The most frustrating conundrums with job hunting are often related to what you, the job-seeker, cannot control. You can get past the automatic systems screening your résumé, you can answer all the curveball questions an interviewer throws your way, and yet you may still hear nothing back.
The longer this silence lasts, the more time you have to create stories about what that silence could mean. Are they working hard to match your salary? Have they forgotten you exist?
Naming what the problems can be can provide some reassurance about what may be happening. Here are some of the most common reasons you get radio silence from a hiring manager, career experts say:
1. They’re still interviewing.
Before you throw yourself into an anxious tailspin over how the hiring manager must have actually hated you, consider how long has it been since you got a response. If it’s been a week or several, don’t give up. Hiring processes are company-dependent and can take months. Glassdoor, a jobs and recruiting site, found that the average hiring process in the U.S. took 23.8 days based on a 2017 study of over 83,000 interview reviews by the site’s users. Glassdoor calculated that in America, the industries with the biggest hiring delays were government jobs (53.8 days), aerospace and defense jobs (32.6 days) and energy and utilities roles (28.8 days).
Josh Doody, a salary negotiation coach and former hiring manager, said that he has seen the hiring process take months with some of his clients. “Those hiring cycles can take a very long time, especially right now just because there’s so much dynamism in the labor market,” Doody said. “It’s really important to be patient and not to get frustrated.”
2. It’s bureaucracy.
Sometimes, it’s not you, it’s them. Unfortunately, the reason for a hiring delay can be a complete mystery to the job-seeker, but behind closed doors, there may be business actions like hiring freezes, budget shortfalls or reorganizations that stall the decision to hire you.
“Sometimes, we’ll just tell them ‘hiring freeze, budgeting, we can’t hire you.’ Sometimes, we don’t have the luxury to tell them that,” Doody said. “Some companies aren’t comfortable saying that because it could send signals about the health of the company. And so you might hear silence.”
3. You’re being ghosted.
Unfortunately, a hiring manager’s silence can also simply mean that you are not getting the job.
Candidates who do phone interviews may not get a response. “They may just not respond to every person on the phone. Some companies just can’t afford to do that. They don’t have the personnel or the time,” said Phyllis Hartman, founder of the human resources company PGHR Consulting.
But if you have interacted directly with a hiring manager and made the commitment to come in for an interview, a hiring manager should give you the courtesy of letting you know if you got the job or not, Hartman said. “If you’ve spent time taking the time to apply and interview, you deserve the respect of getting some kind of information,” she said.
But sometimes, employers ghost you and you never hear from them again. Too often, candidates end up disappointed with the whole process. More than half of job-seekers say employers are not doing a good job of setting expectations for how hiring interactions will go, according to a 2017 CareerBuilder survey of 4,500 workers.
Doody said he’s not a fan of ghosting. “Unfortunately, sometimes it becomes incumbent upon the candidate to take over that role of being proactive because the culture of the company they’re interviewing with just does not embrace that proactivity,” he said.
Be professional in spite of a lack of professionalism you may be experiencing from a company’s silence. Write polite inquiries reiterating your interest in the job at appropriate intervals. Doody recommends emailing to follow up immediately after your interview. After that, briefly follow up on a weekly or biweekly basis, he said.
If you are getting radio silence, see if there’s someone else who you can contact. “Try following up one last time, perhaps with a different person at the company, in case the person you’ve been trying to contact is unexpectedly out of the office or otherwise indisposed,” said Brie Reynolds, career development manager and coach at job search site FlexJobs.
But if you’ve reiterated your interest without any response, it may be time to move on. If you haven’t heard back in four to six weeks ― and assuming that you’re not in an especially busy or complicated time of year, like the holidays ― you should take that as a sign to let go, Doody said. “The most likely explanation of a 4-6 week refusal to respond to any of your communications is that they’ve decided to go in a different direction and they’re just not going to tell you officially that they’ve done that,” he said.
Instead of worrying, keep applying elsewhere.
Instead of creating a negative story on why a hiring manager has not reached out to you, focus on what is in your control to change.
“I always advise candidates to focus on the things they can control: having a strong interview performance, asking about the timeframe for their hiring decision, emailing personalized thank-you notes to each of the people who interviewed you, and following up if you haven’t heard anything after about a week,” Reynolds said. “This way, you at least know you’ve done everything you could to be a great candidate.“
And in the meantime, keep applying and interviewing elsewhere for your own peace of mind. “Until you have a job offer, you should continue pursuing other opportunities that are in front of you,” Doody said.
“You can’t really know what’s going on, so don’t necessarily give up, but on the other hand, I wouldn’t wait around either,” Hartman said. “I would continue to look because you have no formal commitment with that company.”