Why Is It Taking So Long to Hear Back After an Interview?

Even when you do everything right in your job interview, things can go wrong when it comes to hearing back from the employer in a timely manner. Many job candidates today find themselves either ghosted – where an employer simply doesn’t communicate after a job application has been submitted or an interview has been completed, or “breadcrumbed” – which results in intermittent updates from the employer without any real timeline being set or action being taken on the hire.

Portrait of a puzzled man looking at smart phone, sitting at table at home.

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A new survey from Robert Half verified that both of these trends are indeed in full swing. The research found that one-third of the senior managers surveyed said their company is currently taking more time to hire than in the past, in the hopes that better candidates will come along.

Paul McDonald, senior executive director for Robert Half, shares the following three reasons why it may be taking longer to hear back from employers post-interview. McDonald also shares signs that you are being ghosted or breadcrumbed, and how long you should wait to take action and follow up on your application.

1. The employment market has shifted. McDonald notes that there has been a sudden shift from the candidate-driven market that had prevailed when unemployment was at very low levels to what was being seen as an employer’s market after the start of the pandemic. Due to this perceived shift, McDonald explains that some employers may have felt they could “ease up a bit” on the breakneck speed with which they had been hiring in previous years. “Since the candidate market was so tight for so long, some employers thought they could bide their time looking for the elusive perfect candidate, assuming candidates would wait around for a decision,” he says.

2. Employers are receiving more applications. The Robert Half survey found that this wait-and-see approach may be more warranted than ever on the part of employers, since nearly three-quarters (72%) of senior managers are receiving even more applications for open roles than they did before the COVID-19 era started in early 2020.

“Since some employers found themselves receiving an uptick in applications since the start of the pandemic, it’s possible they kept candidates waiting as they interviewed other potential hires, but this ‘fear of missing out’ factor when it comes to candidates rarely bodes well for either party,” McDonald says.

3. There’s a surplus of talent. More resumes in recruiters’ and hiring managers‘ hands indicates that companies have their pick of candidates, and can afford to hold out for the perfect fit rather than hiring someone who ticks only some of the boxes. This is likely to remain the case until there are fewer qualified candidates on the market, which would create a state of demand on the part of employers.

“We typically see a reversal in breadcrumbing and ghosting behaviors depending on whether there’s a surplus of jobs or talent,” McDonald says. “And with the pandemic hitting when it did, these actions by employers became even more pronounced since they were so contrary to what job seekers have become accustomed to over the past few years.”

Signs That You’re Being Breadcrumbed or Ghosted by an Employer

According to McDonald, being breadcrumbed may feel like a lot like being led on. “The hiring manager or HR contact may be reaching out periodically just to ensure a candidate is aware they are still in the running for the position,” he says. “This may include prolonged efforts like multiple rounds of interviews with different staff members on different days or extended skills testing and projects as part of the interview process.”

Other signs of breadcrumbing may be more subtle, such as following up periodically via phone or email to let you know that while you are still being considered there are internal discussions pending, or that company approvals are still needed in order for a decision to be made. “Basically, anything that extends and lengthens the interview process without giving candidates any concrete information around their chances of getting the job or when they will hear anything concrete,” are signs that you are being breadcrumbed.

McDonald says that ghosting, on the other hand, typically only has one sign: silence. “If an estimated timeline for a decision is provided and after follow-up you still haven’t heard anything from the hiring manager, it’s likely that the employer has moved on,” he explains.

How Long Should You Wait Before Following Up After an Interview?

The best way to know how long the decision-making process for a position is projected to take is to ask the employer directly – while you have their ear at the end of your interview. “After an interview, it’s quite reasonable to ask HR how long it may take to anticipate a decision,” McDonald says. He added that if you didn’t think to do this during your interview, you could ask in the thank-you note that you send afterward. (But keep in mind that if you’re going to be breadcrumbed or ghosted, this behavior may apply to responding to your thank-you note as well.) “Once you have an established timeline, it’s best to wait until that time to follow-up unless something has changed with your status or decision,” McDonald says.

Finally, he advised that after following up once with no response, it’s OK to contact HR one more time – but then consider letting it go. “Express your interest in the position again and let them know that you’d like to move on with your search if they’ve made a decision that hasn’t been communicated yet,” McDonald says. “If you don’t hear back after this communication, unfortunately it may just not be meant to be.”

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