This post is about what to do when you’ve applied to a job and the employer is taking a long time to make a decision.
This is more common than you might think because most people, even if their initial application is good, are helpless when navigating the process. They hit it off in their initial interviews and the employer tells them that they’ll get back to them in a week or two.
A week goes by. Two weeks. Now three. The applicant checks in and are told they’re still deciding between a few applicants. Or they have a hiring freeze because of budgeting. Or they’re still evaluating when exactly they need to bring on the new role.
Whatever the reason, there are common principles you can follow and steps you can take to move the process along, and increase your chances of landing the position.
First, keep doing all the small things right.
It’s easy to forget the little details that go a long way when the employer is dragging their feet on making a decision. Things like following up after interviews or calls, emailing timely and professionally, or thanking the people involved in the process for their time.
I’ve often seen applicants take what appears to be laziness on the side of the employer as an excuse to be lazy themselves.
“They took 5 days to respond to my email, so it’s okay if I do the same,” we think. And it might actually be “okay,” but “okay” is not going to push them forward to giving you the decision you want.
The upside of having a long hiring process is that it gives you more time to impress them. This starts by being consistently reliable and professional even if the process itself feels like it isn’t at times.
Second, reduce the various “risks” associated with hiring you.
This is the hardest but most important part. Here are some common risks that might be concerning your employer and delaying the hiring decision and how to address them.
Timing risk — For some reason, they aren’t sure now that they want to hire for this role at this time.
I worked with a young professional recently who faced this exact problem. The company in this case actually loved her, but they decided after interviewing her that they needed a few months before they could bring her on.
She offered to work during that period on a contract for half the cost so that she could get started creating value for them immediately and could learn the job so that she would be ready to go when the full position began.
The company said yes and ended up bringing her on full-time within a month because they liked her work so much.
Experience risk — They’re worried you don’t have as much experience as they need and are debating whether to hire you or find someone else.
Employers don’t care as much about experience as they say they do. They want what experience often signals — competence, reliability, forward tilt, and the ability to create value.
You can get around an experience gap by creating a 30-day action plan for your first month on the job. Outline the ways you’ll improve some of the core processes and ideas you have for making your position more valuable.
Financial risk — They aren’t sure they can afford to hire at this time.
Similar to the Timing Risk above, you can offer to work at a discounted rate or even for free for a period of time so that you can get started on the job.
I’ve done this for a number of job or client opportunities and it’s almost always paid off well.
Once things come around, or once your job as started paying off for them, they can pay you a full salary. See the Praxis guide on free work.
Value risk — They’re unsure you’re capable of creating enough value for them.
Give them a free trial of “you” with a limited timeline during which your goal will be to prove to them that you’re worth hiring full-time.
Propose 2-3 projects you’ll work on during that time and sell them on why it’s valuable to their business. If they don’t like your work, you’ve given them a clear, easy out.
If, for example, you’re going into a customer service role and they don’t currently have a live chat function on their site, you might offer to set one up and manage it for them for free.
Third, keep developing your digital footprint.
We’ve written elsewhere on the Praxis blog about how valuable having a professional digital footprint can be when landing job opportunities.
Expect that even when an employer is dragging their feet on a decision, they’ll still occasionally be interacting with your online presence in some capacity. They’re going to Google you.
This extended decision period is the perfect time to become very deliberate with how you present yourself online.
If you’re going into a marketing role, for example, there’s no reason you shouldn’t be especially active on Quora. You should also be active on your personal blog, on Medium, or another platform creating quality marketing related content.
There’s no reason you shouldn’t go after a freelance client during this time and document your work online somewhere. Employers will notice.
Doing this right will help “sell” you to the employer without you having to worry about over communicating with them directly. They might see an article you wrote or a client testimonial you shared or a book you reviewed and that could be the thing that pushes them finally into making the decision you want.
You’ll notice that all of the above is proactive rather than reactive. Stop playing the waiting game in the hiring process. If you don’t immediately get the results you want, don’t expect more time to solve the problem.