When your future is on the line, waiting longer than you expect after an interview can make you doubt yourself in all sorts of unexpected ways.
Most candidates will understand the value of asking for a timescale to hear back after the interview, but there are countless reasons why an employer may not be able to meet that deadline. From their point of view, critical hiring decisions should not be rushed.
When the date for interview decisions whooshes by, most normal candidates can start to feel a little twitchy. Why haven’t they heard? Has someone else been offered the job and they’re just going through the motions before the final approval? Is the job still live? Is it normal for it to take this long? Aaaargh….
Let me share a secret with you: there are a whole host of reasons that may lie behind an interview answer being delayed. Most of them have nothing to do with your suitability as a candidate. Few of them would merit an email to chase a response.
In this blog, we will investigate how long it takes to hear back after an interview. Hopefully, we will put your mind at rest that these things sometimes take time. Much as you might not like it. We consider the following:
- How long does it normally take?
- What should you do if you haven’t heard back?
- When is it acceptable to chase?
- 10 good reasons why you haven’t heard yet
- The psychology of patience
How long does it normally take?
There is no definitive answer to this question. It depends on so many factors. If we were to put a number on it, 10-14 days would be a fair estimate in terms of an average.
It is important to ask for a rough timescale at the end of an interview process (if it is your final interview). An alternative might be to ask when you send your interview feedback note, but you risk not hearing back. Hiring managers will know their circumstances and should be able to give you a rough idea.
In the midst of a busy job search, it is important to note down such important details immediately after each interview. The ideal job search will culminate in a couple of job offers arriving at roughly the same time. If an employer expresses a serious interest, you should tell them your timescales. They will take them into consideration.
What should you do if you haven’t heard back?
If it gets to the point that your finger is hovering over the send button on a “just checking” email, pause for a minute to consider whether you truly need to know. Of course, some clarity would be great, but is it worth nagging a potential employer who (for all sorts of reasons) isn’t ready to let you know yet?
Here are a few suggestions on how to handle interview silence.
Check the agreed timescales
A job search is a busy time, so double-check your notes about when you would hear back. Remember the tone that the employer used when telling you when they would let you know. Did they sound sure about the timescales? Did they mention anything else that might impact the timing slipping? A few days or even weeks delay may be normal, for all sorts of reasons.
Get on with your search
The best thing you can do in such a situation is to get on with your search. You might have a (somewhat irrational) fear that your email may have been lost or mistyped, but that is vanishingly unlikely. If the employer has attempted to get in touch with you one way, they will try another method if they do not hear back. Put the possibility of interview feedback to the back of your mind and crack on with your pipeline of other opportunities.
Don’t overthink it
Insecurity can creep into a job search in all sorts of ways. When the lack of response from one employer starts to affect your other opportunities, you can start to question all sorts of things. Ruminating about previous interviews will never end well as you will tend to focus on what could have been better rather than what went well. Park any distracting thoughts.
Be patient - if you can
Patience is a virtue. Imagine you send an email just as the employer is preparing to get in touch. Your impatience won’t change anything. Unless you have a pressing reason to speed up the process (if you have another offer), there is no good reason to give in to impatience.
If you do decide to send an email to enquire about the status of the role, keep any communication brief and professional. Offer a solid reason why you need to hear back. Don’t request an explanation – there may be multiple reasons that could be confidential. The most likely response will be along the lines of “We’ll be ready when we are ready,” so think carefully before sending any email.
Only get in touch if you need to.
While a lost or mistyped email is a somewhat valid concern, the employer will get in touch with you when they are ready, and only then. The only reason to nag is if you have a job offer on the table from another employer. The other parties involved in the job search will want to know about this. If they want to fight for you, they will move heaven and earth to do so. You often only have a few days to respond to a job offer, so if it does look like you are near to receiving an offer from elsewhere, press the button on chasing up your other opportunities.
10 Reasons why you haven’t heard back
We don’t want you to suffer as you wait to hear back after an interview. We really don’t. Here are ten perfectly possible reasons why you haven’t heard back. It could even be a combination of these factors. Read them and put any anxious thoughts to the back of your mind. When the employer is ready to get back in touch, you will hear from them.
- A high volume of applicants. You never know who you are up against in a recruitment process, or where in the process you stand. If there is a high volume of applicants, and especially if new applicants have been introduced at a late stage, there could be a considerable wait until it is decision time.
- Personal reasons. When there are several stakeholders involved in the recruitment process, personal issues for any one of them can cause the decision-making process to stall. Many employers will encourage people to put their personal lives first, so this is a common reason for slight delays in the recruitment process.
- Background checks. While the employer may have talked you through their recruitment process, many will not mention the detail of background checking that goes on. Forensic checks are increasingly carried out on social media, and this will only increase with the development of AI. Employers want all the possible information at their disposal.
- Other interview processes. You are not the only applicant. There will be a few others, all with different circumstances, so the wait may well relate to their issues. Imagine all the ways why your recruitment process may be delayed and then multiply it by four or five. Sometimes you need to sit back and let things work themselves out.
- Organizational change. There will also likely be more than one person involved in the recruitment decision-making process, so if anything changes in the organization there is likely to be disruption. If a stakeholder leaves, recruitment priorities can easily change. Sometimes you just have to be lucky with the timing.
- Decision makers are absent. In our hyper-connected world, this should not be an issue, but as the sanctity of holidays and other time off is typically (rightly) respected, you may well have to wait until everyone is back in the business for a decision to be made. The employer may well have been searching for months – waiting another week won’t be an issue.
- Budget issues. Business circumstances can change overnight. If a recruitment freeze is initiated, no more hiring will take place, no matter where candidates are in their respective recruitment processes. Budgetary issues are usually a nail in the coffin for job offers, but they can sometimes be resolved with a little time and negotiation.
- Workload priorities. Hiring managers have other things on their plate that may take priority over a recruitment decision. This job search may be central to your life but you have to remember that it is just another line on their long to-do list. It is hard to swallow, but it is just a business decision that will be made when the time is right.
- Miscommunication. Finally, the one reason why you might consider getting in touch with them. They may (may) have mistyped your email. The possibilities of this are low as they will have likely corresponded with you before, but you never know. If the deadline for getting in touch has passed (maybe 5-7 days ago), it may be worth a polite mail to ask if all is okay.
- Unforeseen circumstances. You may suggest that all the above are unforeseen circumstances, but there are many other things that may delay a recruitment decision. The point is that a candidate will never truly know what is going on, so just getting on with their other opportunities is by far the healthiest option.
Everyone wants to hear about how they have done the moment they walk out of the interview room. Sadly, that isn’t the reality of the recruitment process. You may be waiting two days or it may be two weeks. The most useful thing that you can do is tell yourself that you are not in control of the timings and that you will hear “when you hear.”
Some employers may ghost you for a while if you are not the first choice - tell yourself that your job is out there waiting for you. Good things come to those that wait.
- Ask the employer for potential timings at the end of the interview.
- Get on with your search and don’t overthink any potential delays.
- Be professional in any correspondence – they do not owe you a swift reply.
- Many of the reasons for the delay will not be in the hiring manager’s control.