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3 Signs a Company is Leading you on (and what to do about it)

Updated: Sep 13, 2023

The job hunt can be an emotional rollercoaster, with its peaks of excitement and valleys of disappointment. One of the most disheartening experiences a job seeker can face is being led on by a company. A candidate puts the time and effort into an application, only to discover that some employers play a coy game of deception. In this blog post, I will delve into the frustrating reality of being led on by a company during the interview process and what you can do about it.

The Initial Spark

It all begins with a glimmer of hope, that moment when you spot a job listing that seems tailor-made for your skills and aspirations. The company's website showcases a vibrant work culture, and the job description promises exciting challenges and growth opportunities. Eagerly, you craft a polished resume and cover letter, highlighting your qualifications and achievements, and hit that 'Apply' button with optimism.

You might even reach out to the job poster personally with a note expressing why you are a fit for this role. Well done, you've completed all possible tasks to stand out in the candidate pool.

A Few Days Later

You get a message from the job poster asking to set up a time for the initial phone screen! They're impressed with your background the initiative you took to send them a message. Excited, you book a slot on their Calendly and the interview process begins.

You all know the drill, but for those who don't, a typical interview process goes something like this:

  1. Phone Screen with Recruiter

  2. Interview with HR

  3. Interview with Hiring Manager

  4. Panel Interview with Team

  5. Offer Stage

3 Signs a Company is Leading You On

How can you tell if they really want you or if they're just leading you on? Why do they lead you on? And most importantly, what can YOU do about it?

1. Vague or Overly Positive Feedback

During the interview process, a company that is leading you on may provide vague or excessively positive feedback about your candidacy. They might praise your qualifications and express enthusiasm for your potential contributions without providing specific details about how you align with their needs. This can create a false sense of hope and excitement, leading you to believe that you are a strong contender for the role. However, without concrete information about how you fit into their organization, it becomes challenging to gauge your chances realistically.

2. Delayed or Nonexistent Communication

One of the most common signs that a company might be leading you on is a lack of timely and transparent communication. After an initial interview or assessment, the company may promise to get back to you within a certain timeframe but consistently fails to follow through. They may also become unresponsive to your emails or phone calls, leaving you in limbo and unsure about the status of your application. This unprofessional behavior can indicate a lack of respect for candidates' time and may suggest that the company is not serious about filling the position or does not value open communication.

3. Repeated Additional Rounds of Interviews

While it's normal for companies to conduct multiple rounds of interviews to thoroughly evaluate candidates, excessive and repetitive interview stages without clear progress or a specific timeline can be a sign of leading on. Companies that are genuinely interested in hiring a candidate typically move through the interview process efficiently and provide transparent updates along the way. Conversely, a company that seems to perpetually extend the interview process without a clear end goal may be keeping you engaged for reasons other than genuine consideration for the position.

Why Companies may Display this Behavior and what YOU can do About it

As difficult as it may be, it's essential to pick ourselves up and learn from these experiences. Companies that engage in such practices might have internal issues or lack the professionalism and empathy that candidates deserve. They may be keeping you in the process to compare and contrast you to other candidates that they are also not excited about. They may be using you for market research. Or the company may just lack a good, efficient, hiring process.

While it's essential to stay resilient, it's also crucial to remember that the interview process is a two-way street. Just as companies assess candidates, job seekers should also evaluate potential employers to ensure a good fit for their career aspirations and work-life balance.

Your initial reaction may be to remove yourself from candidacy all together. This could be a good move if the process is particularly just downright horrendous. You wouldn't even want to work for a company who treats candidates and employees this way, right?

If, however, the process just has a couple of hiccups, it's a better move to continue your candidacy... carefully. Try your best to emotionally remove yourself from the company while continuing the interview process with more control. Make sure to ask important questions about the role, the company, where you would fit in, and what your day to day would look like.

Need more specific guidance? Check out our Career Services for all the good good you need to succeed.

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Emily Bendus
Emily Bendus
Jul 19, 2023

Hi Amy! I love this post! I have noticed some companies are posting jobs and doing phone screens but not moving farther in the process for weeks or even months! Apparently they just want to collect resumes and hope enough candidates are available when they are ready to fill the role! Is there anything we can look out for?

Amy Israeli
Amy Israeli
Jul 20, 2023
Replying to

Hey Emily, thank you for the valuable question. YES! Some companies absolutely post a future role, or an evergreen role (always hiring), with no intention of hiring anyone until "next quarter" or until they get approval from Finance and HR, etc., which can take awhile. You won't be able to tell from a job post. We can tell internally on the ATS if they have their jobs categorized they may be an "evergreen" category or a category for future roles. So what can you do...

First of all let's start with this - a company sussing out the market or filling up their funnel for a future role will NOT be using an agency for that. So when you're reached…

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