When the Employer Goes Quiet

By Joe Stein

A few weeks ago, I had one of our readers reach out to me with an interesting situation and question. It is a scenario that many job seekers face and most become quickly perplexed and frustrated. What does it mean and what can you do if an employer goes quiet on you?
It seems that this situation can play out a variety of ways. I think there are, however, two primary situations where this occurs. In one scenario, the process seems to be progressing well and you are well informed all along the way when suddenly things seem to grind to a halt and the communication flow stops. In the other situation, presented to me by the noted reader, the employer pulled the posting shortly after going up but has not communicated why to the applicant.
Let’s first examine the situation presented by our reader. The scenario read as if the prospective employer advertised the position and received a flow of candidates but has not moved the position yet to the interview stage. There are several reasons that this situation may have occurred:
·         Budget restrictions may be causing a temporary delay. The company may still be hoping to use the existing applicants when they do try to fill it, so the position sits in a “hold” type of status. In some situations, the budget review from a senior leader only comes after an eager Hiring Manager has already posted the position. The lack of communication may be a result of some misguided belief that silence is better than letting the candidates know the position has stalled.
·         This delay may be a result of shifting priorities. A Recruiter may be focusing on some other positions, or a Hiring Manager may be so busy making up for having the position open that no movement has occurred in filling the role. This may also explain the lack of communication, as they simply have not been looking at it.
·         If the delay has only been weeks in time, it may be a simple result of scheduling. Especially over the summer and/or holidays, vacations and other time off may make interviewing a scheduling nightmare. This creates a natural but unintentional delay.
In this type of situation, a delay of thirty days or less is generally not a cause for concern. If the time period becomes longer, then you may have a problem. If the time becomes more than sixty days, you generally can count on the employer reposting the position in order to secure fresh candidates.   My recommendation is to e-mail an inquiry if you are past the stated timeline, or if it’s been a couple of weeks since the last communication. After 30 days, give the company a call (using a direct contact if you have one). When you get to sixty days or more, you can most likely file the position in your closed file. In this situation, check to see if the position becomes reposted. If it does, make sure you apply again (if you are still interested). Don’t rely on the employer using your old application.
In the other most likely scenario outlined earlier, the communication ends after the interview stage. There are a variety reasons this may occur for the job seeker.
·         Similar to the explanation above, there may be a budget hold on the position. This type of scenario is just as frustrating for a Hiring Manager as it is to a job seeker, since he/she spent all of that time to get to this stage without an offer made. Of course, this does not excuse the lack of communication. Most likely once again the prospective employer does not want to alarm you so, they decide to go quiet rather than scare you off.
·         They have another primary candidate but do not wish yet to tell you that it is someone else. Most likely this is because they think you are a viable candidate and serve as a backup in case the top person does not work out due to a declined offer, failed background check, etc.
·         They just have not told you yet that you have not been hired. Some employers don’t do a good job of letting candidates know that they have not been selected. This is probably due to moving on with the chosen person, moving quickly with their on-boarding, and not taking care of the other business needing to be done.
If a timing deadline has passed in this situation, I would not waste too much time before reaching out to your primary contact. You can frame the inquiry as a positive, focusing on whether there is anything else they may need to help them make their decision. You can probably tell pretty quickly after that question whether you are still being considered by the way they respond to that question. If a few weeks pass without communication and then you are contacted with an offer, you may want to ask about the timing. Most people would prefer not to be someone’s #2 or even #3 choice. You will have to decide how you feel about being placed in that situation.
Looking for a new job can be stressful enough without having to deal with a situation where the communication flow either stops or never even starts. You are limited in your options when you find yourself in this scenario, but you can take action without just idly standing by.
As always, best of luck in your job search!