Editor's note: Inc.com columnist Alison Green answers questions about workplace and management issues--everything from how to deal with a micromanaging boss to how to talk to someone on your team about body odor.
A reader writes:
I am amazed at the number of times companies have stopped communicating during the interview process without explanation. In this era of email, I don't understand why a brief note isn't sent to let a candidate know they are no longer under consideration.
My most recent experience was with a company that flew me, at great expense, out to their HQ on the opposite coast for a round of in-person meetings with company executives after three earlier phone interviews. The hiring manager stated I was on top of his list and that he'd call me on Monday; this was a Friday.
I immediately sent thank-you notes to everyone I had met, yet received no responses. After a week, I left a voice message requesting an update. After 4 more days, I sent an email requesting a status update and including a proposed 30-60-90 day business plan, to which I received a brief email thank you and a promise of a call within two days. This was more than two weeks ago and I haven't heard anything.
I've heard similar stories from friends also in the market. What am I expected to do now?
Companies leaving candidates hanging like this is increasingly common, and you're right that it's inexcusably rude. It's just not that hard to tell candidates where their application stands, in every case but especially when someone has taken the time to come in for an interview. And to ignore you when you're explicitly asking for a status update is beyond rude.
I would try one more time, and I would be more explicit, saying something like, "Would you let me know when you expect to be making a decision? I'm extremely interested in the position, but I'm talking with other companies as well so would love to have a better sense of your timeline."
But as soon as you send that message, move on mentally. Assume that you didn't get the job and let it be a pleasant surprise if they do get back to you. But at least this way, you won't be sitting around wondering when you'll hear something or if you'll hear something.
As for what companies are thinking when they do this to people, typically one of the following four reasons is in play.
1. They're moving more slowly than expected and haven't ruled you out, but for some reason they don't think they need to get back to you until they have something definite to report.
Sometimes this is because something specific has happened to hold up the decision -- the decision-maker is out of town, a budget question needs to be ironed out, someone else on the team quits and that position becomes a higher priority -- and sometimes it's just that hiring always takes longer than people expect it to. But regardless of the specifics here, it's rude not to get back to you when they said they would, and even ruder to ignore your requests for an update.
2. They have ruled you out and now don't think they need to bother spending the time responding to you.
Some employers who operate this way have convinced themselves that it would take too much time to get back to everyone; this doesn't hold water, since plenty of companies, both big and small, manage to do it without hardship. Moreover, candidates have often invested significant time in the hiring process -- taking time off work, researching the company, possibly traveling, and deserve the one minute it would take to tell them where their candidacy stands. Not bothering to do that is rude, inconsiderate, and short-sighted (since you may tell others how they treated you or they may be more interested in hiring you in the future).
3. They are completely disorganized.
In this case, they may truly mean to get back to you, but they operate in chaos and so it just doesn't happen. Obviously, this probably isn't a place you'd want to work, in addition to its being rude and inconsiderate.
4. There is a small outside chance that there's a more innocuous explanation.
It's always possible that the hiring manager has been unexpectedly out of the office to deal with a personal emergency and will respond to you when she returns. That's why it's worth that one final try ... but then write them off and focus on places that treat people politely.
Want to submit a question of your own? Send it to email@example.com.