How many times has this happened to you? You just had a great job interview, promptly sent a thank you note to the hiring manager, and waited a week, then two, then three to hear back about next steps.

Nothing. 

Sometimes not hearing anything at all can feel even worse than getting a job rejection email. Candidates often assume that they’re being “ghosted” because they weren’t a good fit for the position. But more often than not, it’s not the candidate’s fault that the employer is taking so long to respond. There’s a lot of working behind the scenes that goes into hiring that might take longer than a candidate expects. Rather than refresh your inbox every few minutes, quell some of those job search fears by remembering some of these factors that could delay hearing back from a prospective employer.

People are on vacation or out of the office

Sometimes a key person in the decision-making process is on vacation, sick, or responding to a family emergency. One absent person can hold up the rest of the team from making a decision or sending out an offer letter. This is particularly likely to be the case if the team is small, since it can be difficult to hand off the hiring process to another person who already has their hands full. Keep in mind that we’re also coming into the holiday season where many people are out of the office, so recruitment can take longer than usual. 

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There are a lot of decision-makers who need to weigh in

If you’ve ever had a panel interview or multiple rounds of interviews, you are probably familiar with just how many people can be involved in the recruitment process. Sometimes it’s an issue of getting everyone on the same calendar invite to talk about the different candidates and decide who should get the job offer. Aside from the team that is conducting the search, there could also be logistics and paperwork involved with human resources that will hold up the process. This is why the more information you have about the recruitment process at the outset, the better equipped you will be in case of delays.

Other interviews are taking longer than anticipated

In most cases, employers are interviewing several candidates for a position. While they may have initially scheduled all interviews to take place the same week, chances are that either a candidate or the hiring manager needed to reschedule. One shift in the interview schedule can delay the entire process for other job candidates. In fact, according to Glassdoor, the interview process lasts an average of 22.9 days. Research from MRINetworks also shows that it takes an average of five to six weeks to receive a job offer after the final round of interviews, a time span that has been gradually increasing over the past few years and reflects the complexity of the recruitment process. 

A key employee is leaving the company and the job description is going to change

The position you are interviewing for may not be the only one that needs to be filled. If another employee leaves the company around the same time, the company could be restructuring the department or reimagining different roles as a result. For example, the position you applied for may temporarily absorb some of the other employee’s duties until a replacement can be found for him/her, too. This doesn’t necessarily mean you are out of the running, but it might take longer for the company to extend an offer or let you know that the position is on hold. 

Other company projects are taking priority

In today’s world, business priorities are constantly changing. Maybe the executive team has just released new strategic goals that require current employees to make new changes to their operations. Maybe it’s the end of the company’s fiscal year and the team is pushing to meet a quota. Or maybe there’s a merger in the works, or a major new software that’s being implemented. The company probably didn’t forget about you, but filling the position might no longer be top of mind. This is where a well-timed follow-up email could work in your favor, especially if you are the only candidate who reaches out.

How to handle getting ghosted

If you suspect that you are getting ghosted by an employer, you don’t have to keep passively waiting for a response. Be proactive! If the hiring manager said they would have an answer for you after a week, it is appropriate to follow up after that amount of time passes. Send an email to the hiring manager to check in on the process and ask if there’s anything else they need from you in the meantime. In any follow-up correspondence, reiterate your interest in the position and ask if they have an updated timeline for their decision. If you still don’t hear anything back after your follow-up email, it’s probably time to move on. No need to spam the hiring manager’s inbox.

Remember, you shouldn’t put your job search on pause just because an employer is taking too long to get back to you. Instead, keep interviewing and searching for the employer that’s the best fit for you. If that uncommunicative employer does eventually respond with good news, you may even find yourself in the lucky position of choosing between two job offers!

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