In the May 6, 2014 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, a reader wonders what to do while waiting for the job offer:

I went in for an interview and all went great. I met with the personnel manager and the division manager. They called me back in a few days later to meet with the regional manager since he was in town. It also went well. The discussion was more general and laid back. I went back today to take a test.

I am trying not to get too fired up about all of this. But, I have to think that no company would subject an applicant to all of this without leaning toward the hire. When should I expect an offer? I figure that there can’t be much more for me to do than meet with some more top-level managers and take a personality test. Do you agree?

Nick’s Reply

Great expectations can leave you high and dry.

“I have to think that no company would subject an applicant to all of this without leaning toward the hire.”

Never, ever, ever get into this mindset. This is the point where people start to build unreal expectations because they feel they’ve “invested so much.” They’ve been invited back for lots of interviews. Everything “has gone well.” They start to believe the employer is now “heavily invested,” too. They wonder not whether an offer will be made, but how long it will take. The outcome is obvious, right?

Absolutely not.

Twaitinghe truth is, you have no idea what a company’s threshold is for taking action. Some companies will string you along — often unwittingly — for months, then take no action at all. As a headhunter who has dealt with more interviews than any job hunter ever will, I can tell you that most job opportunities go south.

In my experience, there is little correlation between how well the interviews have gone and whether a hire is made. Of course, when the outcome is positive, we can look back and see that everything clicked in the interviews. But much more often we’re left scratching our heads, wondering what went wrong.

For reasons that are usually clear as mud, a seemingly positive interview process often stalls and dies. You never find out why. And you couldn’t have predicted the result.

So what is my point? Manage your expectations so you can manage your job search. Don’t get sucked into foregone conclusions, because that will lead you to waste your time. While you’re counting on that “sure thing,” you’re missing other opportunities. There is no sure thing.

You should do your best with every job opportunity. Follow the process through to the end. Remain motivated and enthusiastic. Ask for feedback as you proceed. (That’s legit and important.)

What can you do to optimize your chances for a job offer? See “Playing hardball with slowpoke employers”, pp. 15-16, in Fearless Job Hunting, Book 8: Play Hardball With Employers.

How to Say It: What should you say to the hiring manager before your job interview ends? This question baffles job hunters, but the answer is simple. Say: “I want this job.” Just four words. If the employer is on the fence, expressing this simple commitment can lead to a job offer.

You’ll find this and more tips in Play Hardball With Employers:

  • Do they owe me feedback after an interview?
  • What’s the secret to the thank-you note?
  • How can I push the hiring decision?
  • Thanks is not enough
  • Get an answer at the end of the interview

But don’t build expectations that distract you from your larger goal. Always have another opportunity on deck because most deals go south.

Don’t let my advice discourage you. Use it to strengthen your strategy. Motivation and a positive attitude are crucial. But never start believing, “I can tell they’re going to make me an offer.” Because you can’t. While you’re waiting for that offer, set the next opportunity in motion. That’s the only way to control your job search.

Where’s the job offer? What holds up job offers? How have you dealt with delays? Is there anything you can do to force a decision to hire you?

: :

  1. I’ve asked this of a number of recruiters, and the story is usually a variation of “can’t get everyone to meet to decide” to “no one wants to take responsibility for a decision,” so the result is that any action is postponed and managers just keep kicking the can down the road – and advertising periodically – until the manager threatens to quit without more support, and THEN finding him or her a warm body finally gets the green light. Trouble is, you’re most likely interviewing at then BEGINNING of this process, so even if the manager likes you and wants to hire you, hands are often tied because higher ups don’t want to move or they’re all still fighting over how much to budget for the position. Bottom line? Most companies make these kinds of decisions AFTER the interview process rather than before (which is when it SHOULD be done to avoid a lot of wasted time on all sides…), and which also means a lot of frustrated waiting and effort on your part with little likelihood of a return on your investment for all the time you put in. But since it’s the only game in town, you just keep playing until something finally comes up.

    Then you get to decide if you really want to take it or if it only looks good after so much fruitless searching…

  2. You’re right-most deals do go south.

    I’m self-employed, partially because of how hiring doesn’t work.

    I’ve been everything from overqualified, too old (I’m 40), not female, not Christian enough, not white enough, too white/not ethnic enough (and implied that , even though I grew up partially on welfare and in a deprived, rough, abusive, neglected environment, I’m racist and privileged just because of my whiteness– apparently treating people like people is not sufficient. I should ‘check my white privilege’)

    [in this last case, the hiring manager was a friend of a friend and implied as much in a drunken state 2 weeks after the interview in a bar –long story…]

    Numerous times, I’ve only had 90-95% of the requisite skill and knowledge keywords on the checklist.

    I get traction/interest based on my résumé and my ability to speak intelligently. Unfortunately, hiring is just too dysfunctional right now, so I ‘go my own way’ and get by on short gigs.

  3. Nick is right on with this article. Companies have their own processes for their own reasons. I had one company that I found out at the end of the process had at least ten steps to the hiring including a meeting with a psychologist which was step 7. At the end of the day, their annual turnover (including over 1,000 factory workers) was 4% or less for the past five years. In their case the process worked. Now I thought after round eight I was in but found out the hard way more than one candidate can be a good fit but only one will be hired

  4. @Nick

    In your experience, since you have a better line of sight, what are the top reasons why jobs fall through like this? And what are some of the top reasons why there are hold ups?

  5. I’ll second the “there is little correlation between how well the interviews have gone and whether a hire is made.” And personally know many four-month plus interview/reinterview processes that ended negatively.

    @Dave, from the employer’s point of view, jobs don’t fall thru. They have, or had, a need for a person. Sometimes that need disappears (reorganization, changing business, budget cuts, promoting from within, etc.). For most “jobs” today, there is a near-infinitude of apparent candidates; at best only one might be hired.

    Taking on an employee is expensive. If it can be avoided, the company is usually more profitable, at least that is the no-thought process..

  6. You are, as usual, Nick, 100% right. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had great first interviews, strong call-backs, even 3rd, 4th, sometimes 5th rounds with a company, and then BOOM. Nothing. Silence.

    I’m like “Some Guy” above – I take all the short gigs I can get my hands on, and am continually throwing new irons in the fire, because you have to. Nothing is certain. Nothing.

    I do have to say that my absolute favorite is what I call the “Stray Rejection Email” – you know, the rejection email you get anywhere from three months to a year (or more) after you’ve applied for a job (and in some cases interviewed, followed up, sent thank you notes – all that good stuff). Yeah, like I’ve been sitting around doing nothing waiting to hear from you. Sigh.

    At that point all you can do is laugh.

  7. Here’s several more reasons job interview processes inexplicably go south. (1) you’ve been robbed by a case of nepotism. At the 11th hour somebody’s cousin, in-law, or out of work family member, shows up on the hiring manager’s radar screen. A collision of interests is unavoidable. (2) You were steamrolled by senior management’s unrealistic expectations. Surely, there are “two-fers out there, people who can do two jobs for the price of one? In this labor market surely we can find one who is unemployed? Actually not. First, there are few “two-fers” and second if there are, they are already working. The result is perfectly capable candidates are shoved aside (3) You’ve been waylaid by bad scheduling by the recruiter. No manager is in good shape to do an interview, or make a hiring decision, on a Friday afternoon. If you get one of those, ask for a better date/time, like Tuesday morning.

  8. @John Franklin: There are two kinds of managers when it comes to hiring. Those who don’t understand their own business. And those who understand it well enough to know when they need to hire someone. I’ve filled jobs by giving the manager just one candidate that the manager quickly judged to be good enough to hire without talking to anyone else. The notion that a manager must “look at a lot of people” is silly – that’s the former manager, who isn’t really sure about the state of his business and who is fearful of making decisions and choices.

    I’ve had client managers give candidates offers at the end of the interview – and I’m not talking about low level jobs. These are the managers a good headhunter loves to work with, because they appreciate the effort the hh goes to to bring them a great candidate.

    I’ve heard all the stories about how hard it is to get managers together to decide, to get HR to do its job, to “look at more candidates,” and so on – it’s all bunk. These are managers who are simply not ready to hire, if they hire at all. They’re kicking tires. They waste applicants’ time, hh’s time, and their own company’s time.

    A manager who really wants to hire and who would like to meet several candidates can do it all in about two days. It’s called scheduling. It’s called focusing on the task at hand. If some of these managers ignored deadlines set by their customers like they ignore their own schedules, they’d get fired.

    Please don’t be so quick to “understand” why hiring takes so long. It’s bunk. The problem isn’t the process. The problem is managers who don’t know what they’re doing.

  9. @Dave: Good questions. See my reply to John Franklin. Others have suggested some reasons why jobs go south. This is all actually a very strong indicator of how healthy a company really is (and I don’t mean just financially). Either it needs to get work done and needs more people to do it, or it just doesn’t know. The default decision for poor managers is to do nothing – if they lose points for doing nothing, it will usually take a long time, and there seems to be no connection to their indecision about hiring.

    A healthy, growing company that’s trying to fill jobs does it quickly. In my experience, hiring practices are highly indicative of how healthy a company really is. Most companies are not very healthy.

  10. @Some guy, @Nancy: I wrote this little article a long time ago about the wisdom of taking short gigs:

  11. I appreciate everyone’s comments and this article. I am in month 8 of my job search and at the high of my job search (month 4) I was being flown all over the country for interviews on a weekly basis. Obviously, most of those didn’t work out and when I did receive an offer, I turned it down thinking that something better was coming up (I ultimately did not want to move to where the job was). Now, my leads have dried up and I am out of money. But I am still not going to give up. dysfunctional is an ideal way to describe the hiring process.

  12. A long time ago I interviewed for a job and was not hired. A few weeks after the interview, I received a letter from the company, thanking me for interviewing for the “XYZ” job and informing me that they had hired someone else. However, I had applied for the “ABC” job, not the “XYZ” job. They couldn’t bother matching my name and address with the job I had been interested in.
    Another time, I applied for a copyediting position with a publishing company. I received a letter, “Dear Ms. McGee, We are sorry that we do not need anyone with your skills at this time.” My last name is NOT McGee; but I do live on McGee Avenue! I almost went back to them to tell them that they did, indeed, need someone with my skills, but I did not.

  13. I thought I had to share my story with you of what happened… it’s rather hilarious:

    Back in 2012 flew me out to Seattle to interview for a job here locally in Detroit. They spent well over $1500 getting me out there, letting me tour the city, on them. I ate at the best restaurants, got taxi rides all over the city, stayed at the downtown Westin that was right in the middle of the action in a, what I thought was, penthouse suite. For the interview I showed up and they mentioned that they don’t have quotas to fill or positions for those non-existent quotas… they just really hire who they think are good. This led me to believe that they actually have needs but they don’t advertise it and they will hire another person for that need if they got a person already only if that next person was exponentially better than the first to have a nice competition for that spot… or something like that. So I went in and I thought the interview went great. After they flew me back to Michigan they let me know a day or two later that I’m not even in the running. Yes, I was disappointed … but man, did I enjoy a free vacation! :-)

  14. @Nick

    Thanks for the reply…

    “A healthy, growing company that’s trying to fill jobs does it quickly. In my experience, hiring practices are highly indicative of how healthy a company really is. Most companies are not very healthy.”

    It seems to me that this makes sense, company knows it needs someone, conducts interviews and hires someone quickly. I also would think a company that gets rejections out quickly are in the same boat.

    I have had interviewers tell me that they have had difficulty finding people for a specific position. After going through their interview process and ensuing waiting game, I can see why.


    “Taking on an employee is expensive. If it can be avoided, the company is usually more profitable, at least that is the no-thought process..”

    I would argue that some companies inflict the expense on themselves. How many interviews/large interview panels/tests/background checks does it take to make a decision? That’s not even including the company then going to a “recruiter” or “head hunter” to find someone because they couldn’t find anyone willing to go through their 4-month process.

    I would also argue that nothing will be done at a company unless they start having a mass exodus of customers, that point to the fact that the company is over worked.

  15. As a hiring manager, I have candidates go through a fairly robust selection process. Recruiting agency, CV review, interview with myself and a team member, 24 hours after the interview they have to turn in a 1 – 2 pg document on their understanding of our company, their understanding of the role they are applying for and why we should select them (note, these are roles that require listening, understanding and writing). Candidates who present a good summary then return for a skills test and finally another interview with the head of the department. Unfortunately candidates may “fall out” at multiple stages in this process for a number of reasons. I fully appreciate the effort candidates invest in a role, but by taking time to find the right fit for the company and position hopefully the candidates that didn’t get the job did so because it wouldn’t have been the right position for them in the end. Had we taken them on they may not have been successful or happy in that role, which is not good for them or the company.
    Not everyone is comfortable or shows their best side during an interview, or is able to show the value they can bring, so a skills test may give a completely different view of the person and their capabilities.
    So far this approach has worked for me, and where possible I do prepare candidates for the process in advance. This means some candidates have walked away at the beginning.
    Hopefully by going through a series of interviews a candidate is also able to do their own assessment of whether this is a company they want to work for. Don’t forget as a candidate that you’re interviewing the company, team and managers you’ll be working with so if their approach doesn’t suit you now, it probably won’t if you work for them.

  16. @Jasper I need to get some of those interviews with the swanky penthouse suites, free flights, best restaurants. Sign me up!!! That was an awesome interview story. Made my day!

  17. I think it is perfectly OK for a company to interview, even if they have no currently open positions. That would create a pool of good candidates ready for when they are needed. Basically extended networking. But, it is OK ONLY if candidates are explained this context up front.

  18. @Karsten –

    While I would like to agree with you in principle, I’ve had far too many negative experiences with companies advertising positions just to get the resumes for their talent pools to think that they could be trusted to be that honest up front. After all, they might say, if we tell people that up front, it might lower our response levels! I’ve had companies call me in for interviews only to find out that they’re just fishing for salary ranges to gauge the position before offering it to someone else. Other companies advertise and bring people in only to tell them up front (if they do at all) that the position is contingent upon winning an upcoming contract. Very few – very, very few, IMHO – are decent and reputable enough to come out up front and even list in the description that the position is a contingent one; most firms I’ve seem don’t even bother.
    So while I’d like to agree with you – and see your point in principle – I don’t think most firms would be this honest, which is unfortunate.

  19. @John Franklin and @Karsten

    I agree. On paper it looks like a good thing. I think Amazon and Google have “continuous” recruitment like this for certain positions. Reason being, if they find someone awesome, they will make a spot for them. Of course, their interview process is brutal, so you’d probably be really smart if you got through.

  20. Oh – one thing I thought of….

    Why don’t you (or anyone else for that matter) post your experiences on Glassdoor?

    I have found myself looking at the company profiles before I go in to interview.

    If enough people say “Look, I had a good vibe at this interview, and then I heard nothing ….” maybe that will “hurt” the perception of the company. In other words, candidates will question you on whether the job exists and how serious you are about hiring beforehand.

  21. @John and Dave;

    Sure, I know the difference between principle and reality here. Been there, been fooled by that myself…

  22. @Dave: Regarding Glassdoor, it can help to have such information, but keep in mind that such sites create what are called “demand characteristics” in psychology research. In other words, they stimulate certain responses (create a demand for them) rather than others, and this skews the results. (That’s a VERY loose explanation of the term. If you’re interested, see

    For example, people who have bad experiences view Glassdoor as a place to vent, so they vent negative feelings. Or they have other reasons. The point is — they post because they have reasons. People who have reasonable experiences with an employer will have no reason to search out Glassdoor and will not post. This skews the sample and creates an image of a company that may attract or repel you.

    Again – information can be helpful, but be careful about what you consider to be a legit portrait of an employer. Sites like Glassdoor sometimes create their own “news” by attracting certain types of posts rather than a fair sampling.

  23. @John Franklin: That’s a nice survey of reasons employers conduct bogus interviews!

  24. Nick,

    I know the market hasn’t quite turned around for job seekers, but I think you might get a laugh out of this link.

    “Candidate control?” Is that a real HR industry term??

    If so, all I can picture is a young mommy holding her son by the neck, finger wagging and lecturing her son and telling him what to do and not do -in no uncertain terms-haha!

  25. Yes, I’ve gone for interviews, then….queue the sound of birds chirping. Nothing. Even my polite phone calls and emails have gone unanswered.

    One time I did call HR, and learned that the job for which I had interviewed wasn’t a job any longer; the company, after interviewing several candidates three times and posting the job again when none of the candidates was a perfect match, they decided not to fill it and planned to post the job vacancy at a later date. I still see that job posted a couple of times per year. That employer, rather than invest in a less than perfect candidate and TRAIN him or her in the areas s/he doesn’t have, would rather let the job go unfilled. There are no purple squirrels; and in the meantime, the employees who have to pick up the slack get burned out.

    Sometimes too, the employer already has someone in mind, but they’re wasting time and going through the motions of a hiring process. I’d rather they hire internally, then post for the actual job vacancy–at least it would be honest.

  26. I am currently waiting for this Accounting job I applied for. The employer told me that they would contact me this week. But there are no calla yet. This is already the job and company that I want. My exam and interview went great. In fact they told me that “I am the best candidate for this position”.

    But I hear no response. I started applying to other company but this is something that i really want

  27. Having a candidate interview with multiple people can be very helpful for both the employer and the candidate; however, not letting the candidate know that a decision has been made to not hire them is disrespectful of the candidate’s time. Many people have to use precious vacation days to interview. The least an employer can do is respond. This is especially true in the Internet age where company reputations are at risk.