The waiting is the hardest part
September 11, 2012 11:02 AM   Subscribe

Approached for job, now silence, now what?

Sorry, this is somewhat long, and probably not all that interesting, but it's a waiting-for-callback question that has me puzzled, and your thoughts would be much appreciated.

A month ago, I received an email out of the blue, from the head of a department at the most respected institution in my field saying that a former colleague (very respected in our field) recommended me and asked if I would be interested in relocating to their city, they are looking for a [my position].

My profession is rather common, but I work at a specific type of institution where maybe a handful of people in the country have the type of experience that I do, which is what they would be looking for. I spoke with the person the next day and had a very easy and informative half hour phone conversation. Our field is relatively small, so there's a bit of an all in the same boat mentality. During the conversation, I was asked about salary, and then they said, no, you can think about that. And then they mentioned coming out for an in-person interview, although that would have to be mid-September due to vacations. Oh yea, and the latest they would want the new person to start would be beginning of October.

A week later I sent an email just following up, including my resume and seeing if there's anything else I could provide. I also let them know about my new recently launched website to which they replied "very very beautiful work. On vacation next week so will have to get back to this when I return". This was 3 weeks ago. And since, I've heard nothing.

So I'm starting to scratch my head about what to do. From my experience with hiring people, I understand how weeks go by without even thinking twice. But with the short start date, for me to give proper notice at my job now, and moving across the country, at what point do I check in again without being annoying. And if I do check in again, how do you phrase that? It's almost mid-September, and I'd like to know one way or the other. I would do whatever I need to take the job though, in the end, I'm quite thrilled to even be having the conversation.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (18 answers total)
Just shoot them another email. If they respond, you'll know one way or the other. If they don't, you'll still know.
posted by valkyryn at 11:06 AM on September 11, 2012 [3 favorites]

Meh, I'd write it off.

If they do want you, then obviously they'll be back in touch and they'll have to change the start date.

If they don't, you can put them on your "shit list" and keep on trucking.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 11:08 AM on September 11, 2012 [2 favorites]

Email on a Monday that includes a promise to phone them, followed up by a phone call first thing Thursday morning.
posted by KokuRyu at 11:09 AM on September 11, 2012 [2 favorites]

Ignore the start date that anyone gives you on an informational interview. Unless you're the President or that groundhog who has to see his shadow, start dates are always later than they tell you.
posted by xingcat at 11:22 AM on September 11, 2012 [13 favorites]

I always think you have nothing to lose by checking in and asking. Any organization that can't empathize with the fact that people are interested in the job they applied for you don't want to work with anyway.
posted by randomkeystrike at 11:27 AM on September 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

Call them.
posted by TurkishGolds at 12:15 PM on September 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

I agree with TurkishGolds: call. And if you get voicemail, hang up and try at least two more times to actually talk to the person before leaving a message.
posted by chickenmagazine at 12:22 PM on September 11, 2012

If you're truly interested in the position, you should follow up. Once I was in a situation like you for an internship, where they contacted me out of the blue but after a similar story of being on vacation or whatever, they never replied. In another situation, they were just totally swamped with work but took the time to call or email back every 3 weeks or so after I wrote an email to check-in for an update (it was a REALLY long process, but that's another story).

And, yes, start dates are always later than they tell you!
posted by peachtree at 12:36 PM on September 11, 2012

I would write it off, but not before one last phone call.

In my experience, people who want to hire me usually respond when they say they will. I have never ever had anyone come back to me ages later to tell me they want to hire me after all, and don't forget, you haven't even had an interview.

You should always, at the end of every interaction, ask when you can expect to hear from them, and whether it's OK to get in touch if you haven't heard by then. After the interview, assume you did not get the job. The odds are always against it.
posted by tel3path at 1:32 PM on September 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

Email from you:

Subject line: "[job title] Position"

"Dear [whomever you spoke to],

I wanted to circle back on our phone conversation from Month/Day.

The notes I have refer to your start-date target of October 1. I know how easy it is for schedules to slip. And how tricky it can be to set new targets.

What can you tell me about the timeline, now? I'm still every bit as interested in the in-person meeting we talked about.


Apply and act from 'Occam's Razor'. Assume the simplest thing: schedule slippage. Extend the benefit of the doubt. Deal with the subject candidly and forthrightly. Ask for follow up. Re-emphasize your interest.

Then, let it go.
posted by John Borrowman at 2:19 PM on September 11, 2012 [2 favorites]

Ask. Many institutions move slooooowly.
posted by maryr at 3:31 PM on September 11, 2012

FWIW, at the institution where I have spent the last 23 years I had to pester the living hell out of them to get my first interview. And the second. I am not saying sound desperate - but sounding motivated can help. I would send them an email or even call them.
posted by brownrd at 6:49 PM on September 11, 2012

I would send the email that John Borrowman described, wait 24-48 hours, then call. To me, it sounds like they're slow getting back into the swing of things from vacation. This happened to me a few weeks ago when I was told I would hear back by a certain date, then a week afterward was contacted for an interview.
posted by SpicyMustard at 7:21 PM on September 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'd approach things a bit differently. I'd call the colleague who referred you and thank them for the mention. After a full round of small talk, then I'd ask about the company (indicating that the position sounded interesting) but relate how things had unfolded to this point. Without specifically asking them what to do, the colleague might give some clues about how best to proceed (if at all).
posted by 99percentfake at 8:46 PM on September 11, 2012

They may still be out of town. The benefit of email is that the auto responder might have a date when they will return.
posted by salvia at 9:17 PM on September 11, 2012

But on second thought, i prefer 99percentfake's approach, if that's a person you're comfortable calling up. I probably wouldn't follow up with the department until after the 15th (the very mid of September).
posted by salvia at 9:19 PM on September 11, 2012

Mod note: From the OP:
Thanks all for the fantastic advice. Since I was so excited to have started this conversation with this institution, I certainly didn't want to write them off without checking in. I liked the concept of Occam's Razor, which I was not familiar with. I ended up sending an email this morning checking in, reminding them of our discussion about me visiting mid-september, and letting them know that I would happen to be in their city later in the month. They wrote back saying that they were busy after getting back from vacation, and that I should come out for the interview when I'm out there later this month. Woohoo!
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 1:53 PM on September 13, 2012

Oh congrats! Just looked back at this. Pleasant surprise is pleasantly surprising, eh?
posted by tel3path at 3:01 PM on September 26, 2012

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