The Real Reasons Why You Didn’t Get the Job

Ghosting isn’t just a modern dating problem. It’s happening in the workplace, too. Usually it goes down like this: You meet someone in person, via email, or telephone. All signs point to a successful outing, until suddenly one person stops all communication, leaving the other to scratch their head in confusion and disbelief.

Anyone who’s gone on a job interview might be familiar with this phenomenon. Even after a seemingly flawless interview, job seekers often say they’ve been left in the dark about their candidate status. Making the shift from proactive job seeker to patient candidate is tough. The “hurry up and wait” mantra is likely the last thing on your mind when you feel you’re the best fit for the role.

Unfortunately, there are many reasons why you’ve been professionally ghosted after an interview — and none of them are good. Recruiters and hiring managers are a busy bunch, but they’re also smart. Sometimes ceasing all contact with a candidate they’re not going to hire is the easiest way out. Other times, their vow of silence is a result of something you did. We’ll provide some insight into why you haven’t been contacted after an interview and what you can do to avoid it moving forward.

1. They’re too busy

woman looking at her watch in waiting room

Busy recruiters won’t always respond to you after an interview. | iStock.com/Meinzahn

We’ll start with the most obvious one. Sometimes there simply aren’t enough hours in the day to accomplish the entire to-do list. Most recruiters don’t intentionally ghost people — hopefully. Just like you’re drowning in paperwork and calendar alerts at your office, recruiters and hiring managers are inundated with candidates. This is why you don’t receive a response after every interview.

But it’s the eager beavers who have the best chance at follow-up communication. Here’s how you do it.

Don’t be afraid to make the first move

Man browsing internet on his phone

Applicants must initiative conversation to receive a follow-up. | iStock.com/BartekSzewczyk

You should always be the first to initiate conversation after an interview. When companies are busy fighting fires, it’s easiest to pay attention to the lowest hanging fruit and the strongest flames. Be that fiery flame by following up in a timely manner. It’s best to send a “thank you for your time” email or leave a quick voicemail within 24 hours of your first interview.

But make sure you reach out to the right person via the appropriate medium. LinkedIn career expert Catherine Fisher tells CNBC building real relationships with the right people can help avoid pesky ghosters in the first place. “Make sure you’re reaching out to the right person, taking a look to make sure that you’re contacting a person in your area or department of interest, not just randomly clicking on people to reach out to because you’re interested in the company,” Fisher said.

Next: Things at headquarters might be a little crazy.

2. The hiring timeline hit a snag

busy people

Sometimes things are beyond your control. | iStock.com

Things happen, and the hiring process doesn’t always go as smooth as intended. The latest financial reports might be forcing restructures, the position might be getting redefined, or the person who must sign off on you is out of town. And though recruiters should be attempting regular communication with their candidates, this isn’t Disney World and things aren’t always that perfect.

You probably won’t be told exactly what’s happening, but there are ways you can look out for No. 1 in the meantime.

Don’t pause your job search

woman using a laptop

Always continue with the search until your new job is guaranteed. | iStock.com/maurusone

Employers almost always need more time to hire an employee than they believe they will. So remember no news is not bad news. Continue with your job search as planned, and keep the momentum in full swing. Until you sign a job offer with an actual start date and the right salary, you don’t have a job. Do yourself a favor, and avoid temptations to pause your search in hopes of good news.

Next: Employers are hedging their bets with other candidates.

3. You’re candidate No. 2

sad man

You might be getting placed on the back burner. | 20th Century Fox

You could be left waiting for a response if you’ve been placed on the back burner. Yes, it’s absolutely probable you won them over during your job interview, but it’s also likely someone else came in and charmed the pants right off the hiring team after you. It’s an unfortunate set of circumstances having someone else be a bit more alluring than you, but hey, the world can be a cruel place.

In this case, you’ve officially become candidate No. 2 and are being left to fester until candidate No. 1 either accepts or rejects their job offer. But here’s what you do in the meantime.

Connect with these people elsewhere

woman using smartphone in cafe

Make every attempt to connect with a person. | iStock.com/anyaberkut

It ain’t over till it’s over. If the preferred candidate doesn’t accept the job — or doesn’t stay very long — you might be next in line. Attempt to reach out to the hiring team via LinkedIn or Twitter to stay in touch. Thank them for their time, and ask them to keep you in mind for future opportunities with the company.

In today’s online world, it’s easy to stay connected professionally, and there’s no harm in reaching out every six months or so to check in. Recruiters welcome job seekers to connect on LinkedIn, so don’t forget to send that invite before they forget who you are.

Next: It’s not you, it’s them.

4. Their recruiting system is completely broken

concerned man

The lack of communication might be an internal problem. | Columbia Pictures

Another reason why you could be getting zero responses after an interview is because of a broken recruitment system. For instance, they could be blissfully unaware that their applicant-tracking software hasn’t alerted you to their rejection response. Or other key decision-makers might have been fired or out of office for an extended period, and they’re simply trying to keep their head above water.

Either way, when there’s a breakdown in the hiring process, the candidates are usually the last to know. Here’s what you should know.

Take a hint: You dodged a bullet

smiling woman in red

Be happy: You might have dodged a bullet. | iStock.com/SanneBerg

Without any type of response at all, it’s hard to know whether the broken system is the real reason for your radio silence. If you do receive a response weeks later and it’s full of vague excuses, breathe a sigh of relief.

You probably dodged a bullet working with a company that can’t get enough ducks in a row to persuade quality candidates to join their teams. Any company that hasn’t audited its recruiting process to catch potentially dangerous snags in the system is probably not a place where you’ll shine anyway.

Next: A major reason recruiters avoid you and how you can combat it

5. You were too eager

Shocked and surprised boy on the internet with laptop computer

Overeager applicants can scare hiring managers. | iStock.com/BrianAJackson

Just like in dating, seeming too eager can be off-putting to people who are still undecided about your future with them. You might think showing extreme interest in your future company will bode well for your chances, but coming on too strong after the interview will actually make you a less desirable candidate.

Instead of activating internal warning signs by looking too anxious to leave your current role, dial it back a bit by following a few unspoken job search rules.

Don’t work against yourself

man with application

Avoid being too eager. | Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

To avoid coming across as too eager and needy, you must play the follow-up game correctly. Yes, absolutely respond to a job interview invitation in a timely manner. But after the interview, avoid the risk of excess communication. The biggest danger of too much communication? Surrendering your negotiation power.

Career expert Sara McCord tells The Muse, “If you put too fine a point on wanting to work at this company more than anything in the world, then the company may offer you a lower salary than a candidate it’s trying to entice.” Instead, follow up with your standard “thank you” note first and then again after the given hiring timeline if you haven’t heard back from the company already.

Next: We’re addressing the elephant in the room.

6. You were wrong

two men waiting for interview

How sure are you that you made the right impression? | Columbia Pictures

Not to be the bad guy in this situation, but maybe they didn’t really like you. It’s easy to forget your interviewers are people, too. So though you might feel like you stole the show, your recruiter might have found your vibe to be a bit too rude or even slightly awkward. It’s quite possible you talked too much or completely missed the silent social cues among the nerves. It happens. Yes, the job might be interesting, but you also don’t want to work for a company that’s not a right culture fit.

On the other hand, maybe they did like you until you self-sabotaged. To avoid such an unfortunate turn of events, it’s best to take proactive action against any potential roadblocks.

Don’t sabotage yourself

Job interview

It could be that you’re self-sabotaging your own job search. | FX

Have you Googled yourself lately? What shows up? Hopefully it’s just your LinkedIn profile and a harmless yellow pages blurb. But if you know that minor run-in with the law from spring break 2007 is ready and waiting on page one of the search results, you need to plan how to acknowledge that issue. Otherwise, it looks like a secret you attempted to hide.

Also, double check that your references still exist — and actually like you. Paul Barada, a career expert from Monster.com, writes, “Getting permission from those you hope to list as references is also critical. Not only is it the courteous thing to do, but it will also help ensure they will talk to a prospective employer. After all, they’ll be expecting the call.” So before any job search begins, ensure all contact information is correct and that they’re still willing to speak on your behalf.

Next: The brutally honest reason you’re being ghosted

7. You didn’t get the job

men interviewing

They might not reach out if you didn’t get the job. | HBO

Perhaps the most obvious and most disappointing reason you’re not hearing back from anyone after an interview is because you didn’t get the job. Moving forward with the chosen candidate takes priority, and you’re left in the dark. Even if they’ve hired internally, writing an email saying, “Thank you for your interest in our open position these last few weeks, but we’ve decided to hire from within,” is never a fun one for recruiters to send.

But you might still have a shot. Until you receive a definitive yes or no answer, the game is still in motion. But it’s tough to get the real story. Here’s what you should do.

Follow up one last time, and don’t lose hope

woman having job interview

Follow up after an interview twice. | iStock.com

If you’re smart, you inquired about the proposed hiring timeline before leaving your interview. They said they’ll make a decision within three weeks. Use your judgement here. If three weeks have come and gone, you probably didn’t land the position and should begin to move on. If that threshold is approaching, one last email inquiry is warranted.

But this time, ask flat out whether a more suitable candidate has already been chosen. Your first follow-up was a generic “thank you” statement, which doesn’t always warrant a response from recruiters who are busy putting out fires. If you ask a direct question, your email has a higher chance of being answered.

 Next: Sometimes you did the ghosting and must repair the damage.

8. You did the ghosting

men looking for ghosts

Sometimes you’re the one doing the ghosting. | Columbia Pictures

If we’re being honest here, you too might have been a ghoster at one time or another. We get it; no one’s perfect. It’s definitely easier to cut all ties with a company rather than explain why you’ve decided to move forward with your search elsewhere. But that would be the wrong thing to do. If you want a chance to consider other opportunities later on, you must keep your professional cool.

It’s better late than never

businessman using internet on smartphone

Late communication is better than no communication. | iStock.com/anyaberkut

It’s worthwhile to inform a recruiter you are either continuing to interview and they’re still in consideration, or you’ve decided to go a different direction entirely. Not only will they appreciate your honesty, but you’ve saved everyone time while also leaving things on a positive note. Employees, especially recruiters, understand a constantly evolving job search, and they’ll appreciate your professional courtesy.

Next: If nothing else, remember this one key thing about professional ghosting.

Final thoughts

sign board saying 'Dream Job This Way'

Don’t ignore the apparent red flags during the job search. | iStock.com

Sometimes you’ve done all you can, and it just doesn’t pan out. Instead of wallowing in self-pity as the job clock resets yet again, remember this: Interviewing for a new job with a new company is a two-way street. Not only are they interviewing you for a culture fit, you’re interviewing them, as well.

Even the most dire of job searchers must not ignore red flags. Trust your initial gut feeling about how a company communicates with you. A company that really wants you will follow up and keep pushing the hiring process forward. To all others, we say good riddance.

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