A reader writes:
I’m a month away from graduating college and am job searching for my first full-time professional job. I’ve sent out a lot of applications the past few months, with several replying and subsequently setting up an interview, although no offer has come through yet. I check my email once or twice a day and always make sure to get back to them within 24 hours.
I’ve never had someone email me asking to interview who then called it off or said anything regarding it. But my fiance thinks that they aren’t interested in me because I respond too slowly. He works in the tech field (I do not) and says they are looking for people to respond within 2-4 hours or it seems I’m unmotivated. He also grew up in this area (a large city) while I’m from a smaller town across country. I really want a job but I’m having a hard time believing it’s such a huge rush to respond within four hours and secretly dooming me. Is it true though? Personally I think only having one internship is coming back to bite me in the behind.
No, that’s not true! You can ignore your fiance on this.
It’s totally fine to take up to 24 hours to respond to an interview invitation. No sensible employer is going to judge you for not responding in four hours. People have lives! You could be at work, traveling, sleeping, running errands, caring for a child, gardening … all kinds of things. It is very normal to spend 4+ hours doing something other than being in front of your email. If they want to interview you, they’re not going to decide they’re not longer interested just because they emailed you at 3 p.m. Tuesday and you responded at 10 a.m. Wednesday.
At least not generally. There are some people who hire who treat candidates as if they’re interchangeable, decide they want to set up five interviews, and set them up with the first five reasonably promising candidates they get ahold of. With those people, if you miss their call, you’re out of luck. But that’s not how most people do it, it’s not considered a good practice, and it’s not even what your fiance is talking about — he’s talking about employers removing you from the running because you don’t look interested enough, and that’s definitely not the case.
However … If you can respond sooner without any hardship, I would. Hiring managers’ schedules tend to fill up quickly, and the time slots that are available right now might not be available 24 hours from now, which can complicate the process. And sometimes the people who arrange interviews are sloppy or disorganized, as with any job. So if you can respond more quickly, it’s smart to do that … but no sensible employer is holding it against you that you took a single business day to get back to them.
All that said, it is true that most people do respond more quickly than 24 hours. Usually when I email an interview invitation, I’ll hear back from the candidate that same day or that evening. But that’s just what’s common, not what’s required. There’s no “2-4 hour” expectation in play, and plenty of people do take 24 hours or so and it’s fine.
If for some reason it takes you much longer than that (not like 30 hours, but like they email you on Monday and you don’t respond until Wednesday), at that point I’d include a quick explanation when you respond — like “I’ve been traveling” or “sorry for the delay, this went to my spam folder and I missed it initially” or whatever the reason is. That’s the point where it does start looking a little unusual that you haven’t replied yet, and it’s helpful to give some context for it. A good employer still isn’t going to take you out of the running if you don’t (unless there’s some scheduling reason on their end), but it’s still a useful thing to do.
how quickly should I respond to interview invitations? was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.