Changing jobs is stressful. You spend hours looking at job boards and customizing your resume. Then after you apply for a job—it’s wait, wait, wait! Ever wonder what goes on behind the scenes after you apply for a job? What could possibly be taking so long? Just how long does it take to get hired, anyway?
The process varies depending upon the size of the company and the interview process they have chosen. Government jobs are notorious for taking a long time to fill. Positions with larger corporations often take months, as well.
As recruiters here at Kimmel & Associates, we have a lot of sympathy for HR departments. Larger companies have lots of positions to fill and they often have several hundred applicants for each position. This places a heavy burden on an overworked HR department. Screening and scheduling interviews gets surprisingly complicated.
Below is a typical hiring scenario for a large corporation. If you apply directly with a company’s HR department, remember they have a lot on their plate. They juggle a lot of functions in addition to hiring. I know you are worried about what THEY are doing. But what’s more important are the things YOU should be doing while you wait.
How Long Does it Take to Get Hired After You Apply For a Job?
Stage 1: Screening the Applications
COMPANY: Employers will screen applications manually or through an applicant tracking system (ATS). They are looking for keywords on your resume that match the requirements listed in the job description. It can take weeks after the closing date to assemble the most qualified applicants.
YOU: During this stage, you should review the job description again. Highlight keywords and required skills. Write down experiences you have which reflect these skills. Keep your notes handy, after you apply for a job. You’ll use them again.
Stage 2: Narrow the Pool of Jobseekers
COMPANY: The employer will narrow the applicant pool further by conducting phone screenings. Representatives will look for a basic skill match, but also will evaluate your communication skills. They want to know if you have a positive attitude and are still interested in the position. It may take several more weeks to reach all the candidates and note the results of the phone screen.
YOU: While companies are narrowing applicants, you should be prepared for a phone screen. Use your notes to point out how your skills and experience are a great fit for the job (because you have already matched them to the job description). Be energetic and let the interviewer know if you are interested in the company. Be sure to thank the representative for his time and consideration. At this point, you really don’t know who is who, so treat everyone as a VIP.
Stage 3: Choose Final Applicants
COMPANY: Employers will reduce the pool further by arranging a technical screening. For example, a current project manager may call you with specific questions to test your industry knowledge and analytical skills. This can take weeks as an employee with technical expertise must take time from their work to call and screen candidates further. It takes time to evaluate and document the screen results.
YOU: If you make it this far, you should be happy to get a screening interview. Don’t panic. This is the easy part. You know your stuff and have notes regarding your past experience. This is also an opportunity for you to start feeling out the employer to see if the position is one you would be comfortable with. After you apply for a job, you might find it is not what you thought it was. If so, you can withdraw from consideration.
Stage 4: Face-to-face Interviews
COMPANY: Employers will select top candidates for face-to-face interviews. The company will pick six to eight top candidates for a first round of interviews. These are often panel interviews and may involve employees on your team. It will likely take two or more weeks for the interview panel to clear their work schedule to conduct the interviews.
YOU: If they call you, schedule a convenient interview time. Be sure to allow extra time for travel considerations. Bring extra copies of your resume. Try to calm your nerves. Research the company and have a few questions in mind. Be sure to treat everyone you see with courtesy and respect.
Stage 5: Select the Final Four
COMPANY: The employer will get recommendations from the hiring panel. They will want to cut the interview pool in half and choose the top 3-4 candidates for a final interview. The company may check background, social media, and credit history on candidates scheduled for the final interview.
YOU: While you’re waiting, you should do more research on the prospective employer and the position, even after your initial interview. Take notes of how your skills and experience can benefit the company. Note any concerns about the company or the managers you have met.
Stage 6: Schedule Final Interviews
COMPANY:Employers will schedule final interviews. The interview panel for this phase generally consists of managers and/or members of the executive team. The process may be delayed again as the selected hiring panel agrees on a time slot for the interviews.
YOU: Again, while you’re waiting, you should contact your references to let them know they may get an inquiry soon. Send them a copy of your resume. Prep for the interview. Consider the position and if you really want the job. If so, consider how you will communicate this to the employer during your final interview.
Stage 7: Reference Checks
COMPANY: This is the time that employers will complete reference checks. Background checks can take minutes, but reference checks could take days.
YOU: Be sure to contact your references ahead of time and ask them to let you know when they are contacted by potential employers. It is nice to receive notification from your references after they have been contacted. After you apply for a job, this can often be your only indicator of where the company stands in the hiring process.
Stage 8: The Offer
COMPANY: Finally, employers can form an offer. Some companies don’t check references until later and make an offer contingent on background and reference checks. This may add weeks to the process. Many companies will start preliminary salary negotiations during the final interview, then contact you later with a draft offer.
YOU: Rank your requirements ahead of time. Think about your bottom line. Ponder salary, but also other things that are important to you. Consider vacation time, stock options, flexible scheduling, your job title, expense account, office location, and tuition or daycare reimbursement. What do you want? During the final interview, be ready for some basic pre-negotiation.
Stage 9: Negotiations
COMPANY: It is time for the company to negotiate and make an official offer.
YOU: Be ready to accept a good offer and have a start date in mind. After you apply for a job, don’t assume anything! Be sure you get a contract or an official email with the offer details before you give notice to your current company.
Stage 10: The Unchosen Ones
COMPANY: Someone in HR should notify the final candidates who were not chosen. Depending on the number of applicants many companies will only contact those who had a personal interview, or who made to the final selection process.
YOU: Once you accept, you should continue to communicate with the employer. Don’t drop the ball. If relocation is required, be sure to discuss a relocation package as part of your hiring negotiations. Also, ask about early onboarding. Find out if the employer can send you anything to review (project reports or blueprints, etc.) so you can start to get oriented.
So, how long does it take to get hired?
At least ten steps spread out over time. As you can see, the hiring process is more complicated than it appears; it can take a long time to get hired. A lot goes on behind the scenes after you apply. And there’s a lot of down time. In most companies, hiring is a long drawn-out affair that takes far too long. This is unfortunate, because top talent is often snatched up by companies with a more streamlined process.
An important caveat is that you should never wait for the hiring process to play out at any particular company. Continue your job search and don’t slack off until you have an offer in hand. Have you thought about a professional recruiter? Recruiters can be a strong advocate for you. Good recruiters are also great career advisors. Find a recruiter you can trust. You might be surprised how quick you get results!
Changing jobs is one of life’s most stressful events. The more prepared you are, the less you have to fear. So be sure you have a great resume and brush up on your interview skills. Today should be your day!