We all know that feeling: You got an interview, spent some time preparing, and you did decently well–or at least that’s how you felt on the day. Hiring managers were smiling, you got a firm handshake at the end, and a few indices that you may actually get the job. Yet a week has passed–seemingly endless 7 days, and you haven’t heard from the interviewers. What does it mean? And do you still have a chance to get the job? And can you help it in any way? We will try to find the answers together…


Hiring process can take days, but also weeks or months

In order to know where you are standing, and whether you still can get the job, you have to consider a few things. First one of them is a type of a job you try to get, and how it relates to a typical time it takes the employer to pick the winning candidate(s). As a rule of a thumb, the more elaborate the job, the longer it takes to pick the winning candidate. Let me give you a few examples.

If you apply for a job of a waiter or assistant cook in a restaurant, and haven’t heard from an employer in a week since your interview, it is almost certain that you won’t get the job…. These places need people quickly to meet their staffing needs, have training programs in place, and it doesn’t take them long to decide whether or not to hire you. In many cases they will tell you directly in the interviews, and it rarely takes more than 48 hours.

On the contrary, if you apply for some entry level office job in an international corporation, it is not unusual to take the hiring managers several weeks to complete the interviews. They may interview as many as one hundred applicants, aiming to choose the best ten for the next batch of entry level jobs. Until the last one interviewed, they cannot tell whether they will pick you or not… Hence it such a case it isn’t unusual to wait longer than a week for a response from the employer.


What round of interviews have you done?

Another major thing to consider is the round of interviews. When it goes about the first, screening interview on the phone, they will usually let you know within 48 hours whether you progressed to the next round or not. To make it clear, in the first interview you actually do not compete with other candidates. The point is to simply get a good grasp of your personality and goals, and whether you meet the basic job requirements to progress to the second round. Hence they do not have to wait for all interviews to finish to tell you their verdict. As a rule of a thumb, if you got no response in a week after your first interview, you can forget about the job.

Things change a lot in next rounds-second interview, and third interview in particular (obviously you will have to pass them only when applying for more elaborate jobs). Personality tests, case studies, and other “funny stuff” often forms part of these interviews. It takes time to evaluate the results of such tests, and sometimes it isn’t even done in-house (the corporation outsources it). In such a case, it is completely normal to wait one week or even two weeks for the results, and you have to be patient.

Things change again with a final interview, when you interview with a CEO, or other executive from the company, simply with a decision maker. These interviews have specific rules, and you have already proven your capabilities in former rounds of interviews. Executives are busy people and they do no like messing around. They will typically tell you that you got the job (or not) right in the interview, or within 24 hours of meeting you. So if it takes a week and there’s no response from the CEO (or one of the HR employees responsible for such communication with the shortlisted applicants), the chances are high they eventually decided to choose someone else.

What did they tell you at the end of the interview?

Two of the good questions you can ask at the end of the interview are “What are the next steps of the recruitment process?”, or “When will you let me know your decision?”. Even if you do not ask, however, they should tell you at least something. Maybe you have forgotten what they said, in a heat of a moment, but think about it for a while now.

Did they give you any timeline? Did they say that they will contact you only if you get the job, or progress to the next round of interviews? Or did they say they will let you know for sure, within X days whether you got the job or not, regardless of the result?

We often have a tendency to see things better as they are, especially if we really want the job, and it matters for us a lot to get it. If they told you that they would let you know only if you progressed to the next round, and you got no response in 7 days, chances are high you have to look for something else…


There’s no shame in calling the employer

In my opinion, we should treat everyone as equal. Someone isn’t superior to you just because they have some fancy job title, or earn $100K in a year. What I try to convey here is that you shouldn’t be afraid to call them and ask, regardless of the position you try to get, and the job title of the person who interviewed you.

Sure enough, they may be busy, they may not expect the call, it may not be a standard procedure. Just as they have their duties, however, so do you. You also cannot wait for ages for their response. Needing a job, it is important to know where you stand with your application, and whether it makes sense to keep waiting, or you should move on and try your luck with another company.

One week after the interview it makes no sense sending them a follow-up letter. If you didn’t do it within 48 hours of interviewing, it is already late. But you can always make a follow-up call, inquiring about the status of your application, and the next steps… Many people are afraid of making such a call. Sometimes because they have too much respect for the managers in the company, and sometimes because they are afraid of rejection. However, if you want to be 100% sure where you are standing with your application, calling the hiring manager is the only way to do so.


Special cases–they are actually waiting for your call

In my long experience with recruitment and interviewing, I have observed this situation two times. It isn’t common, but it isn’t completely unusual either. Sometimes when we cannot decide among a couple of shortlisted candidates, whether to pick person A, or, B, or C (we like everyone, and they all meet job requirements), we will wait for the first person to call. Why? Simply because it shows an extra motivation to have the job, after everything that happened during the hiring process.

Employers are not naive. They know that just as they interview many candidates for the job, each individual candidate sends out more job applications, trying their luck with different employers. Are we their first choice? Do they really want to work for us, or will they leave us as soon as a better offer rings in their inbox? They have these questions on their mind, and one way to get the answers is letting the candidates to take the initiative. Can this be the case in your interview? If you have a feeling it can, pick up the phone and call them as soon as possible…


Final thoughts

One week after an interview can feel like an eternity, especially if you want the job badly, or need it badly (with bills to pay). As you can see now, however, you need to consider several things to judge your situation: The job you try to get, the complexity of the interview process, the round of interviews, the words they told you at the end of your meeting. Just then can you assess your chances realistically, and tell whether it makes sense to keep your hopes alive.

Just like with almost everything in life, however, you can take the initiative. Instead of passively waiting for an email or a phone call that may never come, you can call the employer, and get the answer immediately (or at least a confirmation that they have not decided yet). Though you may find it hard making the call (perhaps fearing the negative response), it is the best thing you can do. Because when it comes to job search, nothing is worse than uncertainty….

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Matthew Chulaw
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