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What to do when HR goes quiet during an interview process

Interviewing for a job is a lot like dating. There are rules to be followed. The goal is to create chemistry. Appear too enthusiastic and you’ll come across as needy and turn the other party off.

On the other hand, if you don’t put in any effort after the event, in this case, the interview or the resume submission, your trail will go cold. You will come across as disinterested and apathetic, which is likely to communicate a message that you have other, better options which you are pursuing instead.

There are inevitable occasions, especially in tepid hiring markets like now, when firms you are interviewing with go silent. Most worryingly is when a manager who has, up until this point, been very responsive, suddenly clams up. So how long is too long to wait before following up?

Here are my top three tips on how to call it right when the phone stops ringing:

1. Judge how eager they are to hire 

Sometimes HR and interviewers are just busy, sometimes the role itself has been put on hold, but typically, none of the candidates have been told! And sometimes it’s just the candidate themselves who is being ignored and pushed to the bottom of the list. You will have to exercise judgment to decide which of these scenarios applies to you. Making notes about your prior interviews will help – did they go well, and what was your gut feeling about how you’ve done so far?

2. Is the HR department up to scratch?

In all likelihood, they are not. Halve your expectations of their levels of efficiency and professionalism. Then halve them again. Large firms are particularly bad culprits at this as they tend to rely more on their HR divisions than smaller ones, where managers might themselves be coordinating the interview process. The more HR employees a firm has, the more likely you are to get lost in the machine somewhere.

3. Keep an eye on the news 

Make sure you’re aware of current “big picture” issues facing your prospective employer, as they might explain the lack of contact. You’ll look foolish if – as once happened to me – you telephone a fund manager to find that his team has been absorbed into a bigger group. He was struggling to retain his existing headcount, and the last thing he was thinking of was recruiting someone like me from the outside.

The advice above also applies to when one sends a speculative resume to a networking contact. The good news in this situation is that you have an inside track to the firm via your contact. The bad news is that it’s usually not their job to make hiring decisions.

In job hunting as in life generally, patience and discretion are key. Don’t push it. You don’t want to seem desperate.

The author has worked in a number of banking roles.

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