When 26-year-old Alyssa Jeffers interviewed for a full-time community manager role at a marketing agency in January, she met with three senior-level employees as well as human resources.
Everything looked promising. They took her on a tour of their Morristown, N.J. office, pointing out where her desk would be and talked about the vacation day policy, not to mention her salary.
“I immediately sent a thank you email when I got home and mentioned that I was looking forward to hearing from them later in the week.”
She never heard from the company again, especially after sending five follow-up emails. “Honestly, I was pissed off,” she recalls.
Although it initially felt like a rug was pulled under from her, Jeffers redirected frustrations to fuel her job search, ultimately accepting a digital marketing coordinator role in Nyack, N.Y.
“The way I see it,” shes says, “a company that shows that little respect for someone [interviewing] probably doesn’t have respect for its current employees. I take it as a blessing in disguise because who wants to work for a company like that?”
While she still doesn’t know what accounted for the radio silence, unfortunately, ghosting occasionally occurs — even after being told a job offer is forthcoming. When it does, it isn’t uplifting (neither is a flat-out rejection), but may have nothing to do with you even when it feels like it totally does.
As a former corporate recruiter, I can attest that several things happen behind the scenes that employers don’t necessarily tell you about. Here’s what you need to know to maintain confidence as you get closer to landing a coveted job offer in writing.
If finance originally gave the green light to fill the role several months prior, someone in charge of the budget may pull the plug. Yes, this can happen when an online job posting looks alive and well. (Meanwhile, behind closed doors, it’s on a respirator.)
The recruiter may not exactly feel comfortable telling candidates, “Hey, we messed up — looks like we won’t have any money remaining this fiscal year, but thanks for your time.”
Companies typically won’t squander their time or yours to conduct interviews for roles that don’t exist, so it’s really not intentional. I’ve been in situations when job offers were imminent after outstanding interviews, seeking approvals up the financial corporate ladder which got nixed at the very last rung. (Not only is it frustrating for the candidate to not receive an offer, it’s deflating for the hiring team, too.)
The rejection (or rejection via ghosting) isn’t connected to your ability or inability to interview, but it’s certainly deceiving when the job remains open and you crushed your interviews. Sometimes in a few months the dormant position becomes active again, so the group wants to passively build a pipeline, even when they are no longer actively interviewing.
As a courtesy, many employers interview internal candidates even when roles aren’t a fit. But what happens when the hiring team conducts interviews and really wants to hire a special candidate (ahem, you)?
Simultaneously, an internal interview transcends into an obligatory move. Perhaps the executive director owes a favor to another director who was unable to promote someone in the group but wants to find a spot for them in another area. Ah, politics.
Or, perhaps the team needs to get ramped up for busy season with a seasoned professional who already knows the company, acronyms, the works — and that person happens to be an internal candidate with an excellent internal reputation.
Similar to freezing positions, technically job openings may get eradicated.
When I rejected candidates and did not tell them specific reasons (this could open a legal can of worms for employers — it’s the same reason why employers may not respond when you ask for constructive feedback to improve your interview skills), I always wanted to close the loop. Ironically, sometimes they actually thanked me because at least they had closure.
A job may get eliminated for several reasons. When it’s open for a significant amount of time and the hiring manager’s team performs well during the interim, business leaders may rightfully ask if there’s really a need for the opening.
The job may get pulled and in turn, your candidacy. Although it would be ideal for the recruiter to know this prior to sourcing and interviewing, many times it’s determined after the fact. Ideally, they would reach out and say due to unforeseen circumstances it’s no longer available. Plus, they would like to keep in touch for future roles. Alas, that doesn’t always happen; cue the crickets.
Other times, they may reject you through the system via an automated email which feels like, a red “REJECTED” stamp emblazoned in all caps across your forehead. What you haven’t been told is that the job’s no longer available.
Although you should focus on your swim lane — top skills and experiences as value-added to an employer rather than dwelling on competition — despite best intentions and stellar portfolios, another candidate may prevail.
Perhaps that candidate is fluent in Chinese and the department is landing a Beijing-based client. Or perhaps another candidate has worked for a competitor for the past five years. Although you have adept industry knowledge, she can also bring along her entire team.
Like Jeffers, you may never know what happened after you’ve been shown where your desk will be located — reasons may not be directly related to your ability to the job. So, if you got edged out when it looked promising, focus on what you can control — continuing to interview.