Why you absolutely must call every candidate back after an interview

Hiring & Recruiting Management View All Articles Woman looking at her phone and waiting for a call

If you are a hiring manager, there is a good chance that you have made a few enemies.

It’s inevitable. There’s a lot at stake in the job search, as people need jobs to survive and feed their families, so there’s bound to be a lot of emotion involved. And you hold the power to make or break a person’s future success, at least in the immediate future. But you can’t hire everyone, so some of those who miss the boat are bound to resent you, even though that’s unfair. So, you do your best to be personable and kind, right?

Or maybe you don’t.

There is one common behavioural habit among hiring managers that is hurting your reputations as people as well as your companies’ reputations, that makes you look like jerks and that is brewing bad feelings among candidates everywhere.

You don’t call people back after an interview.

Candidates come in for interviews, after which you usually say something like “We’ll let you know,” and then you don’t. The vast majority of the time they never hear from you again.

In a Workopolis poll that asked, “How long did it take the employer to respond after your last interview?” Twenty four percent said 24 hours, 17 percent said 1-2 weeks, 15 percent said it took over two weeks, and forty-three percent said they never heard back. That’s a lot.

So, people are left wondering what went wrong. They wonder when they should stop waiting for the call. They wonder if they missed it, and if they should call you.

And, do you know what this breeds? Contempt. You are taking people who could be allies and turning them, one by one, into detractors of your band.

“I never heard back after what I thought was a very promising interview with a company,” says a woman I know, Rachel. “Now I tell everyone not to apply there.”

Another friend, Michael, says, “I take exception. ‘We’ve decided to keep looking’ is a courtesy. I’ve fought the impulse to show up a week after not being called and ask “Where’s my desk. Nobody told me I didn’t get the job.”

I have also told people not to apply at a company that didn’t call me back after pretty much telling me in the interview that I had the job.

There is an easy way to avoid this: call or email people after an interview and let them know whether or not they got the job.

I’m not suggesting that you contact everyone who applies for a position, though this actually would be ideal if you could manage it, and have an automated email program to let people know their applications didn’t make the cut. Because, really, a lot of candidates start waiting to hear back from the moment that resume is sent, and the ensuing silence can be incredibly discouraging. But that’s not always feasible. It is feasible, however, to contact individual applicants who made it through the interview process and let them know the outcome.

You’re not too busy. You can make the time, or delegate. If you have any legal concerns, talk it over with a counselor to develop a script. You don’t have to give cause. You simply have to let them know to stop waiting for your call.

If you continue not to follow up, don’t be surprised if it comes back to bite you.

Just make the call. People will appreciate the courtesy and, as a result, will be less likely to turn on you and your organization. Really, it should be the least they can expect.

  • Anonymous

    This is a huge problem and happens way too often! I’ve now been waiting 3 weeks to hear back from a place I interviewed at. It went really well and they assured me that everyone would be called because “they know how it is to wait”.
    I took a vacation day to drive three hours in major traffic, trying to keep calm because I’d been planning for this interview for two weeks already at that point. I had two anxiety attacks that week from the pressure as my contract ends at the end of this month (which was stated in my cover letter).
    I’ve given up hoping I got the job.
    One email, one phone call, so I can shelf it and move on, is that too much to ask? Jeez.

  • Terry I

    I wouldn’t call, as that has the feel of “they’re calling me back to offer.” I would just email.

  • animeweng

    If you email, you run into other problems. People don’t read their emails or it goes to the junk folder. Then, they want to call back to find out why they never heard back from you even though you emailed them in the first place. The sooner you resolve the situation the better. A phone call in my experience is much better at closing the applicant’s case compare to an email. You end up getting a phone call one or two weeks later asking why haven’t I heard from you guys. You may end up wasting further energy and time.

    I have tried mailing and emailing. Phone is much better based on experience. I get fewer unhappy callbacks on why haven’t I heard from you. Instead, it is I got a callback and I didn’t read the voice mail that I was not offered the position. You are in a much better position by a phone call. There are exceptions such as angry aggressive interviewees. In those cases, you don’t want to call them.