What To Do When the Company is Just Not That Into You – Ask HR Bartender

by Sharlyn Lauby on August 14, 2012

Today’s question is a common dilemma when you’re in the job market. It’s about how much to follow-up after an interview.

Last month, I had a phone interview with the hiring manager for a consulting firm and they were very interested. The next day, HR called to let me know that they were very impressed and, since the position I was interviewing for was in a new branch office, it would take some time to figure out the exact role I would be offered. Everything seemed great!

Fast forward 4 weeks later: It seemed like a long time, so I first sent a follow-up email to HR and received no reply. The next week, I sent an email to the hiring manager. He immediately sent a reply saying, “I’ve sent a note to HR to follow-up.”

That’s it. Not a word more. I really find it tough to interpret this one line. Does this mean I’m rejected? Or does it mean I’m still being considered?

I written before about interview follow-up so, to offer some different perspectives, I reached out to a few colleagues for their take on the situation. Dawn Hrdlica-Burke is vice president of people at Daxko, a provider of software and services for membership-based nonprofits. She is a regular contributor for Fistful of Talent, a featured blog on Workforce Management Magazine Online, as well as her own blog, HR Insomniac.

interview, job interview, job, follow up, follow-up, candidates, job candidates, Dawn HR Rocks[Dawn’s response] These situations are sometimes difficult to navigate, and although one would think there is a cookie-cutter answer, there simply isn’t one.  There is a very real “tipping-point” recruiters hit where a candidate goes from “promising” to “annoying as hell”.  It may not be fair, but it just is.

To get to the meat of the matter, at this point “they’re just not into you”.  Stop reaching out.  Stop any more mental energy on this company.  Move on to other opportunities.  Your instinct seems to be pulling you to that conclusion.  Your instinct is correct.  After an interview, a 4 week wait with no response, follow up emails, confusing responses between you, HR and the hiring manager and still no answers, you need to break-up with them.

Have faith and respect for yourself.  Candidates deserve a good candidate experience. Any company that doesn’t appropriately disengage candidates is likely not worth working for in the first place.  That could be an indicator that other practices aren’t good either.

Dawn’s take-aways:

  • At the end of every interview ask the interviewer when would be an appropriate time to follow up.  That is completely acceptable.
  • You were very patient to wait 4 weeks to follow up.  In this case it would have been OK to touch base after 2.  The longer you wait, the less “top-of-mind” you become. 
  • A follow up email was appropriate.  In addition I think a follow up phone call would be OK too.  Only if sent on the same day. 
  • When you have followed up once, unless told it is OK to follow up again, stop.
  • Don’t put all of your eggs in one basket.  Ever.  Ever.  There are too many factors outside of your control in a hiring process.  For example:  the position may be on hold, a new candidate may have surfaced, the position has been cut due to budgets.  As taxing as it may be, never stop your job search with the high-hopes of a possible opportunity.
  • Don’t make excuses in your mind of all the reasons why a company may not be calling you.  If they aren’t calling you, then they aren’t interested.

Kirby Cole is a self-proclaimed human resource and recruiting nerd. He works at Javelin, a full service marketing agency based in Dallas. Be sure to check out his blog at stlrecruiter.com.

interview, job interview, job, follow up, follow-up, candidates, job candidates, Kirby Cole[Kirby’s response] This is a situation that seems to pop up regularly. At this point, I see several red flags that make me think it’s time to mentally move on from this one.  If the company gets it together down the road and calls, then it’s the candidate’s decision whether or not this is the kind of company he/she wants to work for.

The first red flag I see is “new branch office” and “figure out the exact role”. This could mean there never was a position.  This could mean the position has changed.  This could mean they are still trying to get the position defined.  This could mean a lot of things.  Any time I talk to candidates about new, potential, or changing positions I try to let them know that things can change on a dime and nothing is guaranteed.  Unfortunately, HR didn’t appear to do that in this situation.

The second red flag is the obvious delay after the initial feedback.  It might take a month to hire someone, but it shouldn’t take a month to give someone a quick heads up regarding the delay.  Everyone involved knows it has been four weeks, and I bet the HR person is embarrassed.

The third red flag is the response of the hiring manager.  I suspect if this position was moving in a positive direction he would have given some sort of indication.  If nothing else, he would have tipped his hat at his displeasure in the time it was taking to get this done.  Nothing but “HR will follow up” is, in my opinion, not a good sign.

I think it’s safe to say something had caused this company to change its mind, at least in the short term.  I could be completely wrong because sometimes you just never know.  It is time for this candidate to evaluate this company to determine if this is really a place he/she would want to work if they were to call back in a week or two.  If so, awesome.  If not, that’s awesome too.

In this particular situation, the candidate might send one last email in to the hiring manager and HR saying he/she appreciates the time and consideration but, if there’s no feedback positive or negative by X date, the candidate will no longer be considering this company as a potential employer.  If the candidate hears nothing back from anyone it’s safe to say it was a no anyways.  If the hiring manager really was “into you” this might be the kick needed to get the position figured out.  At this point it doesn’t seem like there is a lot to lose.  The other great thing about this tactic is that it actually gives the JOB SEEKER the POWER to walk away head held high and close the door on the employer as opposed to the other way around.

Kirby’s take-aways:

  • Sometimes companies change what they’re looking for in the middle of the recruiting process. (Yes, it’s true!)
  • What human resources and hiring managers don’t say can be just as insightful as what they do say.
  • Candidates should evaluate how they are treated during the recruiting process.
  • Be prepared to walk away if the opportunity doesn’t seem right.

Last but certainly not least, I wanted to share the POV of an external recruiter. Because you might be thinking their viewpoints could differ. Recruiting Animal (yes, I think that’s his real name), is an expert on resumes, job-hunting and social media. He’s the host of the number one call-in radio show on recruiting (you can listen in every Wednesday at noon Eastern).

interview, job interview, job, follow up, follow-up, candidates, job candidates, Recruiting Animal[Animal’s response] My guess is that this person is a goner. Four weeks with no reply and the hiring manager just passes her off to someone else. It doesn’t suggest that they’re eager to keep her interested.

However, some companies are kooky. I had a candidate who was surely the only one of her kind available in the country at the time. She lived in Vancouver and the job was 3000 miles away in Toronto. She was scheduled to go to Ottawa to write a test for a professional designation and she was willing to stop in Toronto on the way, to interview.

Unfortunately, the company had a policy that all candidates had to be interviewed by three people and only two were available on the day she would be in town — so they passed on her.

How stupid is that? There was no one else like her around.

However before showing a lack of urgency about my candidate, the company indicated an interest in the person. This company hasn’t shown any interest at all so my guess is that there isn’t any.

For this reader, psychologically, I would write this off. However I would call HR every 4 working days and leave a voicemail telling them you’re interested. Yes, you might look desperate and yes, you might be bugging them but so what, you’ve got nothing to lose.

By the way, my stupid client ended up hiring my candidate next time she was in town because they were able to get all of the necessary interviewers assembled at that time. What jerks.

Animal’s take-aways:

  • Organizations often have rules they need to follow during the recruiting process. It has nothing to do with the quality of the candidate.
  • Consider your actions – when you have something to lose AND when you have nothing to lose.
  • Reach out to your social media networks when appropriate for advice and information.

My thanks to Animal, Kirby and Dawn for sharing their experience and expertise. In this situation, it appears the consensus is the reader should focus on other opportunities. But as you can see, it’s a dilemma we’ve all faced – do I call or don’t I? But looking for the signs our experts have shared might make the decision a bit easier.

Got any other thoughts for our reader? Be sure to share them in the comments.

{ 6 comments }

Cory August 14, 2012 at 7:35 am

Great post, Sharlyn! This comes up for me many times throughout the year, in fact, it comes up too much for me throughout the year. I have tried to combat this situation by having an initial consultation with the hiring manager, HR (if needed) and myself (the recruiter). Granted, I’m obsessed with timelines and sticking to the schedule, but knowing what everyone’s expectations are upfront is key. Is there any barriers in the next few weeks that might hold up this process? Anyone going on vacation? Meetings out of town? The last thing I want to tell a potential candidate I am very excited about is when they will hear from someone, and then no one follows up. It’s up to the recruiter to meet with everyone involved and make sure they stick to the established timeline. If anything changes then refocus and report the new timeline to everyone invovled – including the candidate. Most of the time the candidate will be understanding if a snag in the process occurs and you tell them why. This keeps them in the loop and stops them from being “annoying as hell.”

Recruiting Animal August 14, 2012 at 9:18 am

I know you saved the best for last, right? (No offence Kirby and Dawn but just like this job hunter you have to face the facts).

Sharlyn Lauby August 14, 2012 at 4:08 pm

Thanks for sharing Cory! Defining expectations is such an important part of the process. I once worked for a company that loved to interview. It wasn’t unusual for a candidate to have 4-5 interviews before being hired. It was important for me to tell everyone upfront so they didn’t get freaked out by the process.

Thanks for the comment Animal – and contributing to the post. However, I’m going to refrain from playing faves. ha.ha.

George Anders August 15, 2012 at 2:08 pm

This is a classic problem — and I’ve worked for companies (multiple times!) that have behaved just like this. Here’s what’s probably going on behind the curtain.

1. Your original hiring manager is no longer the decision-maker. Maybe he/she never was. Some bigger player that you’ve never met has stepped into the staffing process, with a different agenda. You’re not really on that person’s list. So — bad news — all that early enthusiasm is for naught.

2. That original posting has gone the way of last year’s Christmas tree. Maybe finances just turned south, and the new branch office isn’t going to happen. Maybe there’s a reorg or divestiture coming that upends everything. Your hiring manager’s latest response sounds like what a weary, worried, defensive manager would say. If he’s just trying to ride out trouble, it’s time to stop thinking of this prospect as your bright future.

3. They met a candidate who they think is even more amazing than you, and they’re trying to close with that candidate. Or maybe it’s a flurry of candidates. In a plain-speaking culture, they’d let you know some or all of this. But some cultures get really opaque and just shut down communications any time the message gets complicated.

Some companies approach hiring systematically; others approach it impetuously. Visit Glassdoor.com or one of the other corporate-watercooler sites to see if what’s happening to you is typical for this employer.

And move on.

Sharlyn Lauby August 16, 2012 at 9:45 am

Thanks for sharing George. Your point #1 happens often. There are lots of “behind the scenes” dynamics that the candidate isn’t privy to.

Garry February 5, 2013 at 4:25 pm

You have all sited reasons why this candidate is in this mess. However no one has bit the bullet and said that the recruiter should have emailed the candidate with a reason (even if it’s BS) for not going forward with the position. Period end of conversation. It’s called “Common Courtesy”

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