVER going with them.

    You’ll need to come clean and make that direct statement to get your real message across: “I’ve come to realize that kayaking is a solitary, meditative experience for me. I always go alone and really like to focus on being surrounded by the natural world. It’s nothing against you – it’s just that I’ve realized that this is how I prefer to go out on the water.”

    Saying that you’ve “come to realize” that you prefer to go kayaking alone takes care of your former statements that “we should do that sometime.” Of course, if the HR person is petty, immature and/or vengeful, then there could still be repercussions, but you can only control what YOU do and say, after all.

  34. bravetummyache*

    The best was a rejection letter that misspelt my (very common) name, since it confirmed my sense that it would have been a bad place to work anyways

    1. pally*

      I received a written rejection letter (before Internet times) with someone else’s name entirely. Had my mailing address on it. Same conclusion: I probably don’t want to work at a place this oblivious to details.

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