Interviewing for a job you want can be exciting and might even leave you feeling hopeful. But when you check on your application status and find the system displays, "on hold," some confusion and concern is only natural. Because companies and even government organizations use different systems and terminology, "on hold" can have several implications. However, all of them mean you shouldn't expect a job offer in the immediate future.
Despite best intentions and hopes, companies sometimes run into budgetary and organizational problems, even after they have begun interviewing for a position. Unexpected and last minute issues within an organization can mean it has to put off hiring. Accordingly, human resources and hiring managers change a candidate’s status to "on hold" to designate that the organization hasn't ruled out the candidate - but that selection and hiring are not imminent.
Often when hiring managers identify a favored or top candidate, they aren't sure if negotiations will succeed. Therefore, they don't want to let go of other good candidates. Placing the runners up on hold allows hiring managers to keep candidates in their pool while also informing them not to expect any immediate results or advancement of their applications. In this situation, being put "on hold" means you're on standby.
Organizations that use Internet-based applicant tracking systems rely on hiring managers and human resources representatives to update them on interview and hiring process progress. Depending on the applicant tracking system, "on hold" may indicate that a hiring manager hasn't updated your profile in some time. The lack of activity can cause the system to move you into a default hold status. This can occur because you aren't a favored candidate, the hiring manager hasn't been working on filling the position or someone has simply been lazy about entering data.
Computers make mistakes and so do their users. If "on hold" doesn't make sense or fit with your recent communications or experience, contact the human resources representative, recruiter or interviewer with whom you have been working. If nothing else, you'll get a clear picture of what's going on. Send a simple email saying that you were confused by the "on hold" status and want to know what it means for that company and your application.
Eric Feigenbaum started his career in print journalism, becoming editor-in-chief of "The Daily" of the University of Washington during college and afterward working at two major newspapers. He later did many print and Web projects including re-brandings for major companies and catalog production.