The Waiting is the Hardest Part

The first meeting was magical. Sparks flew. The chemistry seemed just right. It feels like a perfect fit, and you can’t wait to see them again.

So, now what? Do you make the next move? Do you call? If so, how long do you wait before picking up the phone? Do you come off as desperate if you get in touch too soon? Or seem disinterested if you wait too long?

Such questions have twisted countless lovestruck stomachs into knots since the dawn of dating. And there’s still no real right answer to any of them, unfortunately.

Luckily for employers, hiring is a less funny thing (if only slightly so), and new Robert Half research should at least offer some guidance to those looking to land the employee of their dreams.

The Menlo Park, Calif.-based staffing firm’s recent Time to Hire survey gathered sentiments about the job-search process from more than 1,000 U.S. workers currently employed in office environments.

Overall, nearly six in 10 (57 percent) of these employees found the “long wait after an interview to hear if they got the job” to be the most frustrating part of the job search. Thirty-nine percent said a hiring process lasting seven to 14 days from initial interview to formal offer is too long, with 23 percent feeling a timeframe of 15 to 21 days was too lengthy.

Moreover, 23 percent of respondents said they lose interest in an organization if they don’t hear back within one week of the initial interview. Another 46 percent said they give up on an employer if a span of one to two weeks has passed with no post-interview status update.

“Professionals in fields such as compliance, cybersecurity, big data and finance can receive four to six offers within a week,” says Paul McDonald, senior executive director at Robert Half, in a statement. “Candidates with several options often choose the organization that shows the most interest and has an organized recruiting process.”

In other words, hiring managers who play it too cool are likely to wind up jilted.

For example, 39 percent of job seekers said they move on and pursue other roles when faced with a lengthy hiring process, while another 18 percent said they decide to stay put in their current jobs in that scenario.

The key takeaway from such findings is “for firms to tighten their [hiring] timelines without skipping steps,” says McDonald, who offers tips for making new hires effectively as well as efficiently.

For example, he advises consolidating on-site, in-person interviews to one day if possible, informing candidates of your timeline for making a decision, and calling them with updates in the event something happens to gum up the works.

“The hiring process provides a window into the overall corporate culture,” says McDonald. “If people feel their career potential will be stifled by a slow-moving organization, they will take themselves out of the running.”

It only makes sense that a suitor’s indecision would lead some candidates—a majority, in this survey—to opt out. But what about the rest of the respondents (who were allowed to provide multiple responses when asked to describe their feelings in the face of a drawn-out hiring process)?

Well, 23 percent of them said they wouldn’t mind playing the waiting game if it ultimately meant working for a great organization. Another 21 percent suggested they would “completely understand” and respect a company’s need to be thorough.

Fair enough. But a larger number—32 percent—said they would “question the company’s ability to make other decisions if [it] can’t seem to make a timely hiring decision.”

That also seems like a reasonable enough perception for one to develop. Still, many of these same job seekers wouldn’t necessarily rule out coming to work for a company they feel drags its feet in filling vacancies. So, taking your sweet time may not cause you to miss out on every good candidate.

But would you want those that you do hire to enter the organization harboring doubts about its ability to make decisions? If, as McDonald says, how you handle hiring provides a window into your corporate culture, then uncertainty is hardly the first thing you’d want them to see.