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How Long Will Candidates Wait for a Job Offer?

So, you have a couple of great candidates in the line-up for your new position. You interviewed with them a week ago and are still trying to make a decision with your coworkers and the other hiring managers. On top of that, you have a ton of work piling up that you have to take care of as well during this hiring process. Unfortunately, you’ve let the candidates wait on the back burner while you figure everything out. Three weeks after your interviews with the candidates you finally come to a decision and make a job offer. Problem is, the candidate has moved on and is no longer interested. Or perhaps they have already been offered another position elsewhere. All of that time spent is now wasted and you are left with no one to fill your position. You can go with your second choice, but they were second for a reason.

This is a situation you want to avoid as the hiring manager trying to fill an open position. Waiting too long to make a job offer can turn candidates off. How long will candidates wait before you offer them a position?

First and foremost, when you tell a candidate that they should be expecting a job offer by the end of the week and never follow up with them, you’re only hurting yourself. For you to make a statement like that, the candidate must have really piqued your interest and impressed you in the hiring process. Therefore, why make them wait longer than you said they had to? That is why you should never tell a candidate that they should be expecting a job offer if you are not positive you are going to make one. That said, if you still make an offer but it is weeks later they still might be hesitant to accept.

Though there aren’t any hardcore numbers out there on how long you can make a candidate wait before you make a job offer, it’s safe to say that it has the shelf-life of dairy: two weeks. As hiring manager, you know there are a lot of factors that weigh into the decision-making and hiring process. First and foremost, if this position is part of a greater team, then you are going to want to get the input from other team members and managers. It can be difficult to find a time when everyone on the team can meet, but it is important that you do it in a timely manner. Especially if there is a candidate you think would be perfect for the position. If they are a top candidate, then it’s highly likely another company will move in to sweep them up as well.

Furthermore, savvy job seekers know that they should not give up on their job search until they have a hardcore job offer. It’s the old saying, “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.” It would be foolish of a job seeker to wait on a job offer from one company when they could be continuing their job search and increasing their chances of snagging a job. That is why implementing video interviews into your hiring process can really shave some time off and make it much easier to collaborate on a new hire.

Collaborating on a hire can take a lot of time. As stated earlier, it can be really difficult to get everyone together to discuss a candidate. With video interviews, you can share with other members of your team and managers the recorded job interview you had with a candidate. They can review it on their own time and see for themselves if this job seeker is qualified to fill the position. Then once you bring the candidate in for the in-person job interview, the other team members will be more willing to accept your decision since they already got a taste for what this candidate is like.

No matter how you go about the hiring process, you should not let top candidates wait on the back burner too long while you try and make a decision. Two weeks should be your limit, but even that is a long time to wait for a job offer that may or may not be made. If you know you want a candidate, then hop on it quick and offer them the job. Waiting may be the downfall of your hiring process.

What is the longest you will make candidates wait before you make them a job offer? Let us know in the comments section below!

IMAGE: Courtesy of Flickr by Dan4th

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Nicole is the Content Editor for Spark Hire and mainly writes for and edits the work for the Spark News blog. She graduated in 2010 with a BA in Journalism from DePaul University in Chicago, Illinois. She has a passion for writing, editing, and pretty much anything to do with content. In her free time she frequents the Chicago music scene and writes reviews on shows for her own personal blog. Connect with Nicole and Spark Hire on Facebook and Twitter

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  • Alex

    Hello. I am stuck in a position that I need some advice in. I was told by a company that I was going to be hired and brought on board, after the interview and all. They told me that they’ll extend a job offer to me in 2 days, but they never did. so I called after 4 days and asked what happened, they said that it’s taking longer than expected to get approved by the senior hiring manager. It has been a total of two weeks and they don’t bother to keep in contact with me with updates. The HR rep tells me that she will keep in contact with updates but she never does. Some background information on this issue is that they were going to hire me for this position about 6 months ago, but were unable to do so because they could not approve the budget for the position. I called them back one month ago about the same position, and they said they are going to have a meeting about the approval and that I should get back to them in a week. I did get back to them and they said that they did approve the job and the budget for it, and that I am the one they want to hire, and that they will extend a job offer to me in 2 days. The job offer approval is being done by the senior HR manager, and the whole time I was talking with the HR employee that interviewed me. I have been contacting them every few days after they gave me a timetable for something. So, it’s been two weeks now since they told me that they’re approving a job offer to extend to me, my question, what is taking so long? Are they not being able to approve the budget when they said they did?

    (Sorry about the other post, I mistakenly pressed some buttons and prematurely submitted it)

    • http://www.sparkhire.com/ Spark Hire

      Hi Alex, first off thanks for commenting and sharing your
      story with us.

      It seems this is an issue on their end with the process
      involving various levels of people within the company which is likely preventing the HR rep from keeping with the suggested timeline.

      We suggest you stay in contact if this is really the company/position you’re interested in. However, keep looking at other opportunities. Don’t put your eggs all in one basket with this opportunity since there are clearly broken lines of communication. A job offer is never an offer until it is in writing. We can’t say for sure what’s going on inside this company of course, but no job seeker should stop their search or pin their hopes on a single position until they have an offer in writing from the company.

      • Alex

        Thank you for your response. I already have a job now, but I don’t like it for many reasons. This new job that I’m really hoping to get is in my field, and a great opportunity.

        I will call them again this upcoming Monday. Could you please suggest what I should ask them? The end of this week will be a full three weeks in which they said they’re approving the job offer.

        • http://www.sparkhire.com/ Spark Hire

          Alex, I’d stick with asking if there is anything further you can do/provide, as well as when to expect to hear a final decision. Unfortunately, they keep giving you dates of course that aren’t accurate.

          One of our consultants has a rule to follow up every 7-10 days up to three times after an interview, and then to move on. If they want you, they’ll come find you at that point. That may be a harder reality to accept since you seem to really want this position.

          Best of luck!

  • Jo

    I do not interview an employee until the position is clearly defined, budgeted, and approved. Once the best candidates’ resumes are selected and interviewed, a decision is made quickly. In my opinion, having a candidate wait long periods of time for an offer or communication someone has been selected indicates lack of preparation, inability to make a decision, or a poor hiring process. It demonstrates lack of respect for the candidate and places a negative light on the company.

    • http://www.sparkhire.com/ Spark Hire

      Good insight into the potential reasons for a delayed response. Thanks for the comment Jo!

  • analystpro

    If they tell the job seeker it will be two weeks then the job seeker should wait at least until those two weeks are up. Then follow through with a friendly email. The employer will not base their decision on the job seeker’s follow up. All the follow up can potentially do is make the seeker feel better, for a short while.

    • http://www.sparkhire.com/ Spark Hire

      Interesting, so you believe a job seeker’s thank you note after an interview really has no impact on an employer’s decision? I imagine it all depends on the hiring manager or recruiter. Read here for more on this debate: http://blog.sparkhire.com/2013/01/17/the-thank-you-note-debate/.

  • Analystpro

    If only the employers knew how much a job offer might mean to some of these candidates. For some that are out of work it could be a matter of feeding their families. I think that a good potential employer will give an interviewee some clear signs that they will receive an offer, and give a clear timeline. They may even respond directly to your thank you note after the interview. I agree that job seekers should continue seeking while waiting no matter what. Wait two weeks and follow up again. If your gut feeling is good you will probably get the job, on the contrary, if it is a bad gut feeling then keep plugging away and looking!

    • http://www.sparkhire.com/ Spark Hire

      Very sound advice! And certainly in this economy, we can only hope employers are quicker with their job decision turnaround. As you mentioned, playing the waiting game can hurt job seekers in especially difficult situations.

    • AB

      I think you may have misunderstood the reasons potential employers interview candidates. It’s not to make candidates feel warm inside or to be a nice person. It’s just about finding the right person to do a job. Part of that involves treating all candidates with respect (because it helps you retain or improve your employer brand). But really, you need to get your professional job seeker head on if you’re actually deluded enough to think your wellbeing is even in the top five of any potential employer’s goals. If it were, they’d just go and hire at the local homeless shelter: the people there are no doubt in more need than you and your family, and would value employment just as much as you.