Before I became a recruiter, I nitpicked every move I made during the interview process. In one instance, I spent 30 minutes drafting a thank you note to the hiring manager. Then, when I didn’t hear back immediately, I spent hours trying to identify where I must’ve gone wrong.

Was my thank you note too personal? Or worse, not personal enough?

Did she look at my resume again and realize she made a mistake in even interviewing me?

Did he hate the outfit I wore?

I could go on and on rehashing the reasons why I felt I wasn’t hearing back that night. But when the tables turned and recruiting became my full-time job, I quickly realized that I had driven myself crazy over the resume black hole for reasons that were far from reality.

If you’ve found yourself rattling off the ways you’ve ruined your chances at landing your dream job, here are three actual reasons I was slow to respond to good candidates about where they stood.

1. Sometimes There Were a Lot of Cooks in the Kitchen

I have a feeling that one of the most frustrating emails any senior-level candidate ever received from me went something like this:

Dear Candidate,

Thank you so much for coming in to discuss X role the other day. We are still determining a few things on our end, but I’ll be sure to check in as soon as I know more about next steps. Please let me know if you have any questions in the meantime.

If I were the one receiving that note, I’d assume I was getting the run around. But, being the person who actually sent those emails, I can tell you that I was, in fact, determining next steps. Senior-level roles are especially nerve-racking for a recruiter because the person who takes the job has a huge impact on the overall direction of your organization. That’s no secret. And, because those roles are so important, more people in an organization need to sign off and be available to meet with candidates. Unsurprisingly, executives have trouble finding time for interviews. And, because they’re busy, you find yourself waiting to hear back about your application for a little while longer than you anticipated.

For those of you who have been in a similar holding pattern, consider yourself to be in the running until you receive an email that indicates otherwise. If you were a senior-level candidate who got a little too much radio silence from yours truly, you should know I was actually fearful you’d take another job while you waited to hear from me, so stay positive.

2. Sometimes I Was Just in Interviews All Day

It’s not something I’m proud of, but it was a reality.

I can still see my calendar on those days: back-to-back-to-back-to-back interviews, with an additional meeting or two sprinkled in (sometimes I even had to miss those meetings). I did my best to stay on top of my inbox, especially when I knew I needed to follow up with a candidate I really liked, but there were some nights where I said to myself, “It’s late and I haven’t had dinner yet. I’m going to have to take care of this tomorrow morning.” Just like you, I needed to take a break from the job and put off a few emails until the morning.

Trust me: Recruiters know when they’ve got a great candidate on their hands, but sometimes they get pulled in a million different directions. If you’re feeling timid about following up, be brave and send a quick (but friendly) email. In fact, there are plenty of times where a person simply needs a gentle reminder to find a time for you to come back in for another interview.

3. Sometimes We Were Figuring Out the Nitty-Gritty Details

Radio silence is never fun, but on more than one occasion, I found myself playing ping-pong with a number of different departments to determine how much we could afford to pay a candidate. Naturally, this forced me to send a number of emails like the one we discussed earlier. I knew how frustrating that must’ve been for our top candidates, but it would’ve been completely unprofessional of me to send them a note to say, “Sorry for the delay! We are currently figuring out how much money we want to offer you! Hang tight!”

Or, other times we were trying to decide on what kind of take-home assignment made the most sense for us to ask a candidate to complete. In the all too frequent instance that the assignment we had given other candidates was no longer relevant, we had to scramble to come up with something fresh. And that usually took us quite a bit of time.

Of course, there will be times when you don’t hear back immediately because you’re not the right fit for the job. But if you’re in the later stages of the interview process, don’t be surprised if you find yourself waiting on a hiring manager because she’s figuring out a few additional details. Or, even better, if she’s determining how much money she’s going to have to offer you to make sure you join her team.

I completely empathize with anyone who has ever tried rationalizing why a recruiter hasn’t responded immediately. Before you drive yourself crazy with a long list of your own reasons, remember that recruiters want you to be awesome and don’t want, or have time, to play games with you. I know, it’s frustrating to have to wait, but the reasons behind any delay in communication are (more often that not) in no way personal. So, take a deep breath, stop refreshing your inbox, and let us remind you that you are awesome.

Photo of man waiting courtesy of Shutterstock.

Updated 6/19/2020