Brace yourself: This might be tough to read.
If you’re job searching, you know how tempting it is to dissect every word a recruiter or hiring manager speaks or writes and try to decipher its exact meaning.
“They said it looks promising! I must be getting an offer!”
“They said they’d call this week and they haven’t yet! I must have bombed the interview!”
“They said I’m at the top of the list! I must be their favorite!”
Unfortunately, such exercises are futile. Recruiters and hiring managers are a tricky bunch. Sadly, if you’re playing this game, you’re almost always going to read too much into what they say.
Most job seekers hold these gatekeepers of employment opportunity to unrealistic expectations. They believe that recruiters and hiring managers are using some kind of coded language to communicate.
Rest assured: they’re not. Most of the time, they’re simply reciting boilerplate language to move things along.
Keep in mind that most people who are responsible for hiring are juggling a lot of things. Recruiters have many positions and prospects to handle; hiring managers are still leading a team. You are but one component of a much bigger to-do list.
When they offer feedback or timing estimates, they’re not predictions. They are kind approximations.
If they say you’ll hear back in about a week, they’re saying a week—more or less—is the current timeframe. That could change. And you probably won’t ever hear back if they’re not interested in moving forward. Unfortunately, the standard in modern day job search dictates that employers only communicate positive news—they seldom inform unsuccessful candidates.
The hiring process is fluid. Requirements, budgets, and needs can change at a moment’s notice. Positions can be eliminated or postponed. You might have been a shoe-in last week, but this week, you’re out of the running.
As an outsider, you just don’t know.
Recruiters and hiring managers aren’t going to bother explaining these details to all of their candidates. They presume that most professionals understand the fluid nature of the process.
They also will usually give a generous assessment of the situation in order to keep a candidate interested. Why tell anyone they have little chance of getting the job? Needs might change. This person might end up being the best option they have. No need to cut anyone loose if they don’t have to.
If this paints a stark picture of the hiring process, you’re getting the idea. Recruiters and hiring managers have a job to do. Until you have an offer in hand, take everything they say with a grain of salt. Don’t try to read more into it.
Where to go from here?
The best course of action is to presume you didn’t get the job—no matter what promising words were spoken; no matter how good you felt after the interview. Always keep your job search wheels turning. Continue going on interviews, continue submitting applications, and continue engaging in your regular job search activities.
You can also follow up with recruiters and hiring managers if you’re curious to know where things stand in the process. But never pause your search.