AMY LINDGREN: Waiting for Job Search Processes to Unfold
You’ve heard the phrase, “hurry up and wait”? Although that term first surfaced related to the military – as in, hurry to your post, then wait hours for your instructions – it’s an apt description for job search as well.
For example, you might hurry to set a networking meeting, only to have it scheduled weeks away, or postponed multiple times for the same effect. Hurrying to complete an application or submit a resume is a classic example: More times than not, weeks will elapse between hitting “send” and attending your first interview – or, sadly, learning that you’re not going to be interviewed after all.
And of course, the interview process itself is nothing if not an exercise in patience. Waiting in the lobby for an interview to begin, waiting between each interview for word of the next one, waiting post-offer for the paperwork and start date…it’s not an easy sequence for impatient or anxious people.
Since I frequently hear from candidates seeking advice about the waits they’re involved in, it seemed like a good time to present some guidelines and tips. Of course you know that any generalized information needs to be revised for your own situation. But here are a few things to consider next time you find yourself stuck in a hurry-up-and-wait loop.
Common timelines for…
…networking meetings or career counseling sessions – within 2-3 weeks of first contact
…screening interviews – within 2 weeks of the application deadline; if no deadline was posted, within 2 weeks of having sent your materials
…in-person interviews conducted by someone in your potential department – within 1-2 weeks of the screening interview
…job offer – within a few days of your final in-person interview
…paperwork detailing all aspects of compensation – within a day or two of a verbal offer
…start date – 1-3 weeks from receiving / accepting the offer
What to do…
…while waiting for networking contacts to get back to you – think good thoughts but don’t re-engage for a week or two. Then send a brief, light email “just checking in to see how your schedule looks for a quick conversation next week…”
…while waiting to be scheduled for an interview – if you’re waiting for an initial screening interview after sending your materials, touch base every 7 days “just to check on the scheduling, and to be sure you have what you need from me.” When waiting for a second or third interview, follow the timeline they provided, then contact them 3-5 days after the date they said you would be hearing back.
…while waiting for an interview to start – nothing. As difficult as it may be to just sit when someone parks you in a waiting room, remember there’s a reason these spaces aren’t called check-your-email rooms or Angry Birds rooms. Skip the nervous multi-tasking and practice quiet observation instead; if you do, you’ll be better prepared for the meetings when they do start.
…while waiting to receive an offer – when you feel confident that you’ll be receiving an offer, staying in touch with more intensity is the key. Instead of “just checking in,” frame your weekly emails around small but important points from the work itself. For example, a brief paragraph containing resources related to an issue discussed in the last interview would tell your soon-to-be manager that you’re already engaged in the job. This email might be worded, “I don’t want to jump the gun, but I’m keeping you in mind while you complete your deliberations for the position. Here are some resources I ran across…”
Making the wait more bearable
The best antidote to the frustration of waiting is to occupy yourself with something else. In the case of job search, that means having more than one position near the front burner at all times. Ideally, you’d be pursuing at least three or four opportunities every week, whether they be networking conversations, job interviews or some other aspect of the process.
Why is this so important? Because distributing your attention more broadly lessens the likelihood of getting into mischief. When candidates have only one shiny opportunity to focus on, they tend to obsess more, sometimes leading to over-contacting other people.
Which brings us to the odd time-warp related to job search: A week in the life of an employer feels like a month to a candidate. That is, when an interviewer says “We’ll get back to you in a week,” the 8th day feels like day 31 to the job seeker. That just is what it is, as the saying goes. Since you can’t change the nature of time and how it feels to both sides, your best strategy is to find ways to cope with the “hurry up and wait” aspect of job search.
Amy Lindgren owns Prototype Career Service, a career consulting firm in St. Paul. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 626 Armstrong Avenue, St. Paul, MN 55102.