why do hiring managers ghost me after promising they won’t? — Ask a Manager

A reader writes:

I’ve had a few terrific interviews that I thought went really well. The hiring manager and I have had great discussions, insightful questions were asked on both sides, and it seems like the role is a great fit for me and my experience.

Then, at the end of the interview, the hiring manager will say something like, “We’re still figuring things out internally, so I can’t give you an answer right away. Follow up in a week or two if you haven’t heard from me. I promise, no matter what we decide, we won’t ghost you.”

Then, sure enough, I’ll follow up in a week or two only to get no response. The job is inevitably reposted with the exact same description and criteria a day later. I understand deciding to go with someone else, even if that someone else has yet to be identified. I even understand providing no response to an applicant’s status request. People get busy, stuff happens. I don’t understand literally promising not to ghost someone after they undergo multiple interviews and then doing just that.

Are my expectations too high? Am I taking this too personally?

In a vacuum, no, your expectations aren’t too high and you’re not taking it too personally.

But in the world we live in, with the reality of how hiring works, you’re probably taking it too personally.

Ghosting is really, really, really common when you’re job-searching. It’s common even after you put in the time to interview, and it’s common even when your interviewers explicitly promise to get back to you either way. It makes no sense that it’s so common, but it is.

To be very clear about it: this is rude! When someone takes time off work, maybe buys a new suit or travels a long distance, and invests time and energy into preparing for an interview (sometimes multiple interviews), it’s indefensible not to get back to them with an answer. It’s particularly inexcusable considering that with electronic applicant tracking systems, it takes only seconds to let candidates know they’ve been rejected.

And the interviewers you mentioned — the ones who go out of their way to say they’ll get back to you either way and then don’t — are particularly bizarre. It’s obviously on their mind as a thing that should happen, and as a thing you might worry won’t happen, and then they still don’t bother to do it.

As for why … some people do genuinely think their company will close the loop with you and they don’t realize it’s not happening. But others know it’s up to them to do it and they just don’t prioritize it … and when they get busy with other things, they’re entirely too comfortable letting this task drop. And others haven’t thought about it too much and/or don’t care and (rudely) figure you should take silence as your answer.

But whatever the reason, this is very much a common feature of modern-day job searches. It’s so common for that for years it’s been one of the complaints I receive here most often.

As a job-seeker, the best thing you can do is to expect it will happen. Even when people vow to get back to you, assume they might not and let it be a pleasant surprise if they do. It’s ridiculous that you should need to approach it that way! But it’s the best thing for your mental health because otherwise you’ll be continually waiting on responses that don’t come and wondering if their silence is an answer at this point or whether you still might hear … it’s maddening. And one of the reasons it’s so frustrating (beyond the flagrant rudeness) is that it puts you in a spot where you have no control: you can’t make them be polite partners in the transaction you’re engaged in together, and you can’t make them give you an answer. So by just assuming ghosting will happen and proceeding accordingly (meaning continuing your search and not getting too attached to any one opportunity), you can take some control back for yourself.

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