Attention Candidates: When Hiring Managers Go Dark, Turn on the Light!

By Peter Cotton, founder and president, Best Sales Talent, LLC

I previously wrote a blog post about how hiring managers sabotage themselves and their companies when interviewing candidates.  I explained how treating candidates poorly during (and after) their interview can generate some seriously negative public relations for a company.  It can destroy the reputation and brand of the company as well as the hiring manager.  You can read that post here.

According to a CareerBuilder study three years ago, “82 percent of employers think there’s little to no negative impact on the company when a candidate has a bad experience during the hiring process. The reality, however, is that the majority of candidates do not take poor treatment lying down: 58 percent are less likely to buy from a company to which they’ve applied if they don’t get a response to their application; 69 percent are less likely if they have a bad experience in the interview; and the same is true of 65 percent if they didn’t hear back after an interview.”

As a recruiter with more than 41 years of experience, I’ve spoken to thousands of candidates.  Most of them are frustrated by the interviewing process.  What I hear and see happening many times is that employers keep candidates in the dark about (a) feedback after their interview — will they be going further in the process; (b) when and what the next step will be; and (c) if they are done with the interview process, when is an offer coming?

Allow me to give you a glimpse into the mind of a typical candidate who is going through an interview process and who ultimately gets left in the dark by an employer.  It usually goes something like this:

Before The Interview

  • — I’m really looking forward to this interview. I’ve done a lot of research, and I am prepared.
  • — I’m going to do a dry run to see how long it will take me to get to the interview next week. I’m going to check out where to park.
  • — Their building looks nice. I wonder if the inside is as modern.
  • — Tomorrow is my interview. I’m so excited that I cannot sleep.
  • — I’m leaving early. I don’t know what the traffic will be like.  I’m glad I did a dry run.
  • — I had to park a long way from the building. All the guest parking was full.
  • — I am imagining what it will be like working here while walking in the building.
  • — The receptionist is nice, and everyone walking around here smiles at me. I’m sure that I would like working here.

Right After The Interview 

  • — I think that interview was my best yet! I was very well prepared for the interview.  I answered all the questions with confidence and showed
  •      my experience!  I’m so interested in working for this company.  It’s my dream job! I think I convinced the hiring manager that I am the person
  •      for the job!
  • — He was really a great guy. I could see myself working for him, and the job sounds great.
  • — I sent a thank you note emphasizing how much I want to work there.
  • — Maybe I don’t have to search for a job anymore! Wouldn’t that be something?!
  • — I’m so excited. I wonder when I’ll be called back for the next step?

Days Later 

  • — It’s been a few days now. I wonder when I will hear from them.
  • — I had my interview with the company last week, and I still haven’t heard anything. There must be a valid reason. Maybe the manager is busy.
  • — I want to be proactive and show how much I want the job, but I also don’t want to be annoying to the hiring manager and follow up
  •      too soon or too often.
  • — Let me talk to my recruiter (if I have one) or a friend or family member who is my job-hunting mentor and see what they think I should do.
  • — Everyone agrees I should send the hiring manager an email to see what the next step will be.
  • — I haven’t heard back from my email. It’s been three days.  How hard would it be for him to send me a reply, so I know what is going on?
  • — I’m going to call the hiring manager tomorrow to find out what is going on.
  • — I got his voicemail, so I left him a message. He hasn’t called back yet.
  • — I wonder if he thinks I sounded desperate.

Weeks Later 

  • — It’s been more than two weeks now. He said I would hear back from him.
  • — I called and left another voicemail message, but he didn’t call back. I’m guessing that I won’t be going back for the next step.
  •      Still, it’s rude he hasn’t given me any feedback or let me know where I stand.
  • — I’m having real doubts about this company. Maybe it’s not such a great place to work after all.
  • — Maybe this manager is not the kind of person I want to work for. If I report to him, and I need an answer on something, can I expect being kept
  •      in the dark like this?
  • — I think I should start looking at the company’s competitors or some other type of company altogether.
  • — My interview and subsequent thank you notes, follow ups and voicemails ended up in a black hole. I’m moving on.
  • — I had told everyone that I was having an interview with this company but now….
  • — This company is bad news and so is the manager. Wait until I tell my [family, friends, neighbors, colleagues] about what happened.
  • — If I ever find myself in a position to recommend or buy their products, I definitely won’t.


Now, you might have had similar thoughts yourself, or maybe you were lucky enough never to be left in the dark by a hiring manager, but either way, it’s important to know what to do if you should ever find yourself in that situation.  I believe that the hiring manager should give you feedback at the time of the interview, and that if you were not disqualified, then he should communicate via phone or email as to the next step very soon after the meeting.  If you haven’t heard anything after a week, you should professionally and respectfully follow up with him/her.

Every situation and every company is different, but here are five general guidelines that typically improve the “go dark” situation before it happens and “help turn on the light” in terms of getting the hiring manager to decide to hire you or someone else and finally, what to do if the employer goes completely dark on you:

* Be clear about your own timetable during the interview. Say that you’re interviewing elsewhere, but that you really want to work at his/her company.  Ask if you can have a decision on moving to the next step in the interview process right there on the spot, or at least within ten days.

* Be direct during the interview. Before you leave, ask for the job after highlighting why you are qualified.

* Send a thank you note (after your recruiter edits it) right after you leave the interview. In the note, focus on explaining why you feel you would be an excellent choice by citing how you have done similar work successfully in the past and that you are confident you would be a successful employee working for him in the future.

* If you haven’t heard anything after ten days to two weeks, or in the time frame the hiring manager told you during the interview, check in with the hiring manager via email. In your email, offer a solution to his/her company issue, research a trend in the news that pertains to the company, and/or share another reference of yours.  Basically, add something of substance to the follow up, so you show that you’re tuned into the company and its hot button issues.

* Be prepared to walk away from the opportunity if you still haven’t heard back from the employer. They are showing that they just don’t have much interest in you.  Of course, there could be extenuating circumstances, but if a company moves that slowly, you may not want to  work there after all.


I hope you found my above guidance worthwhile.  Do you have any other experiences, words of advice/lessons learned about employers “going dark” on candidates?  If so, I welcome your ideas.  Shoot me an email or give me a call at (401) 737-3200.