When it comes to the interview process, there are pretty much three realities:
- You get an offer.
- You don’t get an offer.
- You spend an insane amount of time waiting to hear if you’ll get an offer.
Unfortunately for many people, the last scenario’s the most oft-faced reality—and the cause of a lot of stress and anxiety.
Even though most companies will say the interview-to-offer timeline is somewhere between two to four weeks, one thing the average applicant can tell you is that it almost always takes much longer.
After spending weeks trying to just get your foot in the door, this can be confusing and frustrating. It’s especially stressful if you’re pretty sure you nailed the interview.
So why is it that even when you’re given a date, people rarely get back to you when they say they will? Is there a secret code that says keeping you in limbo is a best practice? Or are there, perhaps, uncontrollable circumstances preventing them from at least giving you an update?
As an HR “insider,” I’d like to peel back the curtain for a moment and let you in on exactly what’s going on behind-the-scenes after you’ve wrapped up that final interview round.
1. They’re Interviewing Other Candidates
It’s not easy to think about, but you’re not the only person interviewing for the position. For every job that’s posted, there are an average of 200 to 250 applicants. With approximately four to six candidates invited in, and each going through two to three rounds, the process can take a long time. Recruiters typically meet with all potential fits before communicating a final decision. If you end up being one of the first people brought in, that means you’ll have to wait until all the interviews are done before anyone’s able to a) make a decision, and b) notify you of said decision.
2. They’re Collecting Feedback From Every Interviewer
A critical factor in making a final decision depends on gathering feedback on every candidate who’s gone through the process. Even if the first person you interviewed with all but offered you the position right there on the spot, usually the other interviewers need to weigh in, too.
Depending on the company, the process could be as simple as each person sending an email with a brief summary of the conversation along with a hiring recommendation, or it could be as involved as filling out a questionnaire that asks involved parties to measure each candidate across specific competencies, assign a rating, and provide supporting commentary or documentation. Even if the collection process is on the simpler end of the spectrum, there's still a level of coordination and consolidation, and that takes time.
In an ideal world—where no one gets sick, has a family emergency, or goes on vacation—collecting feedback can easily take a couple of weeks, so when you add in any one of these variables, the lag time can become considerably longer.
3. They’re Dealing With Fire Drills
In addition to being a key player in the interview process, the hiring manager probably also has a day job he’s got to stay on top of. Although making a decision on the status of your candidacy is an important item on his to-do list, when there's an unrelated pressing issue or an urgent request that needs to be addressed, it's not uncommon for the process to be delayed significantly.
4. They Really Haven’t Made a Decision Yet
Sometimes when you’re told that a final decision hasn’t been made yet, you need to take this information at face value. The process of recruiting, hiring, and onboarding a new employee is a costly one, both in terms of time and money, so it’s in the organization’s best interest to be 100% certain of its choice before any offers are extended. The last thing anyone wants is to hire someone who ends of quitting a few months later, or, worse who must be let go when things don’t pan out.
5. They Aren’t Offering You the Job
Sometimes, and this is unfortunate, the radio silence is a result of a company failing to notify you that you haven’t been chosen. While this is unfair—especially if you’ve gone through multiple rounds—it actually happens quite a bit. If this is the case, take some time to reflect on what you did well—wrote a killer cover letter, delivered a compelling elevator pitch, impressed them during your first round or two of interviews—and make sure to do more of that as you continue your search.
I know it can feel like time’s standing still while you’re waiting to find out about a job you really want, but instead of driving yourself nuts by hitting the refresh button on your email every 30 seconds, take a moment to consider the many parts of the process—the ones that are completely out of your control—that could be causing the delay.
A good piece of advice is this: Don’t quit your job search until you’ve officially received an offer. In general, if you don’t hear back from the hiring manager two weeks after you were told you’d get a follow up, you can probably assume the company has decided to go with another candidate.
It’s OK to follow-up to try to get direct confirmation that no offer will be made, but don’t dwell on it—or the annoying waiting time. Once you silently acknowledge that it’s obviously their loss, it’s time to cut your losses and move on.