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How to Deal With Waiting to Hear Back After a Job Interview

By Taunee Besson, CMF, CareerCast.com Senior Columnist

Q: Last week I had my third in a series of interviews for a job that is just what I've been looking for. Unfortunately, the interviewer hasn't contacted me about his choice yet. Should I continue waiting by the phone, call to see if he's hired anyone, write an email expressing my enthusiasm, or what? This waiting is driving me nuts!

A: Your question prompts a discussion of two points:

  1. How do you handle waiting to hear back from companies after an interview?
  2. How can you avoid this predicament for future job applications?

Start by finding out exactly where you stand right now. You've probably avoided calling the company because you assume the consider you a pest, or you're afraid that he has decided to hire someone else. If it's been a week since your last interview, checking in on the selection process is reasonable, unless you've been specifically told that the decision would take longer than a week. In fact, your call will display both enthusiasm and initiative, qualities that most employers value.

Even if your interviewer has bad news, it's far better to know where you stand. In fact, a negative reply can be a partial plus, if you can elicit some feedback on why another candidate was chosen instead of you. In today's job market, finding ways to stand out from other job seekers is vital, and honest feedback from a hiring manager an be a great help.

However, in this situation the most important thing to do is to relax. This job may your number one priority, but for the interviewer it could rank it third or fourth down the list. The hiring manager may have an unexpected crisis, an out-of-town trip, or an emergency project to handle. Or the company may be moving slowly because other initiatives are taking precedence. Instead of sitting by the phone and waiting, it's better for your career (and your health) to assume that the interviewer hasn't contacted you simply because a final hiring decision hasn't been made yet. In addition, fierce competition for jobs means that even qualified seekers are likely to get a few rejections before landing a new job – if you obsess over a particular position at the expense of your overall search, you could miss key opportunities that you should be pursuing.

If you've waited long enough that you feel compelled to get some feedback, it's okay to call or email the hiring manager and say something along the lines of "I haven't heard from you in a while, so I'm calling to check on whether you have filled the position I interviewed for yet." Then let them take it from there. If you find out that the position is still open and you're still being considered, try to learn when a final decision is expected. Then call on that day (or soon after) to find out about their choice.

The larger lesson from this experience, however, is that you need to take responsibility for contacting the employer to maintain control over your search. If you want to save yourself future anxiety in the hiring process, at the end of each interview try asking how your interviewer plans to proceed. Find out if more interviews will be needed – and if so, how soon they will occur. If you've made it to the final interview, ask when the company expects to make their choice, and don't hesitate to reach out by phone or email if you don't hear back by that date. Also, be sure to write a thank you email immediately after all interviews.

Waiting for "the big call" is never fun, but you learn to assert yourself a little, and accept that delays are part of the hiring process, you can go a long way toward reducing your overall discomfort.


Senior Columnist Taunee Besson, CMF, is president of Career Dimensions, Inc., a consulting firm founded in 1979 that works with individual and corporate clients in career transition, job search, executive coaching, talent management and small business issues. She is an award-winning columnist for CareerJournal.com and a best-selling author of the Wall Street Journal's books on resumes and cover letters. Her articles on a variety of career issues have appeared on numerous career/job websites and trade and business journals. Ms. Besson has been quoted numerous times in The Wall Street Journal, The Dallas Morning News, Business Week, Time, Smart Money, and a number of other websites and publications.

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