Job Interviews: When Will I Finally Hear Back from a Job Interview?
Unfortunately, the answer is when they are ready and not one moment before. The post-interview process (otherwise known as "the job interview waiting game") takes as long as it has to take. And it rarely follows the rules of jobseeker – or for that matter any rational person – logic. Now before you jump all over me about how annoying that answer is, let me tell you a little about what goes into an employer getting back to you after a job interview…and why you might not hear back from them any time soon.
First, please know that the length of time it takes an employer to get back to you after an interview often has nothing to do with whether they are interested in you for the job. Having interviewed many people as part of my internal recruiting work, and also having heard from MANY job seekers waiting endlessly (or so it seems to them) just to hear any feedback, I want to clue you in on what really goes on to help spare you at least some anxiety.
What Really Goes On Behind the Scenes
After a job interview, while you are thinking almost nothing else except "why aren't they calling me? why aren't they calling me? why aren't they calling me?", the company itself is continuing with business as usual. For some companies, they are hiring because they desperately need an extra set of hands, so they're simply busy with other things. Ah…I hear your thoughts. "If they need extra hands, why aren't they rushing to call me? I have two hands that would be very happy to help them NOW." I know. You would think that was what they are thinking, too. And, trust me, some folks at the company are thinking about hiring someone asap. But meanwhile, here's what could be happening:
- They may still be interviewing the first round of applicants. That can happen quickly – over a few days – or over a few weeks, even if folks in the department with the opening feel the urgent need to hire, as they try to accommodate everyone's schedule.
- Someone (or more than one person) critical to the process may be sick or out of town or simply so booked with meetings that finding time to meet to evaluate candidates – or start scheduling round two – gets delayed.
- Human Resources (HR) may have strict rules (for legal reasons) about not calling or getting back to people (including answering your desperate emails) until decisions for the next step are in place, even if the staff person wants to give you a heads up. So it may not be their fault for not answering you.
- There may be a rush project tying up resources and pushing everything back, including hiring.
- Some companies just aren't good at this thing, even sometimes ones with a formal HR department.
- Sometimes there are multi-layered formal HR processes that take time for sign-offs at each level before moving forward.
- Sometimes a position gets delayed or rethought, possibly due to budget reasons, changes in management, a reorganization, or even a new initiative that somehow impacts the position you interviewed for.
- Your email got eaten by the spam detector or is one of HUNDREDS sitting in the person's inbox. (In larger companies especially, people can get that many over a day or two, especially during a job search when everyone is urgently contacting them.)
- For almost no discernible reason, these things often take longer than anyone on the outside ever imagines.
What I've Found Doesn't Help
- Blaming THEM for the delays – and for your misery, as understandable as your frustration may be. Since you don't know the reasons, and maybe never will, you really can't know for sure what's behind the silence, if that is what's happening. And making yourself miserable over what you can't control doesn't help.
- Waiting to hear back from the interview you really want and forgetting to continue to look for other jobs. As perfect as it is, you might not get this job, but you might find another one that is a better fit from both sides.
- Joining groups that sit and complain about how bad the interview process is. It's good to find people who understand where you can let it all out – feel free to do so here in comments. But spending too much time going over and over the same frustrations actually starts to color how you feel about the potential employer, as well as how you present yourself and how you feel in general.
- Trying to make the employer follow your rules. Some people actually keep bugging them until they finally get some feedback – but that doesn't mean they haven't made note of your impatience and perhaps tendency to make everything about your needs.
- Blaming me for saying any of what I just said. I really do know how frustrating – maddening – the job interview process is. And how unfair it feels. I've been there myself, and I've read comments from thousands of people who have gone through it. I wouldn't design it this way if I had my choice. I'd keep you informed every step of the way. But you'll only make yourself nuts if you sit and try to figure out what you don't have all the information for and what you can't change.
What I've Found Does Help
- Being patient and knowing you've done your best. Letting go of what you can't control is useful in job search as well as in the job itself. And really…having been a job search lead myself many times…we don't forget the ones we're interested in. While follow-ups from people we don't think fit rarely help, a polite notes won't hurt, and may leave a nice impression if a different job opens up.
- Patience doesn't mean you can't try to follow up. But do it briefly, politely, and not too often – waiting 10-14 days from the initial interview (having already sent a thank-you note, of course) is a safe thing, unless you have something important to add or it's a job that's hiring immediately. But even so, don't overdo. It's ok to ask if you may follow up again after your first post-interview contact.
- If there is something you mentioned in the interview that you want to clarify or some new accomplishment you want to share or if you come across something they might find useful, a polite note with the information is a nice reason to send them a reminder, and in that case it may help. But they will still take as much time as they need for their process. Rarely does a post-interview communication from a job seeker change their minds – but it has happened. So use your judgement. Just know post-interview contacts can also add a negative impression. Ouch.
- Finding other people – individuals or groups – who will help support you in positive action while you are waiting.
- Keep looking for a job with full determination. It's the smart thing to do, and the energy expended will help keep you sane. Plus, you really may find an even better fit.
- Volunteer or start a project or take a class or take up yoga or do something with any free time you have to keep from focusing on what's not happening. The post-interview process has a life and a time frame of its own.
Well, I hope that helps make the waiting game at least a little less frustrating for you. It really does take longer than you would ever think. Good luck getting the job you want!