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I applied for a job and during the various stages of the job interview the hiring person told me that they will get back to me in a certain amount of time. However, after every round of the interview the hiring person overstepped that limit. One week turned into two, two weeks turned into five. And this happened after every single interview round.

Even though the job sounds interesting and is with a reputable company, I wonder how they will treat me on the actual job if if they overstep their maximum allotted time to respond to me after every single interview round.

The position I'm applying for is relatively new in the company, so I think they're taking their time with the job applicants, but still, overstepping the time limit to get back to me on three separate occasions is non-professional to say the least. They also didn't acknowledge the delay.

Should I consider this kind of behavior a red flag?

  • Suppose you were offered a position and accepted, what are your concerns based on the delays in getting back to you during the interview process? – sf02 Oct 13 at 18:57
  • @sf02 Nothing in particular comes to mind at this moment, so that's why I'm asking the question. – Eternal_Ether Oct 13 at 18:59
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    Voting to close as entirely opinion-based. – mxyzplk - SE stop being evil Oct 13 at 19:52
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    "if they overstep their maximum allotted time" Where is that phrasing coming from? A hiring company controls their own timeline, there's no "maximum" there. Keeping in mind that hiring always takes longer than you'd think, as-written this question isn't answerable here. Check out some of the related questions concerning delays in the hiring process and check the help center pages on how to ask answerable questions that focus on a clear problem statement. – Lilienthal Oct 13 at 21:15
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    “Is this a red flag” is still opinion based. – mxyzplk - SE stop being evil Oct 14 at 2:32
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So there are a number of things to consider here.

Hiring takes longer than people think

Companies underestimating how long it will take to get back to a job candidate is far from rare. It's arguably more common than the opposite. A lot of people are involved in a hiring process and they are very often quite busy. Especially for decision makers recruitment will be an added responsibility on top of their workload and their response time is something internal recruiters can't control. Some recruiters will therefore pad their timeline based on past experience. Some will give you the time that they hope to get back to you, realistic or not. Plenty don't bother giving a time line and there are any number of reasons for delays that could push whatever the original time line was.

You specifically mention a "time limit" and "maximum allotted time" in your question but that's really not how this works. A hiring company is in control of the timeline and they will typically tend towards optimistic estimates. Right now a hiring timeline is especially hard to predict because:

We're in the midst of a pandemic and an economic downturn

Many companies are suspending their hiring process while almost all are reducing the number of new hires or introducing new approval processes. That means that what used to take a few weeks can now easily take a month. The kind of delays you describe are very much par for the course in any economic downturn and that's before you consider the impact that going remote can have on antiquated administrative processes. A simple employment contract that used to be a signed hardcopy might now cause a real headache for recruitment teams.

Good recruiters will acknowledge delays

But there are plenty of bad and average recruiters out there. Ideally the person you spoke to would have acknowledge the delay and perhaps given a very good (pandemic-related) reason for it. Certainly if it's been several weeks they should update you on their new timeline both as a courtesy and to avoid losing you as a candidate.

When they don't acknowledge it at all, that's when I would push on the subject, ideally in a call or during the next interview. Their response will tell you much more than guessing at the reasons. ALso keep in mind that one unprofessional recruiter is not in and of itself a deal breaker because:

Delays in the hiring process might not impact you on the job

When you're talking about red flags in a hiring process, you're talking about things that could negatively affect you in the job you're applying for. Unless you're applying for an HR position it's highly unlikely that you'll have much to do with the people in charge of recruitment. It could signal some level of administrative incompetence within HR in general meaning problems and delays in payroll and holiday approvals for instance. But even that isn't certain and it might not be something you'd consider an outright red flag.

Generally speaking, slow processes and long delays in hiring will tend to map to work cultures that are also heavy on red tape. But it's far from universal.

What does that mean for you?

Overall, I'd take this as any other data point about a potential employer. Their process is slow but that's understandable. It sounds like they didn't acknowledge the delay which is somewhat unprofessional but again: pandemic. If you see other signs of severe administrative hurdles or other red tape, you can assume that it might be a thing for this company in general. If that's a potential issue for you I would definitely ask the hiring manager (the person you'd work for) about it.

Personally, I accepted a job with a company where the hiring process was concluded within 5 weeks, but the actual offer took another 4 months to materialise as a result of the pandemic. It was a clear sign to me that this company is process-heavy and likes its red tape. The experience on the job confirmed this! But the most that this impacts me is that tangential things like bid management and time sheets are more of a chore than in my previous company. Because I knew that, these delays ultimately were not a factor in my decision to accept the offer when it did come. (Though I should also mention that almost all firms suspended or delayed hiring during this team. Hopefully a disruptive event on this scale won't happen again any time soon.)

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  • You may want to also include that many times the people involved in the hiring decision are involved in billable work as well. And if something unforeseeable pops up needing their attention, the hiring decision often gets pushed to the back burner. – Pyrotechnical Oct 14 at 13:24
  • @Pyrotechnical Absolutely. Included this in the answer. – Lilienthal Oct 14 at 14:46
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Would you consider an offer from a company which always took more time to get back to you after every single round of the interview?

I would consider an offer from a company no matter how much time it took to get back to me. In the big scheme of things, that time is a sunk cost and isn't relevant to the merit of the job itself. Once hired, I wouldn't be going through the interview process (with any delays) again.

That said, if the delay bothers you enough, you can easily dismiss the offer without even considering it. Since you used the term "non-professional to say the least" you have to decide if what you saw during the interview process extends to all the other processes in the company, or was perhaps an outlier. Think back over the interview - what you heard and what you saw - to help you decide.

For me, I might weigh that bother against all the other aspects of the company/job/offer and make a decision based on the whole.

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I would take it as a potential red flag regarding deadlines and accountability as they relate to corporate culture. I would definitely be frustrated being part of an organization with that in its culture.

That said, there are legit reasons for delays. A realistic possibility that comes to mind is you didn't make the cut between rounds but a higher ranked person dropped out.

The best thing you can do is ask to the reasoning at the time of offering/next interview round. I would just phrase it, "Is this a normal part of the company culture or were you experiencing exceptional circumstances?"

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Yes and no.

Yes since in normal times it would be obvious that you should get a proper estimate. No since hiring in Corona times may be more complicated and subject ton constantly changing rules (e.g. is there anybody on furlough who could do the work, prove to your boss that you checked, prove to working council that you believe it....)

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I would say that unless you apply for a job, the quality of their HR is not that important. Look for red flags with the people you are working with, they are more important. You can get an excellent job in a company with rubbish HR.

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