It helps to realize that employers and candidates are often on two very different timelines. For candidates, hiring processes can feel like they're moving incredibly slowly. But for employers, who often have many priorities above hiring to juggle, taking weeks or even months to get back to candidates might not feel unreasonable.
While you're waiting for an update, though, it can be useful to understand what might be going on behind the scenes. Here are five of the most common reasons that you haven't heard anything yet.
1. The employer hasn't finished the interview process yet. You might think that it's a bad sign if the company is continuing to interview other candidates, but if often doesn't mean anything at all. Most employers want to interview at least three to five people for any given slot, sometimes more. And these interviews can be set up well in advance, before they even met with you. Depending on people's schedules, those interviews could go on for weeks after they talked with you – without being any reflection on you at all.
2. Something came up and got in the way. Job seekers tend to assume that hiring goes smoothly and quickly on the employer's side, but there can be plenty of bumps along the way – whether it's a budget question that needs to be ironed out before they can make a hire, a decision-maker being out on vacation, a more crucial role becoming vacant and needing to be dealt with first, or an unrelated work priority getting in the way. All of these can make the process drag out much longer than the employer themselves envisioned, and certainly longer than antsy job seekers would prefer.
3. They're resolving questions about the position itself. Sometimes hiring needs can change or be thrown into question. A new project might have the hiring manager wondering if she needs to hire someone with PR experience in addition to the other qualifications she was seeking. Or the job description might have seemed right until the department's deputy announced she's resigning, and now the manager is figuring out whether to combine that role with the one you interviewed for, reconfigure it altogether, or move various players around. This is the kind of thing you can't tell from the outside, but can often throw hiring timelines into disarray.
4. The employer offered the job to another candidate and is waiting for an answer. This might seem like you're out of the running, but candidates do turn down offers – and if that happens, you might be next on the list. (And there's no shame in that; plenty of great candidates end up as second choice simply because there were multiple great candidates and only one slot.)
5. Yes, it's possible that they've hired another candidate and haven't bothered to tell you. This is incredibly rude, but it's also increasingly common. You absolutely deserve a clear yes or no after you've taken the time to interview (to say nothing of taking time off work, spending hours preparing, and maybe even traveling), but the frustrating reality is that some employers just don't get back to candidates.
No matter which of these explanations might be at play, the best thing for you to do? Put a note on your calendar to check in with them in two weeks and then put the job out of your mind. Find other jobs to apply for, or otherwise move on. There's no reason to agonize when you have no control over their timeline, and your stress certainly won't make things move any faster. Mentally move on (even pretending you've already been rejected if it helps you stop obsessing), and let it be a pleasant surprise if they contact you.