When Your Job Search Gets No Traction

After successful phone interviews, you're waiting for a meeting. Here's why the phone doesn't ring.

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Suzanne Lucas

I have been job searching the past few months and have landed a few phone interviews. All have gone very well, with plans for follow-up phone calls to schedule interviews. Great, right? Well, wrong. These HR people are not calling me back. I sent thank you E- mails and check in once a week or so, but I'm not getting anywhere. But they aren't saying, "Sorry, we are moving ahead with other candidates," either. So, what's going on?

What's going on is that you are under the mistaken impression that these companies' priorities lie in filling the posted job. This is not an illogical assumption, by the way.

Here is my best guess at what is going on: You find an open position and apply for it. The recruiter looks at your résumé and says, "Hey, this person looks like a good match." So, you get a phone call and all seems good. The phone screener says: "We'll get back to you about an interview." The phone screener means: "If the hiring manager decides he wants to bring you in, we'll get back to you." You hear: "We will definitely be bringing you in for an interview." Two very different things.

In the meantime, your résumé is passed on to the hiring manager, who now decides that since he has a vacancy, maybe he'd like to change the position. Or maybe there has been a hiring freeze. Or maybe he's on vacation. Or maybe...

Any number of things could be going on that could leave the recruiter trying to hold on to candidates without spilling any beans to you—because you still may well be under consideration for the job if they could just figure out what the job is. Or it's become clear to everyone that you aren't a candidate for this job anymore, but there may be a job opening up soon that you are a good fit for.

The business is busy running and everybody involved has other priorities, and hiring someone new can get pushed aside until it's more convenient. Unfortunately, on your end, you are holding out hope and getting increasingly frustrated.

So, what to do? First of all, you're handling this correctly. Just don't become a recruiter stalker. They hate those. Increase the amount of time between your contacts with them, and if a couple of months have passed, give it up. Second: Move on. A positive phone screen needs to be treated as a positive phone screen and nothing else. Keep applying for jobs, and try to keep positive. Job hunting is unpleasant at best and pure torture at worst. Third, try to bypass recruiters altogether—not by cold-calling managers at the company you want to work for but by networking. Good managers are always looking for good people, and some will even make a job for you if they feel you are the person they want. Recruiters can't really do that.

Don't take any of this personally. Hiring can sometimes be really slow.

Suzanne Lucas has nine years of human resources experience, most of which has been in a Fortune 500-company setting. She holds a Professional in Human Resources Certificate from the Society for Human Resource Management. She blogs at Evil HR Lady.