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Why the Post-Interview Waiting Game Takes So Damn Long

Today's post is written by guest blogger Ronnie Ann, an organizational consultant specializing in business process improvement, project management, and workplace coaching who can be heard from on her own blog, Work Coach Café. She has held many jobs of all kinds in the public, private, non-profit, and academic sectors. Apart from watching really bad TV, eating pizza, and enjoying her beloved Brooklyn — her favorite pastime is helping people make sense of the oft- inscrutable world of work.

So, you've done everything right. You took your old resume, followed all the advice on this blog and elsewhere, and made it sizzle with both visual appeal and the essence of all you offer an employer. You also created a perfectly targeted cover letter that only a socially maladjusted cheese-eatin' rat could reject.

Wait After InterviewAnd then, after being called in for an interview, you aced it! She shoots. She scores! How could you miss? You had them eating out of your hands. You even got an extra-warm handshake from the CEO telling you he was definitely in your corner. You're already imagining how to decorate your new cubicle and where to go for lunch with your new office buddies as you send your perfectly worded thank you notes.

And then — nothing! You wait. A week passes. Still nothing. And another week. Silence. Maybe a few crickets. But nary a word from the very people you assumed would be your new BFFs. Nada. Zilch.

And so you begin to think about all the things you must have done wrong — and you replay the interview endlessly in your mind, examining each excruciating detail. What was it? How could you have screwed up so badly? Oh the horror. The searing pain.

And then you decide it's not you at all. It's them! And you get really, really mad. Horrible human beings making you suffer — on purpose. Don't they know how heartless this is???

But then the realization hits you like a cold hammer: It's not just torture. They've rejected you outright and don't even have the courtesy to let you know. The very same people you already had Christmas gifts picked out for!

So what's the real story?

Let me take you behind closed doors and clue you in to what really might be going on. In some cases, the answer could be as simple as "you didn't get the job and they didn't tell you." That happens. But there are many times when absolutely nothing's wrong and it just takes longer than you'd ever imagine. Sometimes months! And it's not about you at all — or even them. It's (scary music plays) THE HIRING PROCESS.

While you wait in agony for that crumb of communication, here's what might be going on:

  • Sometimes HR controls all communication and that means people you write to are advised not to respond to individual candidates. Why? It could be a mandate from legal to prevent any miscommunication. (A poorly worded response from the company could be construed as an offer when none exists yet.) Or it could simply be HR wanting to call all the shots. It happens.
  • Someone critical to the process (aka SCTTP) may be sick or called away. Why not work around the person? They could, but sometimes the company prefers to wait for the sake of continuity — even if that means you wait too.
  • Our SCTTP may suddenly have been put on a top-priority project that's taking all their time. Even if they said they want to hire quickly, the hiring process can get put on the back burner. I've seen this many times.
  • Our SCTTP has been fired or quit and must be replaced first.
  • The department is going through a reorganization — again.
  • The job is being rethought and possibly needs to wait for HR to approve a reclassification. Why? Sometimes they find a specific candidate (maybe you) whose skills are even more suited to their needs than their original concept. Or they find two people they like and decide to split the job into two different positions.
  • Hiring may require numerous people who did not interview you to sign off on various steps of the process. Meanwhile, you wait.
  • Sometimes it simply takes weeks to find room on everyone's calendar for the next round of interviews.

These are all things you'll never know about. I once waited four months for an interview with only a few emails exchanged in between. And I was the top candidate!

So, next time you're stuck in the waiting game, other than sending an occasional note or making a phone call, your only real job is to wait. And breathe. And do your best to stay sane.

Good luck finding the right job for you!

Ronnie Ann

Have you ever had a great job interview, felt certain an offer (or at least another interview) would be forthcoming, then waited, and waited - and waited for the next step to occur? How did it make you feel? What did you do? Please let us know below in the comments section.

RELATED LINKS

Never Go to a Job Interview Without These 10 Things
Stand Out in a Rough Job Market: Part II — Interviewing
When Bad HR Happens to Good Job Seekers

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