How Job Seekers can Speed up the Hiring Process

By Robert Half November 4, 2016 at 3:21pm

When a potential employer is moving the hiring process along at a glacial pace, is there anything a job candidate can do to help speed things up? The short answer is yes. As I explain in this post, there are several strategies you can use to motivate an employer to come to a hiring decision more quickly. First, though, let’s look at the latest jobs report data to understand the state of the current hiring market.

U.S. employers added 161,000 jobs in October, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Payrolls have expanded by more than 1.8 million positions since the beginning of 2016. This figure reflects revised numbers from the BLS for September and August that show 44,000 more jobs were created than previously reported. So far this year, job growth has averaged nearly 181,000 jobs per month.

Here are a few industry-specific highlights from the October jobs report:

  • The healthcare industry expanded by 31,000 positions. Over the past 12 months, the sector has added 415,000 jobs.
  • Employers in the professional and business services sector added 43,000 jobs in October. Notable gains occurred in computer systems design and related services (8,000 jobs added), and management and technical consulting services (5,000 jobs added). Professional and business services has increased by 542,000 jobs in the past year.
  • Employers in the financial activities industry expanded payrolls by 14,000 jobs.

Unemployment edged back down to 4.9 percent last month after a slight uptick in September to 5.0 percent. The unemployment rate for college-degreed workers who are 25 or older was 2.6 percent — significantly below the national rate. 

A prolonged hiring process

Despite low unemployment and the ongoing demand for skilled talent, many job seekers are finding that the hiring process can drag on for a while. It’s not unusual for candidates to take part in three, four or even more interviews and, as a result, wait weeks for a final hiring decision. 

What’s causing the delay? Companies are being very cautious. They want to be certain they’re choosing the right person for the job in order to avoid a costly hiring mistake.

As a job seeker, understand that you might have to wait longer than you’d like to receive an employment offer. But that doesn’t mean you have to sit back and twiddle your thumbs. Don’t assume there’s nothing you can do to accelerate the hiring process. Here are three ways you can potentially help the employer come to a decision more quickly.

Approach #1: Don’t leave the interview in the dark

Your efforts should begin during the job interview. Do not part ways with the hiring manager until you confirm that he or she has all the information needed from you, at least for the moment. For example, you might ask: “Do you have any other questions for me?” or “Do you need to know anything else about me that we haven’t already discussed?” 

You want to make sure that if the employer has any potential reservations about moving you forward that you have a chance to address them. You might learn, for instance, that the hiring manager questions whether you have the right technical skills for the position. You can provide more insight into your qualifications and note how you’ve used the skills in question in previous roles. Or you can explain how you plan to acquire training in the areas the employer feels you need to strengthen.

Also, make sure you understand the next steps in the hiring process before you leave the meeting. If it’s the first interview, ask “What does your timeline look like for hiring?” If you’ve completed what you believe to be the final interview, ask, “When might I expect to hear a decision?” This not only provides insight into what the employer is thinking but also helps you know when to follow up with the hiring manager, if necessary.

Approach #2: Take a multistep approach to your post-interview follow-up

After an interview, your No. 1 priority is remaining top of mind with the hiring manager. The best way to do so is by following up. This requires a delicate approach. You want to be persistent. But you don’t want to be a pest or come across as too eager. 

Be sure to send a thank-you note within 48 hours of an interview. Email is acceptable, but consider sending a handwritten note via regular mail as well. It’s a nice touch and can help you stand out. Sending a thank-you note also reaffirms your interest in the position, and it’s an opportunity to emphasize your qualifications. 

If a week goes by and you haven’t heard back from the hiring manager, pick up the phone and call him or her. If the employer has no update for you, ask when you can expect to hear back and again stress your interest in the role. 

As you follow up, be very aware of your tone. You can’t be too demanding. It’s important to be considerate, diplomatic and polite when asking busy hiring managers for updates. Try to keep your emotions out of it. That’s easier said than done, of course, especially if you really want the job. But, over the years, I’ve seen too many candidates hurt their chances by getting overly emotional when speaking to hiring managers at this stage.

If you haven’t been given a decision after another week passes, call the employer once more and ask if you’re still in consideration for the role. At this point, there’s no need to beat around the bush. You want to know if you’re viewed as a strong contender for the position or not. 

The way the hiring manager reacts to your inquiries at these various stages of follow-up can tell you a lot about where you stand. If the employer welcomes your calls and asks that you remain patient as the hiring process progresses, chances are good you’re still in the running for the role. If your contact seems reluctant to hear from you — or you can’t seem to get a hold of him or her — that might be a sign you need to move on.

Approach #3: Make it clear that your search is still moving forward

One additional way to potentially speed up the hiring process is to remind the hiring manager that you are still on the job hunt. Let your contact know you’ve received interest from other companies and have been interviewing with them (only if this if the case, of course). This sends a clear signal that you’re not just waiting by the phone — and lets the employer in question know they’re not the only business competing for your talents. 

If you’ve stopped your job search, start it up again. No matter how far you’ve progressed in the hiring process, you should continue to actively job hunt. Don’t slow your efforts until you have an offer in hand. There’s always the chance that a seemingly surefire opportunity falls through. Who knows, you may end up with multiple job offers to consider. And that will only give you more leverage if you need to encourage a top-choice employer to come to a decision.

Paul McDonald photograph
Paul McDonald

Paul McDonald is senior executive director at Robert Half. He writes and speaks frequently on hiring, workplace and career management topics. Over the course of more than 30 years in the recruiting field, McDonald has advised thousands of company leaders and job seekers on how to hire and get hired.

McDonald joined Robert Half in 1984 as a recruiter for financial and accounting professionals in Boston, following a public accounting career with Price Waterhouse. In the 1990s, he became president of the Western United States overseeing all of the company’s operations in the region. McDonald become senior executive director of Robert Half Management Resources in 2000, and assumed his current role in 2012. He earned a bachelor's degree in business administration with a concentration in accounting from St. Bonaventure University in New York.

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