The first time you get a call from a civilian company for an interview, you feel elated. “I can make it,” you think excitedly, “my resume is attracting attention!” The first time you go in for an interview, however, and don’t hear back, it’s crushing. And nearly everybody who’s been a job searcher has experienced it.
So what do you do when you never hear back especially if you think you mastered the interview questions and answers?
1. Make sure you get feedback, starting in the interview.
If you’ve already interviewed and are still waiting to hear how it went, this particular piece of advice is too late. But chalk it up for future interviews: if the interviewer doesn’t specifically tell you, or it’s not spelled out in your interview literature, ask when you’ll hear back from the company.
For starters, it gives the waiting period some structure so you’re not trying to “feel out” when is too long or when it’s too early to reach out. More importantly, perhaps, it creates a feeling of obligation on the interviewer. His or her answer to you is a promise to some degree, and it’s just a little harder to flake on a concrete commitment than an unspoken one.
2. Take the initiative.
Have a plan for contacting the company if you don’t hear back by the promised deadline. Many candidates will take it on faith that they’ll be contacted after the interview, and they’re caught flat-footed if left in the wind — they either passively wait and wonder, or they contact the company angrily.
Remember that not receiving a call after the interview does not necessarily mean you didn’t get the job: many hiring managers have other duties and the deadline they offered originally was probably optimistic. And even if you didn’t get that job, positive interactions with the company’s hiring staff may result in cold calls later.
So a day after the deadline, write a courteous email referencing the deadline and politely ask for news. You’ll come across as pleasant, prompt and professional, and it may increase your chances of being hired.
3. Tailor your outreach to the interview itself.
Sometimes you really enjoy an interview, especially if you master the interview questions and answers! You feel good about the conversation you had with the interviewer and optimistic that you can really succeed in the job. In that case, your interviewer probably liked you too.
Research shows that between two people, positive feelings are typically reciprocated. On the other hand, so are negative feelings, so if you felt uncomfortable or didn’t like your interviewer, odds are he/she didn’t like you much either. In the former case, more outreach is acceptable.
Try calling (during work hours) or writing a more personal email asking about the interview. In the latter case, you should probably only invest enough time and energy to put together a polite request for information, then move on.
4. Build a stronger application.
If you get the feeling that the interview went well but haven’t heard back yet, you could enhance your application. If you have a letter of recommendation in your back pocket (Read: 10 Things to Do Before Transition), preferably one that talks about your performance in a job similar to the one to which you’re applying, then dust that off and send it in with your email.
Or if your network includes someone you think has influence, ask for a recommendation from that person and submit it with your request for feedback. Inserting a good recommendation at that point, when maybe they’re trying to find a way to hire you or simply having trouble picking the right candidate, can catapult you to the top of the list (note about recommendations: submitted with a resume, a recommendation is just more irritating paperwork; submitted at an interview, it’s a strong argument in your favor).
5. Break out of the chain of command.
This is foreign to veterans, but if you’re not getting anywhere in the human resources (HR) bureaucracy you might try skipping up in the hierarchy. If you’re talking to a recruiter, find the name of the hiring manager and contact that person. Or, better yet, figure out who you’d be working for and contact that person instead.
In either case, you may reinvigorate a process that’s fallen on the back burner, or you may insert some influence in the process that can pull you ahead of similarly qualified candidates.
Remember, though, when you do circumvent the established contacts, do so respectfully: absolutely do not say something like, “I submitted an application and it was buried” or “I never heard back after my interview.” That sounds snappish and petty and makes you look like you’re blaming others. Instead write something like, “I was really excited to interview for this position and, if selected, I can’t wait to start working for you!” and make sure to include the skills and experience you’ll bring to the job that make you the best choice.
6. However disappointed you are, behave professionally.
If you still get left in the dark after an interview, let it go and move on quickly. Unfortunately, some companies have thin HR staffs (or front-line managers doubling as HR) and simply cannot handle all the candidates who apply, especially the ones they’re not going to hire.
Other jobs open briefly and close again, not because someone was hired but because somebody at the company decided they didn’t need that position filled at all. Remember, your dignity (or lack thereof) in this situation may follow you: industries are surprisingly small. So however upset you are, don’t email or call more than twice (or you’ll sound desperate), don’t get angry or complain about your treatment, especially on social media (or you’ll sound scary and/or entitled), don’t contact company personnel using their personal phone or email (stalker alert!) and don’t ever lie.
Lying is a deal breaker, and that’s a fact about you that employers will definitely share with fellow companies.
The hiring process isn’t over until you get your offer letter, so remember that the interview is just another step and you’re one of a pool that’s eventually going to be whittled down to the hired candidate. Sometimes you don’t hear back because companies are busy places and the hiring process goes in fits and starts, as they have time to give it their attention. Sometimes you don’t hear back because you didn’t get the job. Either way, reminding the company that you’re waiting for feedback in a professional manner will settle the matter quickly, so you can move on…or move into your new office.