Why is my job search taking so long?

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source: careerrealism.com

source: careerrealism.com

One thing that often surprises Northeastern students when they are searching for their first after-graduation job is timing.  After all, co-op operates on a clearly defined time frame –cycles typically run January to June, or July to December. You start working with your co-op coordinator at the beginning of the semester prior to going on co-op, there’s a designated time period when resumes are sent out, and employers are generally expected to respond within a certain time frame or they run the risk of candidates accepting other positions.

When it comes to full-time positions, however, employers act on their own time frame.  Most full-time jobs are filled on an “as needed” basis, meaning that the timing of hiring is unpredictable, such as when an employee gives notice or the company needs to hire additional staff because they gained a new client. The professional standard for giving your employer notice is two weeks and can happen at any time, for any reason. Often the original employee is already gone and the position is already empty by the time it’s advertised.  How do these factors affect the timeline for hiring?

  1. There’s only so far in advance you can apply to a job.  An employer who posted a job opening in December is unlikely to wait for someone to start in May or June and leave work piling up.  Two to three months in advance of when you’ll be available to start is a more likely time frame to apply to positions, with earlier time periods for out-of-state or international job searches.
  2. Reviewing resumes, comparing candidates and setting aside times to conduct interviews is labor-intensive and time-consuming.  Also, if there’s a search committee, scheduling mutually convenient times can sometimes be a nightmare.  These things can affect how long it takes to contact candidates, especially since interviewing and hiring responsibilities are often in addition to their usual work.
  3. As much as employers may want to move forward with the hiring process, they may have other more pressing obligations that keep them from doing so. Delays can happen at any time in the process, from contacting candidates for initial interviews, to moving forward to the second round, or even after the company has already made an offer.
"ugh, this is taking forever!" Source: someecards.com

“ugh, this is taking forever!”
Source: someecards.com

There are many factors that affect the hiring process.  Candidates often assume that they are not in consideration for a position if they don’t hear from an employer right away, when in fact the employer just hasn’t had a chance to respond yet.  A perfect example is a friend who was beyond aggravated that a company hadn’t followed up with her in a timely manner as they said they would after an interview.  When she finally followed up with them, she found out why she hadn’t heard from them – the building pipes had exploded! Their office had flooded and they were busy doing damage control and temporarily moving to another office. Everything else had to take a backseat.

Waiting to hear back from employers can be frustrating and discouraging.  Having a better sense of timing can keep you from getting too stressed, too soon.

Tina Mello is Associate Director of University Career Services, and has worked at Northeastern for over 10 years. Nicknamed the “information guru” by other members of the staff, she loves to research and read about various job/career/education topics. For more career advice, follow her on twitter @CareerCoachTina.

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