You hear about a promising job opening from a recruiter, who’s gone out of their way to message you and tell you what a great fit you’d be. After a couple rounds of interviews, the hiring managers seem eager to move forward — but then, they offer up a vague reason for why they ultimately need a little more time.
Fair enough. You can wait. You’re the picture of patience! After multiple weeks of this waiting, though, you’re forced to determine — despite continuing to receive responses that are worded just encouragingly enough from the hiring managers — that they aren’t actually going to make you an offer. At least, not anytime soon.
Does this situation sound familiar to you? If it does, it’s likely that you’ve been breadcrumbed.
What is breadcrumbing?
The practice of breadcrumbing is giving you just enough of what you need in a given situation — or, alternatively, the promise of soon receiving what you need — to ensure that you’ll stick around. It’s the act of being strung along — in a romantic relationship, which is what some may know the term from, or by an employer. And it’s possible to be breadcrumbed by potential employers, as well.
Posting to the FGB Community, FGB’er Trisha Styles described breadcrumbing as “when the hiring manager or recruiter sends messages in order to keep someone interested in the role in a false way that leads people on.” Styles referenced three specific signs that can indicate this is happening to you:
3 signs you’re being breadcrumbed:
1. The hiring manager or recruiter has made it sound, either directly or indirectly, like you effectively already have the job, even though no formal offer has technically been made.
2. They “blow hot and cold.” They contact you a lot and then suddenly, you won’t hear anything for weeks or even months.
3. Their messages lack clear information, avoid specifics and leave you confused.
Unfortunately, the practice of breadcrumbing job seekers is becoming increasingly common.
Styles’ post is full of comments from other women who’ve had the same thing happen to them.
“So this is the term!” one FGB’er responded. “This is becoming the norm. After multiple Zoom interviews and receiving positive feedback from the talent acquisition team — to being ghosted. The energy and time involved is ridiculous.”
Donna Macdonald, an FGB VIP, called the practice “one of the out-growths of companies looking for candidates and having there be too many available, like a buyer’s market in real estate.”
“It is reminiscent of waiting for the best offer for a date on Saturday night, so you keep the less desirable candidates interested ‘just in case,’” she wrote. “It's not nice in dating or hiring.”
If you find yourself being breadcrumbed, Macdonald advises calling the hiring manager out on it.
“Gently ask, ‘While we have communicated a lot about your open position, do you think you are any closer to making a selection, as I am about to receive other offers soon?’" she recommended. “If you are unable to respond this way, I would break ties with them by saying that you are working with other enthusiastic companies now.”
Still, she cautioned that particularly in the current economic climate, some well-meaning hiring managers may have to resort to tactics that feel reminiscent of breadcrumbing. So before writing off an opportunity altogether, it’s wise to have considered things from this angle, as well.
“I do have to say that from the company's point of view, hiring is very tricky right now, and this could be a more remote reason for being strung along,” she said. “Hiring managers need a lot more sign-offs to hire and although the manager may have gotten a go-ahead, hiring could be stalled pending other approvals for candidates and salary amounts. Still, not a good enough reason for breadcrumbing, but if you have no other offers, it may be OK for you to play along provided you are not missing other opportunities at the same time.”