What Is Taking So Long to Hear Back After an Interview?


The recruiter/HR person/hiring manager said they’d make a decision before the end of last week. Or by the middle of last week. Or before the end of last month. Or some other time in the past. Their own deadline has passed—maybe days or weeks (even months) ago. But, you haven’t heard from them. And, you may never hear from them. Or, you may hear from them tomorrow...

Don’t “pause” your job search while you wait for an answer.

Do NOT put your job search on hold while you wait to hear the news on any job! Keep your job search momentum rolling. Until you hold a job offer (with the right job title, salary, and start date) in your hand, you don’t have a new job.

But, don’t assume that no news is bad news for your job search!

You will probably not be told what happened, but don’t give up on an opportunity too soon. Employers almost always need more time to fill a job than they believe they will. Particularly if it has only been few days or a couple of weeks past the date the employer said they’d get back to you, don’t give up on the job. Yet!

10 Things that Could Be Happening While You Wait:

Job seekers always seem to assume that the process works perfectly and smoothly on the employer’s side. But, speaking as someone who has been on the “other side” of the process, that assumption is often totally wrong. The reason you haven’t heard from them probably has little to do with you. Or it could have everything to do with you.

Without intending, the employer’s plans for the timing of the next step in the hiring process are almost always too optimistic. Many things can disrupt the schedule, particularly in large organizations.

1. Someone necessary to the process is missing.

Hiring someone usually involves more than one person, and someone necessary to the process might be missing—out of the office (vacation, illness, death in the family, business travel, fired or quit, etc.) or handling an emergency. Until that person is available, the process waits.

2. The other interviews are taking more time than expected.

Whether or not you were the first candidate interviewed, it may be a long wait. Interviews with other candidates are scheduled and re-scheduled as necessary people become available and unavailable (see #1).

3. They are getting ready for the next round.

Then, they may be scheduling a second (or third or fourth) round of interviews for the people who did well on the early round(s), after they determine who made it to the next round. And, figuring out who gets invited back is often a very complicated process involving meetings, discussions, email, and more meetings and discussions.

If you’ve been through one or more rounds of interviews and are still waiting to hear, other things can get in the way.

4. They are working their process, tying up all the loose ends, checking off all the to-dos.

They are checking references and running background checks on all the finalists, and waiting for results before they make their decision.

5. Someone is missing, again.

Again, someone critical to the process may be unavailable, and nothing goes forward until they rejoin the process.

6. They may be restructuring the job.

Someone(s) is holding out for the “perfect candidate” (who didn’t apply), so they may be discussing re-posting the job or re-structuring it to fit the best candidate they have.

They told you the interview process is complete—all drug tests, background checks, and everything else is done, and a decision will be made by last week (or even last month). But, it may still take longer.

7. More missing decision-makers, higher up the chain.

Yet again, someone important in the decision-making may be out of the office or unavailable for some reason. The right people need to approve new hires, often in very specific order up the organization’s management chain, and decisions wait until the appropriate approval is received so the paperwork can be passed on up to the next level.

8. Business has changed unexpectedly, and they are waiting for the dust to settle or adjusting to a new reality.

Perhaps budgets are being juggled because of an unexpected drop in business and/or profits, and they won’t contact anyone until they know they can afford to fill the job. Maybe, the job will be changed to something that will be cheaper to fill.

Or, perhaps, business has improved, and they may be able to make multiple offers. Or, possibly, they are considering restructuring the job to a higher level now that they can afford it.

9. Definitely restructuring that job. Probably...Maybe...Or, maybe NOT!

Again, they haven’t found the perfect candidate or there’s been a change in profits, so they are reconsidering the structure of the job. When they are done, it may be a perfect fit for you, or not. They won’t know until they’re done making the changes, and, of course, you won’t know until after they do.

Maybe they will decide, in the end, that it’s too time-consuming and expensive to re-post and go through the whole interviewing process again, so they’ll go with the best candidate they’ve got. Which could be you, IF you are still available (don’t wait, though!).

10. Waiting for a decision from candidate #1. You are candidate #2.

They could have offered the job to someone else and are waiting for that person to accept (or not). Or are in the process of negotiating the job offer with the person. It isn’t over until the person starts the job (sometimes not then, either). If that person doesn’t accept the job—or doesn’t stay very long—you might well be next in line for the job!

Or, you may be completely out of the running, and they don’t contact you because they don’t have the time, technology, or manners required. Or they are afraid of getting sued.

Try not to assume the worst—or the best—until you know for sure, or until several months have passed with no word and no responses to your efforts to get an answer from them.

If it doesn’t work out this time...

Perhaps you felt a “connection” with one or more of the people there and would be interested in that employer if another opportunity developed, ask those folks to connect on LinkedIn (what do you have to lose?), and stay in touch. Perhaps, send them a thank you note for the opportunity to meet them and to learn more about the organization. It can work!

If you worked with a recruiter, send the recruiter an invitation to connect on LinkedIn. Most recruiters welcome all connections, and connecting with them makes you more visible to them and to the recruiters and employers they are connected to as well.

Online job search expert Susan P. Joyce has been editor and publisher of Job-Hunt.org since 1998.

This article was originally published on careercast.com