Why the interview process can drag on for months and months

Four score and seven years ago you embarked on the interview process for the job of your dreams…Or at least it feels that way. If you’re trapped in that endless interview/follow-up/silence/follow up dance and don’t know how long it should last, read on to at least have a better way to understand how to manage your professional expectations.

The ideal timeframe

“In a perfect world from application to offer it’s amazing when the timeline is right around 30 days,” offers Meagan Krift with talent firm Vaco. On average though, Krift admits that “most searches are closer to the 60-day mark when you go through multiple rounds with multiple managers.” It might be comforting to know that there is pressure on the hiring manager to keep things moving at a steady clip. “As a general rule, a well-run recruiting process shouldn’t take much more than three weeks,” Joseph Quan, co-founder and CEO at Twine, a startup helping Chief People Officers. Quan explains that “should be enough time to gather all the information you need and make an informed decision. Any longer and you run the risk of losing the best candidates out to your competitors who are moving faster.”

And the schleppy one: So, what do you do when the process seems to be lasting longer than it should? “The reality is that today we are in a candidate tight market,” Krift offers. “Companies all want to attract the best and the brightest and those that are winning top talent are keeping their processes tight and timeline for next steps even tighter. Most candidates would prefer to carve out one full day or a 1/2 day of interviews onsite with a company than return 4 or 5 times over a couple of months window.” But you should also bear in mind that extenuating circumstances can cause the process to drag on as well. “Sometimes holidays/vacation schedules or simply business drivers can delay an interview process.”

Why does it drag on?

When an interview process lingers on for months, you should “make sure you understand why and as any process should level-set expectations and be able to project the remainder of the process and timeline,” advises Larry Rubin, CPC Managing Partner at Talent Partners. “A process that drags on for months is a sign that something in the hiring process is broken,” Quan said. But before you panic, he explained that “This could be due to a number of factors. Perhaps the role is not adequately scoped, the job requirements have changed, or there has been turnover on the hiring team.” Rubin explains that “Senior roles usually take longer because there are often more stakeholder interviews and typically more assessment evaluations,” but that doesn’t mean that you should just wait around to see if they choose you.

Rubin thinks you should “Let your contact know if you are looking at other opportunities, especially if you are close to another offer as that may push them to speed up their process if they don’t want to lose you. Look at Glassdoor and other online reviews for signs of an extended interview process to see if that normal for the company.”

Hiring is a two-way street

If you’ve been remiss in keeping up your end of the deal, you can’t expect the hiring manager to rush to respond when you finally remember to drop them a line.

“If a candidate takes weeks to reply to an email, a recruiter might be justified in worrying about their responsiveness,” Quan said. “At the same time, a company that allows a recruiting process to drag on for months with no explanation should be a red flag. A messy and disorganized recruiting process is likely indicative of larger problems.”

How do you not go insane while you wait? Believe it or not, it’s not just you who suffers when the process drags on. “I think both hiring managers and candidates in the interview process do go a little bit insane when a process seems to drag,” Krift admits. “The key to avoid insanity and frustration is simple and honest feedback and communication. The longer a role is open you have to wonder about the state of business given that vacancy. Are teammates jumping in to cover the work of the missing employee? Is the hiring manager putting in extra hours and incurring more stress? What type of environment then will you be entering if the role has been open for months and months?” It’s a really good time to reassess if this is, in fact, a company you want to be working with at all.

Before you give up: “When you feel like giving up, put that energy into expanding your search and create other activity,” said Rubin. And while you’re at it “Never give up until someone tells you they went in another direction.”