Always Assume Positive Intent

You’ve been there.  You know what it’s like to interview for a position several times over the course of a few weeks.  The interviews seem to be going well.  Why else would they have you back time and again to talk to yet other person if the interviews weren’t going well?  At each stage of the interview process you find yourself inching up the food chain; first it was the recruiter you spoke to.  Then it was the hiring manager, then their boss, then their boss.  And just for good measure they have you talk to another high-level individual in the company for another perspective.

During the process you’re minding your P’s and Q’s, sending thank-you notes and asking questions about next steps.  You are doing what you should to stay on their radar.  But after that last interview, much to your dismay, the lines of communication have been cut off and you don’t know why.  You are not getting any feedback or responses of any kind.  That’s odd because all through the process they had been fairly quick to respond.  The fact you are not getting communication from them is uncharacteristic of the process to date.

So, it’s been several days since the last time they communicated with you.  Everything had been going very well.  You have every reason to believe you are (or were) a top candidate.  What do you do?  The short answer is: keep communicating with them.  You have no idea why you haven’t heard from them and you have no way of knowing what is going on on their side.  So until you hear otherwise, assume things are still on track and move forward accordingly.

People get sick.  Their kids get sick.  Decision makers go on vacation.  Offer-letter approvers are out for a few days.   Maybe the position hasn’t even been approved yet and they are frantically working to get the position approved in order to move forward.  I know it would be nice if they let you know that but they haven’t.

Until they tell you “no”, you are still in contention.  So send them a professional, polite note once a week.  And let them know that’s what you are going to do.  Let them know they will continue to hear from you until you hear from them.

I don’t know why we are wired the way we are.  Humans too easily gravitate to the negative.  “They didn’t like me after all.  I haven’t heard from them in so long. I know I didn’t get that job.”  We start to assume the worst, second guess and start spiraling.  I’m as guilty of that as the next person.

A great piece of advice I received from a former boss told me “always assume positive intent.”  Until you have reason to believe otherwise, believe in the positive.  Maybe they did go ahead and hire somebody and didn’t have the decency to let you know.  It happens.  Keep communicating with them and make them tell you no.

I once interviewed for a position where I was communicating with the hiring manager several times a week.  It was a position I really wanted.  Then all of a sudden, there was nothing.  It got to the point I put a note on my calendar a couple of weeks out to remind me to send one final email.  Three days before that reminder was to pop up and remind me I received a message from the hiring manager.  She asked if I was still interested.

I was certain the position went to another candidate and they didn’t have the decency to let me know after all the time I invested in the process.  But it only proves my point you never know what’s going on on their end.  There are all kinds of stumbling blocks that can get in the way.  When I finally connected with the hiring manager she offered me the position.  Her reasoning for the delay made sense but it would have been nice if she sent a quick email at any point along the way to let me know.  It wouldn’t take much.  But if I hadn’t stayed positive in the emails I kept sending her, if my weekly emails had grown more testy and snarky, I have no doubt they would have moved on to another candidate.  That’s why you should always remain positive.

And I might add this; as a recruiter, I don’t do this and never have, but I am convinced some companies go silent on purpose.  They are gauging your interest level and evaluating how you handle it.  So handle it professionally and always assume positive intent.

Happy hunting

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