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Advice / Job Search / Interviewing

4 Ways You Can Take Back Control During a Never-Ending Interview Process

I spoke to a friend the other day. We’ll call him Dave.

Dave is an active job seeker in the final stages of a lengthy interview process with a large healthcare organization. He’d already invested 17 hours in interviews (no joke), yet it was still dragging on. Worse, his recruiter had suddenly stopped returning calls.

When I called him, Dave’s first words were, “Oh, thank God. Your timing couldn’t be better. You just saved me from sending an absolute zinger of an email to my recruiter, to tell him exactly what I think of his rudeness.”

I told him to step away from the keyboard. Step away. Fortunately, he did. And here’s why:

While Dave didn’t end up getting that job (which, turns out, was precisely why his calls were being ignored), that same recruiter called not one week later to talk about a new opportunity. An even better one.

Dave starts that new job next week. Had he let his stress over that painfully drawn-out interview process get the best of him, Dave would not be starting that new job next week.

Sound familiar? Have you been through (or, are you currently going through) an endless or stalled interview process? If so, you surely realize that it can prompt even the best of us to make deal- or relationship-killing blunders like Dave’s near-implosion.

So, if you’re in this situation, what can you do? How do you survive when the interviewing drags on and on?

Here are four quick “dos” that’ll help you get through it.

1. Do Ask for Specifics on the Process

The best way to calmly navigate a lengthy interview process is to understand up front what the process looks like, and how long the organization anticipates things will take. So, when you’re in the first interview, be sure and end the meeting with something like: “This sounds like a great opportunity, Karen. I’m very interested in continuing the conversation. Can you tell me what the process looks like from here, and your anticipated timeline?”

Having this information can spare you all kinds of anguish because you’ll know when you should expect to hear something and, if you don’t, when to follow up.

And, should you forget to ask this while at the interview, you can always give the recruiter or HR person a quick call in the days that follow with a similar inquiry. Just be sure and sound calm and casual, not panicked.

2. Do Touch Base if They Said They’d Contact You by ___ and Then Didn’t

So, say the HR person told you that the first round of interviews would be done by Thursday and that you should hear something by the end of the week. If Monday afternoon rolls around and you have no update, you can absolutely call or email him. Consider something like this:

“Hi, Tom. I hope you had a great weekend. I wanted to quickly touch base and see if there is any additional information that I can provide to help your team with the decision making process. I know you mentioned that you’d be wrapping up the first round of interviews last week. I’m hopeful to be a part of the next discussions.”

Once again—keep it light and keep it short.

3. Do Consider Contacting the Hiring Manager if the HR Person Won’t Return Your Calls

I’m going to preface this entire section with a very loud use care with this tactic, especially if you’re working with a recruiter from an outside agency. Here’s why—the hiring company has likely engaged the services of that recruiting agency, at least in part, so that their people don’t have to mess with a lot of the coordination, conversations, and negotiation. Thus, if you bypass the recruiter and go right to the hiring manager, you risk annoying both the manager and the recruiter.

However, if the hiring manager has explicitly invited you to follow up, call with questions, or check in, this could come in handy should the recruiter fall down on the timely updates. I’d go with email for this one, and make it short—maybe something like this:

“Hi Diane, Thank you so much for meeting with me last Thursday. Your team seems to have such positive energy! I also appreciate your invitation to contact you with any questions. I have two quick ones. You mentioned the need to transition to a new ERP system. Have you already selected a vendor, or will the candidate you hire be guiding that decision? And, two, is there any additional information that I might provide to help you as you proceed with the interview process?”

Make the first question something specific to your conversation, and the second one the push for timelines.

If Diane responds swiftly, you can usually consider that a strong indicator of interest.

4. Do Stop Yourself From Calling or Emailing if You’re Coming Unglued

Let’s go back to Dave’s story. Dave had been laid off unexpectedly from a job he loved about eight weeks prior. His stress level, in general, was fairly high. He was also feeling a bit worn out from 17 hours of interviewing, with that one company. Additionally, he felt that after investing that amount of time in the process, the least the recruiter could do was be up front with him and timely with the call backs.

And you know, that was a fair expectation. However, the truth is that recruiters are not always good at follow up, especially when their clients are dragging their feet, or they’re busy closing the deal with the candidate that the company selected.

But had Dave reacted in the way he was about to that day I called him, he would have shot himself in the foot for any future opportunities through that agency. So, unless you are truly ready to go out in a blaze of glory with a recruiter or organization of interest, don’t even think about approaching him or her until you’ve taken a few deep breaths and regained a sense of calm.

Lengthy interview processes can make you tense at best, unhinged at worst. Focus on the things you can control. Keep your cool and your confidence. And the stuff you have no control over? Let it go.
Just like Dave did.

Photo of woman looking at watch courtesy of Shutterstock.