A customer came to me exasperated because he hadn't heard from the recruiter who was trying to place him at company for an engineering position. My customer told me the process had been going really well. He and the company were in the final stages, the hiring manager told him it looked promising, it was just a matter of getting him to meet with the VP of engineering.
My customer waited with anticipation for the call from the hiring manager, but after a week of waiting...nothing.
At first he was reluctant to reach out to the recruiter or call the hiring manager to inquire about the status of his candidacy. I told him to contact his recruiter, who he described as a positive person that nearly guaranteed him a job, so my customer sent his recruiter an e-mail. Another week went by and...nothing.
At this point I told him it was time to phone the recruiter to ask him if he'd heard from the hiring manager. His recruiter would be able to give him some insight as to how the process was going, and he was the point man--not right to go above his head. My customer left two voice-mails and heard...nothing.
He asked me if it was time to contact the hiring manager, as he wasn't getting any love from his recruiter. I didn't have the heart to tell him it would be a waste of time, but the career counselor in me told him to make the call and, of course, be diplomatic. My customer left a couple of scripted voice-mails with the hiring manager and after another grueling week...nothing.
It was finally time to call it quits. The recruiter had disappeared and apparently went on to other jobseekers, and the hiring manager had given my customer a non-verbal rejection, a practice that has become commonplace. Shortly after this whole affair, my customer told me that it was a hellacious process; nothing that he'd like to go through again. He recovered from the ordeal, though, and was not about to give up on the job search. In the future he wasn't going to waste energy on worrying about the deadening silence he'd experienced, the feeling of desperation and hopelessness. He only wished the recruiter and hiring manager would have told him the truth because the truth is always better than nothing.
An excellent article that appeared on RecruitingBlogs.com titled 8 Tips for the New Recruiter touches on the importance of following up. While the author Becky Northrup admits to making this mistake, she advises: "...Make it a point to call the candidate and tell them as soon as you have any updates. Even if you haven’t heard anything and especially if the position was cancelled or they were disqualified. It can just be a call at the end of the week to tell them that you haven’t heard. They will appreciate the follow-up regardless of if it's good, bad or no news..." (Tip #6)
As for the hiring managers out there, keep in mind that your candidates are counting on your decision, yay or nay, so a quick call or e-mail saying you've gone with another candidate or that the position has been put on hold or lost its funding might hurt the expectant candidate's feelings; but the truth is better than...nothing.