Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Why A Hiring Manager May Not Return Your Calls After An Interview

I have a lot of nice clients.  Candidates always are positive about meeting them.  They are cordial, they are responsive and nod their heads yes a lot when interviewing people.  All candidates who interview with them call me to tell me how much they enjoyed the interview and how much they liked the client.  When I ask them about next steps, they all respond that the person they saw, if they were in HR, said they would be passed on to the hiring manager. If they met with the hiring manager, they were told that they would get them back to meet the next person in the interview cycle.

Except, I often know it will never happen.  

There are some people who just don’t know how to end an interview. So they give good news, which they know that the interviewee wants to hear.  And they do this even when the candidate doesn’t pass muster.
These are just plain nice people and they don’t want to give bad news.  (That is one reason why they pay recruiters; we can be the bad guy and tell the candidate the bad news.)

These people don't return calls or emails; even when they have told the candidate to contact them the next week.  When the call or email is made, there is no response.  The interview seems to have gone into a black hole.

Unfortunately, this leaves the interviewee perplexed and angry. After all, the last thing they heard was that there would be next steps.  And if there is a recruiter involved, candidates often think that we or they have done something wrong.  Candidates often ask me what went wrong or why the person they met would have said that in the first place. There is no real answer. 

In truth, sometimes the company subsequently  meets people who are better qualified or who are a better cultural fit or who they just like more. Sometimes, there are multiple candidates and they decide to limit the number of next interviews.  But very often, these are just nice people who are not trained in interviewing and don’t know how to end things.  I was always taught that it is better to respond and get it off my plate than leaving these people hanging until they give up; but not responding only breeds frustration and anger.

The easiest way to end any interview is by the interviewer simply saying to the candidate, “Thanks for coming in.  I really enjoyed our conversation.  We will get back to you (or your recruiter will get back to you) with next steps as soon as possible.” That is non-committal but polite.  And it is certainly better than raising false expectations.  Of course, this means that the person who made the commitment to "get back" has to do so.

I recently had a client do that to me about one of my candidates.  Even went so far as to tell me that my candidate was the lead candidate.  They told me that for three weeks; I kept calling because they told me that my candidate would go back for further interviews.  Then, they blind-sided me and told me that they had actually hired someone else a week before.  It would have been better for all involved if the candidate had not been kept dangling and hoping for three weeks.

But that is human nature and the recruiting business. 


  1. Unanswered phone calls/emails is, unfortunately, part of the process when job hunting. I'm wondering if there are times when a candidate is being tested for diligent follow-up, or is it most often human nature? If a candidate decides they're being tested, how long should they persist with their follow-up efforts?

    1. Steve: I am afraid that few managers are smart enough to test people as you suggest. There was one, however. I posted about Bob Patton a couple of years ago. Here is the link: http://viewfrommadisonave.blogspot.com/2011/07/when-job-hunting-actions-speak-louder.html. But he was rare.

      I would follow up three or four times over a two week period. If they don't call back after that, you know it is a lost cause.

  2. Good column, except ridiculously non-judgmental about the narcissistic creeps who would rather lie and/or evade people than state a simple truth like "We were very impressed with you but we decided on another candidate this time." Don't dismiss and reinforce outrageous rudeness as "human nature." That normalizes and justifies these god-awful behaviors.

    1. I agree with this. It is so easy just to make a positive and non-commital explanation for why the interviewer selected another candidate. It's a one=minute job that takes zero time and effort, so why not expect more from interviewers?

  3. As a recruiter we always told the truth. No need to burn bridges with potential candidates.

  4. Tks very much for your post.

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  5. I think the job interview process is difficult to begin with, but when interviewers start to treat the interviewees as replaceable tools and machines then the interview process has gotten dehumanizing. I see many interviewers abuse their power to (1) ignore reasonable requests (2) ghost or give the silent treatment (3) string along (4) reject on arbitrary grounds. I agree that the interviewers who further dehumanize the process and the interviewees should be shamed for their methods.

    1. Couldn't agre more. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.


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