Job Applications: What Happens After You Apply for a Job
In a previous post I talked a little about what happens AFTER you apply for a job. But it might help you to know a little more about what really goes on behind the scenes from the employer's side. While no one company does their hiring process the same as another, here's a basic overview of activities at each stage of the hiring process.
What happens after you submit your resume?
Resumes can come in via an online system that accepts job applications or via email or even snail mail. And occasionally, hand-delivered from someone with an in. If there is an online system, even if you got it to the company by other means, people will usually be asked to submit it using the system.
If resumes are part of an automated system, someone will have to come up with some keywords (usually based on the job description) to ask the computer to spit out a batch for a real person to screen, and make some choices for initial interviews. Therefore, even with an automated environment, there are at least two points where a live person will make some choices that affect you:
(1) Does your resume have enough matching keywords to make the first cut?
(2) Does your resume look presentable and relevant enough to the job to get selected?
In both cases, the job description is often your best guide for how to build your resume to increase your chances of being picked. One more important thing: This doesn't always happen in the first week. It can take weeks before all the resumes are in and everyone is ready to begin the interview process. So in most cases, patience becomes your best ally.
What happens after your initial phone screening interview?
First, some basics
Not every company does phone interviews; some call you in for an in-person interview without ever having spoken to you. But many companies like to first hear what you sound like and see how you handle yourself on the phone. I've done tons of phone screenings as part of my internal recruitment work. Mainly I check to see if the person really has the basic skills we want (no matter what the resume says), and if they seem like someone who might fit well with our team.
Each time, I am actually hoping the person is someone I can bring in, and that includes things like being able to carry on a real conversation, even if they are a little nervous (it's ok). And whether they actually listen and answer what I ask, or just go off on their own despite what I'm saying.
Also, I look for energy and attitude. If we want to call in 5 people, I usually phone screen at least 15 or 20 resumes, and then go over my notes to see whom we actually want to call in. If I wind up with 6 or 7 great candidates, we may call them all in. This is the time to eliminate the obvious, and (for some) stay open to the possible. Next, I bring my list of top candidates – and some maybes – and sit with other members of the hiring team to come up with the final list to call in for their first in-person interview. Getting everyone together – and finding room in their schedules for interviews – can take longer than you'd imagine. So, this is another place where days can perhaps turn into weeks.
What happens after your first interview?
After the interview, once again we have to get everyone together to discuss which candidates to bring in for the next round of interviews. Along the way, after each interview, members of the hiring team are usually sharing information, and you start to get an idea. But before you let anyone know you want to meet with them again, it could take weeks for people to meet and find interview time again. I know … you'd think this should go faster, and in some cases it does, but I just want you to be aware of all the places things can slow down.
And while this is going on, often people who were not selected (even phone interviewees) don't get notified at all. Only the ones moving on usually get contacted. In some cases, just a bad hiring process; in other cases, the human resources department requires silence until more is known for legal reasons. I know it sucks, but I'm just cluing you in to help lessen the pain of silence. And the pain of not hearing back at all – or at least nothing very satisfying – if you try to follow up.
What happens if you're a final job candidate?
Often, there are just 2 or 3 finalists, but I've heard of companies that keep the number of possible finalists higher. At this point, there may be more interviews and /or maybe a request for special presentations or a fresh writing sample. (That can happen earlier, of course.) This is also the time when you will probably be asked for your references, although some companies may ask for them up front. Again with some exceptions, in most cases, if your references are called, you are either the top candidate or one of the top 2 or 3.
And then, based on references and everything else, the finalist is chosen (more meetings to schedule) and an offer is made – and perhaps negotiated. Some people run a background check before making the offer, but many wait, making the offer contingent on the background check. If you have anything to discuss that you haven't yet mentioned and that may show up during the check, this is the time to do it. All this can take more weeks. And if you are the second choice, you may still have an offer coming if the first isn't accepted. It happens. But usually no one tells you anything while this is going on. Again, just the way the process works. Try to make peace with it.
What happens to your job application?
Your job application, along with your signature saying that its ok to do a background check, is then often given to a third-party company that specializes in background checks. Some companies may do the checks themselves, but be prepared for a thorough check of your credit, any criminal history, education, and jobs you say you had, dates included. If there are discrepancies, it isn't an automatic withdrawal of the offer in most cases, but it can be.
You usually get a chance to explain any inaccuracies or issues. But this part is so important that you need to take your application very seriously, whether you fill it out up front or later on in the process. Try your best to give 100% accurate information, even if your resume may not quite read the same way. For example, sometimes a short-term job may be left off a resume to target it better for the job, but when it comes to the application – include it all!