Waiting to hear back from a company that you interviewed with as to whether or not you got the job is a painstaking process. You find yourself constantly checking your email or looking at your phone to see if you got any communication regarding the position. And when you reach a certain point, you just want to know one way or another.
If you’re reading this blog post, it’s likely that you’re at that phase of the interview process. To help, I’m going to share, from my experience as an interviewer and interviewee, the top signs you didn’t get the job (note that we also have a separate article about the top signs that you did get the job).
1. A change in the pace of follow-up communication
In my experience, a slowing in the pace of follow-up communication is the number one sign that you didn’t get the job. Now, this point only applies if you’ve had at least one or two rounds of interviews to establish the pace at which the company moves but, if you have, a slow down is the speed of communication is a sign that you didn’t get the job.
Let’s say that you had an initial phone screening and, after that call, the HR person follows up with you that same day to connect with the hiring manager. From there, you schedule time with the hiring manager. The interview with the hiring manager goes well and then he or she wants you to meet the CEO and he sends an email connecting you the next business day.
If, after your interview with the CEO, you don’t hear anything back for three – four business days, that’s not a good sign. Up to this point, the company has established that they move quickly after each interview and move you along within a business day. If that stops happening, that may be a sign that you didn’t get the job.
2. A missed deadline on follow-up communication
If a company misses a commitment for when they said they would get back to you, that may be a sign you didn’t get the job. In many cases, a company will set expectations as to the date by which you’ll next hear from them (and if they don’t, you should ask at the end of an interview by when you should expect to hear back).
If the company is interested in you as a candidate, they’ll want to keep you engaged, so will likely hit the deadline they committed to. If they miss their deadline, it could be a sign that they’re looking at other candidates more seriously.
To test the waters on this one, feel free to follow-up with them after their deadline has past. At that point, they’re likely to respond and give you clarity in one direction or another. If they continue to ghost even after a follow-up, that’s another bad sign about your status for that role.
3. An excessive delay in follow-up communication
Continuing on the timeliness of follow-up communication thread, if there is an excessive delay between your last interview, and when you next hear from the company, that’s a sign you didn’t get the job.
What constitutes an excessive delay? In my experience, I would say that if you haven’t received any sort of follow-up communication with the company since your last correspondence for over a week, that’s probably not a good sign. Note that other sites suggest a similar timeline, with Career Sidekick saying 3 – 10 business days and TopInterview suggesting one – two weeks.
Now, an exception here is if they set expectations with you that you likely won’t hear from them for a while because they need to complete the interview process with other candidates. If this is the case, not hearing from them for a while, as long as it doesn’t go past the timeline they committed to, is fine.
To get a feel for your status as you’re waiting for them to complete the interview process, you can check in with your primary contact periodically, say every week or so. If they respond promptly, take that as a sign that they’re still interested in you. If they don’t respond, but are still within their timeframe, that’s not necessarily a bad sign, but ideally you’d want to see responsiveness on their end.
Why Do Employers Ghost You?
Now, I want to pause in this list and address an obvious question around the whole theme of the timeliness of follow-up communications from a potential employer. The question being, why doesn’t an employer just promptly tell you that you didn’t get the job, rather than drag it out and ghost you? In my experience of interviewing people and being interviewed, there are generally a few possible reasons:
- People are busy
Once a company has decided that you’re not a fit for the role, for better or worse, it’s no longer a priority for them to communicate with you. The priority is for them to fill the role as quickly as they can, and they want to keep things moving along with other candidates, so they’ll put communicating with them on the top of the list.
- Telling candidates that they didn’t get the job is not pleasant
If you’re interviewing with a good company, they’ll want to make sure they communicate the decision that you didn’t get the job in a thoughtful and respectful way, which could take some time. Additionally, as people, we just generally tend to put off things that aren’t enjoyable to do. As a result, that may delay when you hear back from the company.
- The decision may be communicated by somebody other than who you last talked to
In many cases a decision that you didn’t get the job will be communicated by HR, or possibly the hiring manager. Whomever interviewed you most recently will need to connect with that person internally to let them know their thoughts, and then your point of contact at the company will need to communicate the decision to you. That could take some time, and if there are lots of folks interviewing for the role, HR may also want to batch their communication to those that aren’t advancing, which could further contribute to the delay.
- They may have offered somebody else and are waiting to hear back
This video from career strategist Jennifer Brick shares some additional reasons why a company might be ghosting you and what to do about them.
4. Did not give you the chance to ask questions at the end of the interview
Another strong sign that you didn’t get the job is if the interviewer didn’t offer you the chance to ask them questions at the end.
In most every interview, you’ll get the chance to ask your own questions to the interviewer about the job, company, team, etc. Ultimately, if the company is serious about wanting to advance you in the process, they’ll want to do everything they can to make you feel comfortable and excited about joining the team and answering your questions is one of the most basic ways to do that.
So, if they don’t give you the chance to ask any of your questions, there’s a good chance that’s a signal that you’re not advancing in the interview as they did not want to dedicate any further time to the conversation. It’s nothing personal. Remember, people are busy and if they know it’s not a fit, they’re likely just wanting to get back to their day.
5. The interview felt short
If you came away from the interview thinking that the interview felt short or lacked depth, that may be a sign that you didn’t get the job. In my experience, the best interviews often feel like a free flowing conversation. The interviewer asks you a question, you provide an answer, and they come back with follow-up questions, you provide more depth and examples, etc. In fact, they can sometimes goes past the allotted time and even go up to two hours.
If you’re just getting the standard set of interview questions like “tell me about yourself,” or “why do you want to leave your current job” and there’s not much follow-up on your answers and the interview feels short, that’s probably not a great sign.
The biggest exception to this rule that I’ve seen is if there is somebody at the company that is not going to be on your direct team, but is involved in the interview process to give their blessing. For example, a CEO may want to quickly connect to make sure you’re a culture fit. Or if you’re in marketing and will be providing leads to sales, the sales director may be involved in the interview process to make sure they’re comfortable with you. In my experience, those interviews often feel shorter, as those folks are just looking for major red flags, and are trusting the hiring team to do most of the diligence.
6. Did not communicate next steps
As you’re going through an interview process, if the company is interested in you, they’ll want to keep you engaged and moving along the process. They should be communicating regularly, letting you know of next steps, and setting expectations.
So if you get out of an interview and they didn’t communicate the next steps in the process at all, it’s likely that you won’t be continuing on.
7. Your gut tells you that you didn’t get the job
The last sign that you didn’t get the job is an important one, and that’s your gut feel. We as people tend to be very good at reading others – noticing cues in body language, tone of voice, conversation, etc. Whether it’s conscious or not, we’ll pick up on those indicators and internalize them to give us a gut feel as to how engaged the interviewer(s) was. If you come away with it and your gut tells you that it didn’t go well, chances are stronger than not that you’re right.
Now, we do need to balance that with our natural tendency as people to be overly critical and negative towards ourselves, and if you’re guilty of that, keep that in mind as you’re evaluating the interview. However, if you’re able to take a fairly unbiased look at what happened, and your gut is telling the interview wasn’t great, that means you probably didn’t get the job.
Throughout the article, we covered the major signs you didn’t get the job. While not getting a job that you’re excited about can be extremely disappointing, don’t take it as a negative statement about you. There are many cases when you don’t get a job because you don’t have all of the experience that a company is looking for, and that’s ok. In fact, it could be a good thing that you didn’t get it. Ultimately, you want to find something that is going to be a fit for both you and the company and you’ll want to enter into a role where you have a good chance at success.
So keep your head up, march on, and continue your search for the right job offer.