How Long to Wait?

By Joe Stein

Tom Petty once sang (he still does actually) about how “the waiting is the hardest part”.  He wasn’t referring to a job search when he penned this song, but he very well could have been.

Job Seekers are often in a quandary regarding the start/stop and wait of a job search.  This is especially true if a person has completed what has been the communicated hiring process and only a decision awaits the candidate.  The stress creator is deciding what strategy to take…do you follow-up immediately, or do you wait (and if so just how long is appropriate)?  You don’t want to appear too pushy or even desperate, but you really want to be able to reach a conclusion.

There are many reasons why there are delays or just an overall slow pacing to a decision process on an open position.  These reasons are covered in a previous column titled “Add Some Speed to Your Job Search”, which is available online at www.wnyjobs.com in our article database (which, by the way, is a great resource for you as it contains a catalog of this column over the last few years). 

If you have been given a definite deadline date and it has passed, it is generally accepted by companies that it is OK for the candidate to reach out regarding status.  If you don’t immediately reach the Recruiter or Hiring Manager, then leave one voice message (avoid leaving multiple as that may negatively impact their perception of you).  When you connect, stay polite by not overtly pointing out that a stated deadline has been missed.  Couch the conversation in a way that provides the theme that you are just following up, as you had thought there would be a decision at this time.  Ask for a new expected deadline,  if a decision has not been made, then make sure to inquire whether there is any information needed by the employer in order to assist the decision making process.

If the delay has become extended beyond your tolerance, or if you are fortunate enough to be considering multiple offers, you may want to “force the hand” of the Hiring Manager.  This should only be done with caution after much deliberation, as this can be a risky procedure. If done, then it should be when a person can afford for it not to work out.  In this situation, the Job Seeker will contact the Hiring Manager and professionally communicate that a decision is needed or desired (in a softer approach).  In a perfect scenario, this will be the stimulus needed for the prospective employer to get moving and make you an offer, or, you may even find the company likes your “spunk” in reaching out for an update.  In the worst case scenario, it will result in them cutting ties to you because they perceive you as too aggressive, desperate, or not a strong enough candidate to make you wait any longer.

If you are waiting, then try to control the stress.  The reality is that it really is not a worst case scenario situation.  It does mean that you are still in the game, whatever step in the process you happen to currently be in. Although it is not as pleasant as rapidly moving through the steps, it sure beats the alternative (a regret letter) - so don’t get worked up about it.  Avoid jumping to conclusions due to the wait and automatically conclude that it must be bad news.  Try to keep yourself busy while you are waiting, in order to keep your mind off the situation.  Take advantage of the time by completing some additional research about the company and position, in order to better prepare you for when the call does come.  Don’t, however, let the reason you have not reached out (especially if you are past deadline) be that you are afraid to hear the news.  The reality is that if you are currently stressed, hearing the news may actually become a relief for you.

One thing that it is critical that you don’t do…is stopping your search while you are waiting.  Stopping will place you far behind if you receive bad news, and then you will have to start from scratch.  So much of a job search is built off of momentum, and stopping destroys it.  You may also find that continuing your search leads you to another interested employer therefore creating some competition for your services (and perhaps ending the waiting).  It may even result in you landing a better position. If you are currently employed, don’t let this delay impact your current role, both in your performance and/or your demeanor.  Don’t provide any clues that you are waiting on a decision and possibly leaving.

Finally, stay positive during the waiting process.  It can be very easy to become discouraged or frustrated due to the delay.  You do not want these feelings to become obvious to the prospective employer you are waiting for, or any company you are pursuing in your search.

As always, best of luck in your job search!