How Long Are You Making Job Candidates Wait for a Hiring Decision?

Joe Weinlick
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A slow hiring process can drive away top candidates and place strain on other employees as key roles remain vacant. Although candidates recognize the importance of making a good hire, they don't want to be stuck in job-search limbo for weeks awaiting a potential job offer. Sought-after candidates usually have multiple options, making them more likely to favor companies that make timely hiring decisions.

In a recent study, staffing agency Robert Half surveyed job seekers to determine what they find most off-putting about the hiring process. Fifty-seven percent of respondents said they were frustrated about waiting extended periods of time for updates after interviewing, while 35 percent disliked being subjected to multiple rounds of interviews and skills evaluations. When asked about the appropriate length of a hiring process, 39 percent of respondents considered seven to 14 days to be too long, and 24 percent viewed 15 to 21 days as excessive.

A drawn-out hiring process is often the result of poor preparation. Without a clear goal in mind, your recruitment staff may waste time refining the criteria as they go along, leading to fruitless interviews with candidates who have glaring incompatibilities. Improve efficiency by consulting with the decision-makers and the employees most familiar with the role. Determine the requirements of the position and the baseline skills and personality traits a candidate needs to be successful. If there's any reason you can't make a hiring decision right away, hold off on hosting interviews.

Employers may unknowingly shrink the applicant pool by leaving candidates out of the loop. In the survey, 39 percent of respondents said they lose interest and look for other positions when the hiring process drags on too long. Thirty-three percent assumed employers weren't interested if they didn't act quickly, and 32 percent formed negative opinions of an employer's decision-making abilities based on a slow hiring process.

Confident job seekers want to work for employers who have transparent standards, and they expect recruiters to be proactive and enthusiastic when a candidate is a good fit. Being silent about the next steps in the hiring process sends the message that the employer is disorganized or hesitant, making candidates wonder whether disorder and indecisiveness are characteristic of the company culture.

Robert Half reported that 46 percent of candidates are willing to wait one to two weeks for a decision after the initial interview. Only 23 percent are willing to wait two to four weeks, and a meager 8 percent may remain hopeful for more than a month. To retain top candidates, stick to a brief timeline, and coordinate the calendars of all parties involved in making the hire. Expedite the screening phase by hosting preliminary interviews by phone or video chat, and let candidates know when you intend to make a decision. Immediately gather feedback from the hiring staff to keep job seekers interested, and update candidates on any changes to the hiring schedule.

When your team has a standout candidate in mind, don't wait to notify the applicant. Top candidates may accept other job offers as you finalize the position, prompting your employer to reopen the hiring process. If your team repeatedly has trouble tracking down the right professionals, review your hiring methods to eliminate lengthy steps that make promising candidates feel undervalued.


Photo courtesy of marcolm at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    @Carl C. thanks for your comment. I totally agree. Why make us sit by the phone waiting for a call that will never come! It would be better if they would just thank us for our time but tell us that we are not what they are looking for! Then we can scratch that one off of our list and move on instead of thinking... maybe they will call. Sadly those days are over. There doesn't seem to be much respect for the job seeker any longer.

  • Carl C.
    Carl C.

    Excellent Comments! Job searches, the interview process and slow decision process of companies is frustrating. I would rather be told up front at an interview if I fall short, give me a little feedback, i can handle it or tell me when of if I should expect a response whether hired or not. Just a bit of courtesy.

  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    @Michael thank you ever so much for your comment. It's so great to hear about this issue - from both sides. So true that you have to get past the gate-keeper of the company first - ATS. Then you have to wait for a human to review your resume. I, too, know from personal experience how that goes. Your resume goes into a stack on the hiring manager's desk and is usually covered up, quickly, with "more pressing matters". Maybe a few weeks later he will have time to review one or two resumes and the rest sit until he has another free moment. I agree with you that department heads as well as employees should be jumping up and down because they need that new hire - NOW - not 3 months from now. Truly I have never worked for a company where the CEO makes the hiring decisions. I do agree that the process is ridiculous and that good candidates are going to have moved on a long time ago. Companies truly are missing out on the cream of the crop and are having to accept a candidate with fewer qualifications, less experience, etc. just because they couldn't get moving on making a hiring decision. Personally, when I am in the job hunt, I don't wait around. If I don't hear something within about two weeks, I will have moved on from them. I, too, have received phone calls months later and will tell them, flat-out, that, because they were dragging their feet, I have moved on and am no longer interested. Then, I turn on the news, and hear about companies who are crying because they can't find qualified candidates and those qualified candidates hollering back that they applied but never heard anything from the company. So you have to wonder - which side is right?!!!!!!

  • Michael Orecchio, MA-ITM, MHA, BSBME

    Ok where to start...First Off...I have been on both sides of this equation as both a Job Seeker and an Employer. I can tell you as a Job Seeker...waiting over two weeks is too much when you don't have a job, if you are in a job but are just feeling the waters for something better, then you are not resource constrained and can take as long as you like...The thing I probably hate the most is many large companies have job portals...and most of them force you to re-enter everything you have in your resume/CV...One of these took me at least 3 hours to finish...many HRs will tell you ...you have to apply on their portal...the personal and human part of the process in nearly non-exsistant...the next part is how these are screened...key words etc...HRs are not experts in every field...but if the key words are not in the resume chances are you will be elliminated from consideration altogether...another issue is the process...ok filled out application in portal...now its the wait game...I can tell you from my personal experience...keep applying to everything you believe you are qualified for...for me it may mean I take something lesser for the short term while I am still looking for that "dream job"....ok so you're waiting...waiting...and waiting...then the next step is notifying you for an interview or telling you...you didnt meet their minimum standard...I have gotten both...and they can be as fast as a day to nearly a YEAR!!! WTF!?!? are you kidding?!?...ok so let's say after 2 months they call you for the interview...you are excited...did your research...and you are preppared...So now you ACED the interview...or at least you believe you did well...I have had a handful of these only to find out...that they hired from within and you are the number 2 selection...I can usually tell from the first 5 minutes that its going well or they have already made a choice...ok now what....so lets say you were picked....but the organization pumps the final decision for all hires to the CEO...which takes another 3 months....I can tell you that most high performing candidates will have moved on...I have lost several excellent candidates for my open positions..because the CEO...feels the need to approve every hire in small companies I can understand this, but I wouldnt expect it to take 3 months...Don't you think that your Department Heads would know better?!?...Needless to say that process is the reason why you cant get good talent....another thing is flexibility with Salary...Oh Boy another can a worms for another posting....ok enough of my banter...basically what I am getting at...the slower your on-boarding is...you will have to settle with candidates that are less than optimum....

  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    @Keith thanks for your follow-up comment. So sorry to say that you are correct. Companies will either respond with the canned response or not respond at all. They truly are afraid of lawsuits which is why the larger percentage of companies will not even acknowledge your resume nor will they even send the canned response. It's so sad that it has come to this. I truly remember the days when you could submit your resume in the morning and, by afternoon, receive a response from the company either to say thanks, but no thanks or to set up an interview. Those days are long gone. Now the resume has to get through ATS first and then maybe will be read by an HR Generalist before either being weeded out or sent to the hiring manager. Kind of makes me wonder what the percentages are as to the number of resumes received vs the number that get into the hiring manager's hands. You know it has to be very low. So you are right - companies are not concerned with the feelings of the prospective candidates. They just want to make sure that they are covering their own butts and the best way to do that is to not respond at all. The same is true even after interviews - unfortunately. If you had an interview but did not get selected for the position, you will never know why because that hiring manager is more than likely not going to respond to your request. Certainly it would help the job seeker to know if there is something that is blatantly wrong or if it was truly because another candidate was better suited and why. Too many companies have been forced to defend themselves against lawsuits. I know I truly hate to see how things have changed but it is what it is and we have to learn to live with it - for now. All the best @Keith.

  • Keith Enste
    Keith Enste

    Nancy,
    Thank you for your feedback, and, follow-up; while I get your points about the meaningfulness and usefulness of a thirty-second “canned” message or a terse e-mail message stating that you as a candidate were not selected post interview: my only point was that at least it is somewhat demonstrative of a firm with the mentality to at least attempt to treat prospective employees with a modicum of the respect and decency that is deserved.
    As to the meaningfulness of such communication; I wholeheartedly agree with your assessment that there is none: that was not my point. My only point was that the process is basically so laden with hypocrisy and insincerity while all of us as job applicants are at the mercy of those powers that be in this process. My point was that: we as potential hires should at least be granted such.
    As to your “wanting to know why?” while I agree with your assertions with respect to correcting of mistakes: my experience leads me to conclude that those doing such hiring do not care about such issues unless they intend to bring that candidate on-board: and actually hire them. As to your final point about correcting your mistakes; they will assert that such is not their responsibility; and that their concerns are with keeping their stakeholders within their company “happy” while avoiding, at all costs, any potential for some form of litigation.

    In those few times that I have received any form of follow-up; it was always a terse: “you were not chosen; or not selected.” And when I took the initiative to follow-up with either a phone call or an actual visit to the person or people with whom I had met. I was harshly told that such is confidential and that they could not release such “additional information.” Therefore, I was unfortunately left to sadly conclude that such firms were neither interested nor concerned about helping me to as you noted: “correct any mistakes.” Apparently, from my experience; they view this as neither their concern nor their responsibility. I honestly believe that most do not care if you are able to correct your errors; they are merely concerned: perhaps obsessed is more precise with avoiding an opportunity of litigation. Sad to say; but, again, my experience leads me to believe these individuals could care less about helping anyone amend such errors.

    Thank you for the follow-up and taking the time to offer your feedback Nancy. It is just that my experiences lead me to the conclusion that while you want feedback in order to grow, improve; and, make corrections, these are not the priorities to which most such prospective employers are beholden: and, due ostensibly to this: and the fear that the revelations of such “relevant potentially helpful pertinent information could likely become fodder for legal proceedings: and, as such, therefore is withheld. Hereto, my personal experiences lead me to conclude that “our need to know why in order to grow” is of little or no concern to the vast majority of prospective employers. I truly believe that most do not care if such a candidate corrects their mistakes. They are too hyper-concerned and worried about the legal implications potentially constrained within such commentary. Due to this; I doubt most will offer anything beyond the “canned” terse, “Thanks; but not thanks!” And thereafter tell you nothing more as you play additional rounds of “Telephone and E-Mail Tag.”

    Again: I thank you for your time and truly appreciate your guidance

  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    Thanks @Keith and @Robert for your comments. @Keith I certainly h ear your pain and frustration. We have all been there. But I have to wonder if getting a 30 second "canned response", whether phone, email or carrier pigeon, would make the job seeker feel any better. Personally I hated getting those canned responses because I knew that they never even looked at my resume. Many times companies already have a person in mind for the position from within the company but the law requires that they post the position for so long in order to allow us poor saps time to agonize over a perfect resume and cover letter only to end up nowhere. So I am not sure if that 30 second automated phone call would make you feel any better. Sure you can cross that off your list but you still don't know why you were not called for an interview or why you weren't chosen for the position if you did happen to interview. Personally I want to know WHY. I want them to tell me where I was lacking - in experience, education or maybe it was simply my personality. Regardless, I still want to know why. How can I correct any mistakes if I don't know what they are?

  • Keith Enste
    Keith Enste

    RE: How Long Are You Making Job Candidates Wait for a Hiring Decision?

    As a job-seeker; my favorite are those firms that never even have the decency to give you a definitive or definite “Yes” or “No” post interviews. I’ve interviewed with several firms for mid-level and somewhat lower administrative and computer positions. And. Never received a definitive “Yes” or “No” insofar as my candidacy was concerned; several telephone calls, e-mails, voice-mails and even snail-mails later; I threw in the towel. I came to realize that if these firms treat prospective employees so poorly; there treatment of actual employees must truly be despicable. While I get it that it is less costly to simply ignore the candidates not chosen; it is reprehensible, unprofessional and unacceptable to not let those candidates know where they stand in regards to their status. I also get that these potential employers are scared to death of litigation for some infraction of employment law if they happen to tell those candidates not selected the wrong things. I have the solution; a thirty second automated telephone call: “Thank you for your interest in working with our firm; unfortunately you were not selected at this time; we chose another candidate whom we believed was a better fit for this particular opening.” No opportunities for litigation; minimal expense and you’ve treated those candidates with respect and courtesy. And by not providing a rationale for the decision; any litigation opportunities are minimized; and virtually eliminated. All hiring managers expect respect and courtesy from prospective employees and interviewees: the inverse should not be an exception.
    The cost for such would also be minimal; far less costly than having candidates telephoning and playing “telephone tag” while getting the “run around” and absolutely no closure. And don’t all such candidates deserve at least that.

    I find it truly abhorrent and truly despicable that in today’s frenetic job market; candidates: those not selected; are not treated with enough respect or empathy to be informed about and then told about their candidacy for positions for which they have interviewed. Shameful that such has become not only accepted but has become Standard Operating Procedure for the hiring process. Were roles reversed; firms would claim these behaviors were totally unprofessional, unethical and dishonorable. To avoid the risk of litigation do not offer a reason; simply only provide the candidate with the information that the position was offered to another candidate. This, contrary to popular opinion is not too much to expect; and it obviates any opportunity for most all litigation.

  • Robert  B.  Burghardt
    Robert B. Burghardt

    Nancy - I personally echo your thoughts...... "I wish we could go back to the way things were before the recession".... The cards aren't in the candidates favor now and it may not turn back that way for along time to come....

  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    @Lisa C thanks for your comments. I would love to see those percentages also. I have been in your shoes many times before and would get so frustrated when you jump through all of the hoops, have a great interview and then.... silence. The sad part is that most employers won't respond to your phone calls or emails. To me that is very unprofessional. I would at least like to know why so that, if there's something glaring that caused them to turn away, I can correct it - whether it is something in my demeanor, my qualifications or that I am terrible at interviews - just let me know. So I truly feel your pain and would truly like to see those percentages. I am guessing that it's less than 5% based upon the emails I read from job seekers. Keep hoping that the tide will turn and we will go back to the way things were before the recession even though I know that "hope" is just a pipe dream. All the best in your job search.

  • Lisa C.
    Lisa C.

    Thank you for this posting.

  • Lisa C.
    Lisa C.

    This submission is absolutely accurate. I'd love to see the percentages of employers whom actually call back or at least email the interviewee's to let them know if they were or were Not accepted for the position. My guess and personal experience would say the call back for the not accepted would be a very sad and unprofessional low percentage.

  • Francis (aka Frank) N.
    Francis (aka Frank) N.

    I agree with this submission in its entirety

  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    @Natalie thanks for your comment. We have all been in your shoes - waiting for that phone call that never comes. Sadly, since you are being ignored by the hiring manager, they have moved on with another candidate or decided not to pursue hiring anyone for the position. Unfortunately this happens all of the time. Continuing to contact him is not in your best interest. You need to move on.

  • Natalie K.
    Natalie K.

    I've been waiting over a month for a company to get back to me who i really want to work for.left me a message a week ago finally .called him back now he never aswers the phone or return my calls.what do i do now?

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