We’ve all felt the frustration and disappointment of applying for a job, only to see the hiring manager dropping off of the face of the Earth. We get the callback, we get the enthusiasm of a manager talking about our qualifications, and then we hear…nothing.
It doesn’t make sense! Didn’t they like you? When you’re unemployed and bills need to get paid, this silence can feel especially excruciating.
Instead of stewing over these doubts, you can take action. There are better uses of your time than hovering over your inbox or waiting for a call that may never come.
Here’s what you need to understand about why no one is getting back to you and how you should respond.
1. Managers are busy
Don’t take an employer’s silence as an immediate ‘no.’ In general, it’s important to not take an employer’s ambivalence or silence personally. While this job may be taking up all of your brain space, it’s helpful to understand that hiring is one of many jobs managers do — and it’s taking up the majority of their days.
You can make the waiting period less painful by asking for a clear timeframe to hear back during the interview process. After the end of a call or an interview, be sure to ask about when you should expect to hear back. Having a firm deadline will ease your mind. If no deadline was given or if the deadline passes without a response, you’re well within your rights to send a follow-up email after a week.
Remember to frame the follow-up email as a gentle reminder, not as an accusation. Restate your enthusiasm and interest in the role, then ask politely for any updates in the process.
This should all happen in four sentences or less. 40% of emails are opened on a mobile device where only about the first seven words will be read, so have a clear subject line like, ‘Following up on X position.’
2. It’s not you, it’s bureaucracy
There are internal machinations within a company that have nothing to do with you personally, but could be delaying the hiring process.
Budgets can be slashed, hiring freezes can take hold, internal candidates can be vying for your crown, people in hiring positions can get moved or laid off—all of this company drama is unseen to an outsider but it can change an encouraging ‘get in touch with you soon’ into radio silence.
These case studies serve as a sobering reminder to never trust an offer until it’s in writing.
A follow-up email can clarify some of this, but sometimes we have to decide when to cut our losses. Better to move on to the next opportunity than to waste your time wondering what-ifs.
3. Legal issues
There’s a Yiddish proverb that says “no answer is also an answer.” Sometimes a prolonged silence signals something is wrong, because it’s too awkward or rude for companies to take time to tell them the truth.
Sometimes, managers won’t get back in touch with you because they don’t have a clear reason as to why you’re not a cultural fit.
If you really want to know why they passed on you, you can ask for feedback on how you can improve. Make it clear in your feedback request that you won’t take the company to court and that you just want some informational help. Just be aware that some managers will still choose to stay silent because they see this as an opening for litigation.
One unnamed recruiter said that they use silence when they don’t have a good answer: “One reason I wouldn’t get back to someone is if I had to tell them something that they couldn’t ‘fix,’ such as their personality. If I didn’t like them, I’m not going to respond back.”
4. Sometimes, people are just rude
The majority of the time hiring managers are well-meaning, busy individuals, who may not have the bandwidth to respond to each rejection personally and politely. But sometimes there are people who just don’t care.
It’s best to see these actions as a blessing in disguise, as a sign to refocus your energies towards a company that will respond in a timely manner. Bottom-line: if a company really wants you, they’ll find a way to get in touch with you quickly.