What You Should (and Shouldn’t) Do When You’re Waiting to Hear Back About a Job

By Sara McCord

You know that you’re capable of being a top-tier applicant (that’s why you’re here!). You’re the type to take your career ambitions into your own hands—build your network, do your research, rock the interview, and write an awesome thank you note.

But then it’s the hiring manager’s turn, and you have to shift gears from proactive to patient. Isn’t there anything you can do?

The short answer is, making the switch from “full steam ahead” to “wait and see” mode is the most important step (but more on that later). Read on for a breakdown of the dos and don’t’s while you’re waiting to hear back.

Don’t Work Against Yourself

As with most relationships, looking interested is good, but looking too interested makes you less desirable. You may think you’re showing your future company that you’re ready to hit the ground running, but if you come on too strong post-interview (think “checking in” to restate your interest less than a week after the interview or double communicating—emailing and then emailing again without a response from the other party), you look less like a candidate they’d be lucky to hire and more like someone who’s anxious to leave your current role. It’s not fair, but the rules of human nature apply, and someone who seems desperate suddenly seems less appealing.

Need another reason to wait to contact your potential employer? Even if you are a shoo-in, being over-eager will weaken your negotiating stance when it is time to talk terms. If you put too fine a point on wanting to work at this company more than anything in the world, then the company may offer you a lower salary than a candidate it’s trying to entice.

Do Respond in a Timely Fashion

To be clear, you want to step back from your role initiating communication—which you did when you sent your cover letter and thank you note—and let the company be the party to reach out. However, there is a big—read: catastrophic—difference between letting the interviewer take the lead and deserting the dance floor altogether.

Just like you should respond to a request for an interview within 24 hours, if your contact follows up with you (good sign!), be sure to reply within one day (and ideally within a few hours). Going on vacation? Set an away message for your personal email; even consider updating your voicemail message to tell callers you’ll be unreachable. It’s worth it so the company doesn’t think you’ve simply moved on.

Don’t Drive Yourself Crazy

I was recently waiting to hear back about a position, and I’ll admit it: Every time my email dinged, I frantically checked to see if it was news on the job front—or just another retail advertisement. I’d think about the job before I went to bed, and when I woke up in the morning.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing: In part, obsessing over a job is how you know you’re on the right track and applying for a role you’re really passionate about. At the same time, though, you need that proverbial dose of reality—and regularly—so that you’re not crushed if you don’t get the job.

Your personal timeline will depend on your circumstances, but if I make it to the final round for any given job, I give myself one week when I’m allowed to think about it non-stop. For an entire week, I don’t apply to other jobs (assuming I don’t have anything else in the works), almost as a show of confidence in myself. For the skeptics who think this means I’ll miss my chance elsewhere, the second part of the one-week rule is that, after a week, I go back to job-hunting business as usual, and pick up right where I left off.

Do Move on Graciously

Okay, ideally, you hear that the job is yours, and then all you need to do is negotiate your salary and prepare to leave your current role (more on that here). Another, somewhat more depressing scenario—though one you’ll get through just fine—is that one to two weeks go by and you hear that you didn’t get the job. If this is the case, graciously thank the hiring managers for their time and, if appropriate, ask to be kept in mind for future roles or to stay connected on LinkedIn.

Perhaps the hardest scenario, of course, is when an employer who tells you you’re a finalist then follows the “never contact the applicant again and he or she will get we went another way” protocol. (Personally, I prefer when company procedures mimic that of what they’d expect of their employees—being timely and honest—but that’s really not up to me.)

So what should you do? How do you know whether a company passed on you or if the hiring process is simply taking longer than expected? It’s OK to send one follow-up email, and from there gauge your contact’s response (if any) and response time, and then reply if appropriate. And if you’ve sent a thank-you note, followed up once, and haven’t heard a peep—well, it’s probably best to keep exploring your options.

Waiting to hear back about a job is nerve-wracking. But use the steps above to stay sane—both for yourself and in the eyes of the company.


This piece was originally published by The Muse.

Featured image by Wildangle.net.

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