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It must be an epidemic. At least five different people have asked me this week,

“What should I do – I haven’t heard back from the recruiter for the job I interviewed with (enter time-frame) ago?”

Ahh, yes. The Suddenly Silent Recruiter following what you thought of, as a stellar interview. One BIG thing to keep in mind, regardless:  If it has been any longer than two weeks (being generous there), without the recruiter at least touching base (and they didn’t let you know ahead of time that there would a significant delay in the process), it’s pretty safe to say that you have not been chosen for that job.

But what does their silence really mean? A lot, to be honest. And most likely, one of these three things.

1. You are not their top candidate. Companies tend to find two candidates that they could “live with” in any given position. There is usually a stand-out, or the preferred top candidate and then a “we can do with that” person. Both are high performers and fully qualified for the job, but one candidate tends to be better “liked” or “fit more within the culture,” and thereby becomes the desired candidate. But the most important thing for the recruiter is to fill the position, while keeping a back-up securely in place… in case the top candidate rejects the offer. You may not be hearing back from the recruiter because they are waiting to hear an acceptance or rejection from another candidate.

  • How do you know this is the case? If you’ve gone through several interviews (at least two in-person interviews), felt as though you hit it off well with the team, had a once engaged recruiter who now is slightly evasive or hard to reach.
  • What should you do? Don’t be discouraged, especially if it’s a position you really want. You should reach out to the recruiter via email, continuing to express your interest in the position and ask for an updated timeline, let them know that you will be continuing on your own job hunt in the meantime, and don’t be pushy.

Email something like: “Hi Sally, Thank you again for coordinating all of my interviews through the recruiting process. I wanted to reach out and let you know that I am still very interested in the position and am curious about what the hiring process time frame is looking like. In the meantime, I will be sure to let you know if another offer comes through as I continue on my search. Please let me know if you or the team needs any additional information/collateral from me, during this process. Best, Job Seeker.”

2. Your recruiter does not like delivering bad news. I hate to say this, but put yourself in the recruiter’s shoes. It is extremely difficult to have to tell qualified (and nice, kind, funny, etc.) candidates that they have not been chosen for the position. And they have to tell no so many people, each day. Sometimes, especially if you connected, they just ignore the “no” pile until they are pushed to do so (as in, a candidate corners them). It can get extremely uncomfortable when a candidate asks for feedback when the recruiter is delivering “the no,” as the feedback they typically receive from the hiring manager is unsuitable to pass along or they disagree with the decision. So instead, they ignore the situation altogether.

  • How do you know this is the case? Most likely you’ve had a good connection with the recruiter throughout the process and then you cannot get a response from them. You may have had an awkward closing meeting during your last interview, or felt something a little off during the process. And above all else, you are not getting a straight answer or suddenly have radio silence.
  • What should you do? If you have already sent an email to the recruiter asking for status and have heard no response, it’s time to move on. One email is sufficient enough following an in-person interview. They know who you are and where you are in the process, so if they are not responding to you, move on. Don’t stalk them, don’t try and ask for any type of feedback or what went wrong at this point, just move on and keep applying elsewhere.

3. The hiring manager is dragging his/her feet. This is often the case, and unfortunately out of the hands of the recruiter. It’s hard to share any news, when the recruiter doesn’t have any to share… especially when someone else is holding up the process. A good recruiter will continue to keep in contact with you if you are a strong candidate, it’s called “keeping you hot,” regardless of the delays.

  • How do you know this is the case? The recruiter is reaching out to you or responding to your emails, but there is no real information included. They are trying to push out the hiring timeline, but not giving you specifics or any new information about the process.
  • What should you do? It can be very frustrating, but if it’s a job that you are very interested in, hang tight (while continuing your search at other companies). It is usually not a reflection of how strong of a candidate you are (or not), but more about the hiring manager’s decision making process or potential budget issues. Be sure to keep the conversation going with the recruiter until he/she provides additional details.

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