Hello Everyone,

I'm new to manager tools/career tools and I have a question about interviewer professionalism.  I graduated from college in May 2010 with degrees in accounting and finance.  I have been actively looking for full-time employment since then.  I've gotten fairly close (top 4 candidates) several times, and most of the time I am given notification by the firm that they have chosen to look elsewhere.  However, twice I have been told they would notify me of their decision and I was never contacted again.  I have sent weekly emails asking them where they are in their process.  I do not receive responses, even after a telephone call.

Although I do not have much experience in the corporate world, it appears that not notifying a finalist that they chose another individual is very unprofessional.  Is this correct? 

Additionally, is it appropriate to contact the firm after a certain period of time has gone by if I have not been notified?

Thank you in advance.


stephenbooth_uk's picture

 It's fairly normal, especially in recessions when there's lots of job seekers compared with the number of jobs, to not notify candidates that they have been unsuccessful.  As a job seeker it's a pain but they don't actually owe you a response. That they said they would contact you does not really create an obligation on them, it's just something people say.  It's like how often do you say to people "How are you?" in the course of a normal day?  How often do you expect a real response (i.e. not just "Fine!" or "OK!")?  It's just a social thing, like saying "See you!" to someone you have no intention of ever seeing again or exchanging contact details with someone you met on holiday.  A polite social lie to grease the axles of life.

Like many things in life the recruiting process is a power imbalance situation.  The recruiter has all the power.




Skype: stephenbooth_uk  | DiSC: 6137

"Start with the customer and work backwards, not with the tools and work forwards" - James Womack


buhlerar's picture

To answer your question " is it appropriate to contact the firm after a certain period of time has gone by if I have not been notified?", if they told you they'd let you know then it's certainly not inappropriate to follow up with them.

I agree with Stephen that the firm has no fixed obligation to let you know their decision, but I don't see it as a "social lie" on the same level as "how are you?" or "see you later" etc.  I would in fact consider it fairly unprofessional to never inform you of the decision, despite the fact that you aren't technically entitled to a response.  I'd suggest following Mark & Mike's advice to follow up for 15 weeks, and remain professional every single time you contact them.

One other thing -- I'm not sure what kind of firm you're interviewing with.  I'm also in the accounting/finance field, and there are some differences in how the larger public accounting firms fill their positions vs. your typical corporation.  For accounting firms, since some of the work is seasonal, and they usually just have a total quota to fill (not always filling specific roles) it's possible the decision timeline may be stretched out longer than you might expect in the corporate world.  And every company has it's own issues -- I've had open positions go through re-approvals while I was in the interview phase.  And you may not be their top choice, but the top choice may ultimately not accept the offer.  Or they fill this position, but right then someone else resigns and a similar position opens up.

In other words, it may be hard to predict how long the process SHOULD take, so don't rule yourself out unnecessarily.  At the end of the day, you may decide not to take the offer based on their communication shortcomings, but you have very little to lose by following up persistently and professionally and then thanking them profusely when they "finally" give you a rejection.


jhack's picture

 It's unclear whether you have been using the interview series.  Those podcasts have very specific guidance about following up, even after they've selected another candidate. 

The value of the interview series cannot be overstated.  If you're job searching, this is your best resource, no doubts. 

John Hack

tiholt's picture

Thank you Stephen, Aaron, and John for your responses.

I have not been using the interview series.  I only discovered Career Tools about a month ago while I was still in the interview process for the firm that I'm still a candidate for.  If I do not receive an offer then I will likely use the Series for future interviews.  I've already began using some things I've learned from the casts, and have begun to read GTD and WSJ (again) based off of Mike and Mark's recommendations.  I do not have any doubts that the Interview Series would have the same positive effect. 

I did follow up this morning and have yet to hear back.  They did tell me they would notify me earlier this week, so I do feel that I am within my rights to follow up with them periodically as long as I do it in a professional manner.  In the past I've had issues with not hearing back from firms.  I just don't understand why they can't send me a 2-line email telling me they went in another direction when I spent 5 hours in their office speaking with various managers.  To me that says "unprofessional," but I could be wrong. 

I really appreciate the responses.  I'm new to the professional world and it's great to get feedback from those with experience.



afmoffa's picture

A company can freely ignore your resume and cover letter, and they don't owe you a status update. All of that changes, however, once they've interviewed you for a job.

At least in the US, professional etiquette dictates that companies owe you an answer if they have actually interviewed you. Every job interview must result in a clear yes or no, even if that answer is a long time coming. If you've gone through a phone interview or a face-to-face interview, then that company has a relationship with you, and it has a professional obligation. Period. You are entirely right to call them or E-mail them once per week, from now until the heat-death of the universe, seeking to know the outcome of your interview.

Some managers hate to disappoint candidates by giving them bad news, so they commit the worse sin of ignoring you completely. Some managers are so arrogant or so disorganized that they can't be bothered to tie up all the loose ends from an interview process. Let your righteous indignation motivate you to follow-up.

Now, of course, you must be polite and upbeat when you call or write them. There must be no trace of "Hey, don't you know how rude it is to bring me in for an interview and then pretend I don't exist?" You're polite. You're excited. You understand how busy they are. You're just calling to see how the process is going. You read an article about the company in yesterday's Gazette, and you wanted to congratulate them on a successful product launch, gee you can't wait to get an offer from them.

From now until the heat-death of the universe. For a job I really wanted, I'd put on a suit and drive over there once per month.

Hang in there. You're right.


RaisingCain's picture


Ok, everyone here agrees, you are correct. They are unprofessional, they are wrong, and you deserve better. Now what? Hugs? 
Here is how I see it. I don’t see you as a victim of an unprofessional person. I see you as ineffective. If you needed that information you should have done things differently to get it. That should be the question you should be asking here. How can I improve the chances that I will get an answer in a short amount of time? 
So, yes, leaving a candidate hanging is poor form…but not unprofessional. If it matters enough to you that you be treated with a higher level of respect then you need to make that known and take steps to achieve your goals. But here is my question for you, when you asked them if you could contact them for this information did the person tell you they would respond? If they don’t’ tell you they are going to do it, then it is NOT unprofessional to not do it.
I don’t mind being left hanging. If I did I would have that person tell me they would contact me (making it the professional thing to do). I would say it’s important to me to know if you have selected me for the position or not. I would ask, do you have a timeline for reaching a decision? (prompting a “yes” response) Are you the person I should contact if I want to know the status of my application? (another yes response).  Then may I please contact you for a response [after that timeline has completed]?  (another yes) Thank you, what is the best way to reach you (or the person they refer you to)?
Getting a person to say yes, and having them commit to some form of communication upfront will increase the likelihood that they’ll do it.

mfculbert's picture


I wish you the best for your job search. As Mike and Mark say often in their interview series, "interviewing is a black box." As the interviewee you do not know what is happening. It is very frustrating I am sure. Let me tell you a bit about what is going on in MY black box.

 I have been gathering resumes lately for a pending hires (education / art / programming / robotics). The process is not moving very quickly because of all the other work that doesn't slow down while I am seeking new, great talent. To make it more difficult, some of the positions are a solid HIRE but I have 3 months to fill the spot. Other positions may become available if demand increases. Other positions are speculative for the time being but the need may open up  and I will need to hire FAST. 

I try to reply to the first contact from a candidate within 24 hours and tell them my timeline. I also let the people know the I want them to feel free to contact me with questions or issues as the process proceeds. I am comfortable with applicants contacting me. Not all hiring managers would feel the same way but believe a polite email or two would never be inappropriate.

Today I did send out three emails with a "Thanks, no thanks." response. It is not fun. It is not easy. I do it because it is what I would like to have happen if I were on the market. I am still working the hiring process but it takes time. Wish me luck and I will keep you in my thoughts too.