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how long should I wait for a company to contact me for an interview?

by Alison Green on January 19, 2012

A reader writes:
After applying to a job, how long do companies usually wait before reviewing
resumes to set up interviews? Twelve days ago, I applied to a job that fits me
perfectly. Its what I been doing throughout my career. I feel, based on my
background, I should be called for an interview. If I dont hear from them this
week, should I call personnel or call the person looking to fill the position?
How long it takes for companies to set up interviews varies dramatically from
company to company. Some employers do interviews on a rolling basis, as strong
applications come in. Others have a set application period of, say, three to four
weeks (sometimes longer) and dont contact anyone until that period is over. And
others are just really slow they should be contacting people within a few weeks
but because of disorganization, inefficiency, and so forth dont contact candidates
for months.
In other words, theres no real answer.
You also need to keep in mind that this is a very overcrowded job market and
most employers are getting 200, 300, even more applications for every position
they advertise. I once got 600 applications for one slot. So you want to keep in
mind that statements like based on my background, I should be called for an
interview dont really work in this context. There might be 50 candidates who
have the right qualifications for the position. There might be 100. Theyre not
going to call all of them, so this means that lots of candidates who are indeed
qualified arent going to be contacted. Theyre going to pick the ones who they
judge to be the absolute top tier relative to the rest of the candidate pool, which
is impossible for you to evaluate from the outside. (An awesome cover letter can
often help here.)
As for following up dont call. They have your application. They know youre
interested. You will annoy them if you call. (Read this.) What you want to do is to
stand out by being a highly qualified candidate with a great resume and a
compelling cover letter, not by irritating them with an unnecessary phone call.
(Now, will you occasionally hear from someone who called to follow up on their
application and got an interview out of it? Sure, and if you want to screen for
disorganized employers where the squeakiest wheel gets the grease, thats one
way to do it. But this will not work with good employers, and you will far, far
more often annoy the employer and go to the bottom of their pile.)
If you absolutely must follow up in some way, send a polite email reiterating your
strong interest in the job and saying that youd love to talk when theyre ready to
begin scheduling interviews. But thats it.
Its not the most encouraging response, I realize its nicer to be told that there
are things that you can do to gain some control in the process. But this is the
reality of how it works.

A job interview is a one-on-one interview consisting of a conversation

between a job applicant and a representative of an employer which is conducted to
assess whether the applicant should be hired. Interviews are one of the most
popularly used devices for employee selection. Interviews vary in the extent to
which the questions are structured, from a totally unstructured and free-wheeling
conversation, to a structured interview in which an applicant is asked a
predetermined list of questions in a specified order.

The interview is usually preceded by the evaluation of submitted rsums

from interested candidates, possibly by examining job applications or reading
many resumes. Potential job interview opportunities also include networking
events and career fairs. The job interview is considered one of the most useful
tools for evaluating potential employees. It also demands significant resources
from the employer, yet has been demonstrated to be notoriously unreliable in
identifying the optimal person for the job.

General traits:

Mental ability : Applicants' capacity to learn and process information.

Personality : Conscientiousness, agreeableness, emotional stability,
extroversion, openness to new experiences.
Interest, goals, and values: Applicant motives, goals, and person-
organization fit.

One way to think about the interview process is as three separate, albeit
related, phases: (1) the preinterview phase which occurs before the interviewer
and candidate meet, (2) the interview phase where the interview is conducted, and
(3) the postinterview phase where the interviewer forms judgments of candidate
qualifications and makes final decisions.

Preinterview phase: The preinterview phase encompasses the information

available to the interviewer beforehand (e.g., resumes, test scores, social
networking site information) and the perceptions interviewers form about
applicants from this information prior to the actual face-to-face interaction
between the two individuals. In this phase, interviewers are likely to already have
ideas about the characteristics that would make a person ideal or qualified for the

Interview phase: As interviews are typically conducted face-to-face, over

the phone, or through video conferencing (e.g. Skype), they are a social
interaction between at least two individuals. Thus, the behavior of the interviewer
during the interview likely "leaks" information to the interviewee. That is, you can
sometimes tell during the interview whether the interviewer thinks positively or
negatively about you.

Postinterview phase: After the interview is conducted, the interviewer

must form an evaluation of the interviewees qualifications for the position. The
interviewer most likely takes into consideration all the information, even from the
preinterview phase, and integrates it to form a postinterview evaluation of the
applicant. In the final stage of the interview process, the interviewer uses his/her
evaluation of the candidate (i.e., in the form of interview ratings or judgment) to
make a final decision. Sometimes other selection tools (e.g., work samples,
cognitive ability tests, personality tests) are used in combination with the
interview to make final hiring decisions.

Situational interview questions

Situational interview questions ask job applicants to imagine a set of

circumstances and then indicate how they would respond in that situation; hence,
the questions are future oriented. One advantage of situational questions is that all
interviewees respond to the same hypothetical situation rather than describe
experiences unique to them from their past.

Other Interview Modes


Telephone interviews take place if a recruiter wishes to reduce the number

of prospective candidates before deciding on a shortlist for face-to-face
interviews. They also take place if a job applicant is a significant distance away
from the premises of the hiring company, such as abroad or in another state or

Video interviews are a modern variation of telephone interviews.

Prospective candidates are asked preset questions using computer software then
their immediate responses are recorded. These responses are then viewed and
evaluated by recruiters to form a shortlist of suitable candidates for face-to-face
To get ready for your next interview simply sit back, relax and take in these 15
tips for interview success.

1. Allow for plenty of time. Make sure to schedule your interview with plenty of
time to spare. If youre currently employed, you wont want to feel the need to
rush in or out.

2. Prepare for common interview questions. Although you dont want to

memorize answers, its a good idea to practice answering common questions so
that you wont be caught off guard.

3. Learn about the company. Be prepared to talk about why you like the
company and to be familiar with what they do, especially if you want to join in.

4. Get a good nights rest. Its hard to sleep when youre nervous, and its
common to want to stay up prepping the night before. But its best to get yourself
to bed early so that youre well rested.
5. Dress better than you would at work. If the job requires jeans and a t-shirt,
wear khakis and a polo to the interview. If it requires a button-down and slacks,
wear a suit. Try not to over or under dress.

6. Eat a healthy meal or snack. Youll feel better and avoid rumbling stomach
noises, which can be distracted and send the wrong message.

7. Arrive fifteen minutes early. Dont show up too early and definitely dont
show up late. The time you arrive sends a strong impression about the kind of
punctuality that can be expected on the job, so represent yourself well.

8. Treat everyone like theyre the interviewer. From the second you park your
car, be ready to be interviewed. Be especially nice to the receptionist, since the
way you treat interiors can say a lot about you to your interviewer.

9. Bring several copies of your resume. Although everyone you meet will
probably already have a copy, having them on hand just in case will make you
seem polished and professional, and leaves a good impression.

10. Start strong. The question may be worded differently, but youll surely be
asked to tell the interviewer a bit about yourself. Decide what message you want
to send and practice it.

11. Stay on topic. Talk about yourself, professionally, and then stop. Dont
mention specifics about your personal life, and be careful what details you share.
You have no idea what biases may exist, so its best to keep to the scope.

12. Try to remain calm. You may be nervous, but take a few deep breaths and try
not to let it show. You may want to write yourself a mantra to remember you are
qualified they never would have asked you to come in if they werent interested
in you.
13. Avoid discussing money or benefits. Youre probably curious, but dont
bring it up if they dont. You shouldnt be worrying about money until theyre
offering you the job.

14. Be prepared with questions of your own. Interviewers want to see what you
care about, but more importantly, you should find out if this job is good for you.
Make a list of your important considerations beforehand so youll know what to

15. Follow-up appropriately. Start with a thank you note. An email is great since
its quick, but a handwritten note can sometimes be even better when you want to
add a personal touch.