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Your phone interview went well, your on-site interview went better than you expected — and now you’re sitting by the phone waiting for HR to call you back to discuss next steps. It’s a common occurrence — HR is dragging their feet once again. At least it feels that way.

Before we talk about ways to move the process forward, it’s important to understand why HR may not be getting back to you as quickly as you’d hoped. Remember, they’re usually the coordinators of the process, not the leaders. Imagine trying to wrangle four or five people (at least) in the office on the same day with the same time block open. It’s kind of like herding cats — sometimes it works by sheer luck, but most of the time, it’s a time-consuming mess.

In addition to calendar coordination, HR is dealing with more than just your open position — sometimes upwards of 50 open positions at one time. It’s a lot of resumes, emails, phone calls and paperwork to keep straight.

Why is this important? Most likely, you’re not the reason HR is taking their sweet time in responding. In other words, you’re not the problem.

Still, when HR is dragging their feet with phrases like, “We’re still in the interview process,” “I’m having a difficult time getting everyone scheduled” or simply not getting back to you, here are three actions you can take to get some answers:


1. Reach Out to Your HR Contact Through a Different Channel

Changing up your method of communication can change your candidacy options.If you’ve only been emailing with HR, try giving them a call. Email is easy for quick communications and updates, but when you can hear someone’s voice, you have more information to go by based on their inflection.

For example, a “we’re still in the interview process” via email comes across very middle-of-the road. You have no idea if you’re a contender or not. Whereas via phone, if the HR person says the same words and sounds harried or annoyed that the process is taking so long, that could mean you’re still a candidate but they’re having cat herding issues. If the HR person tries blowing you off with those same words, most likely that means you aren’t their top candidate.

Another favorite channel of mine is to send a handwritten thank you note to the HR contact thanking them for their time during the interview and their coordination. HR tends to get forgotten when it comes to thank you notes, so a handwritten note from you will help you be remembered and could move your name up the list.

2. Reach Out to the Hiring Manager

Once you’ve interviewed with your soon-to-be hiring manager, you can absolutely reach out to that person for an update. I’d recommend doing this by email so as not to put them on the spot. Your email should be short and sweet, letting them know you’re still very interested in the position and asking them if they need any additional information from you for candidate consideration.

When the hiring manager responds quickly to you, that means 1) that they’re hands-on in the recruiting process, which is great, and 2) that they’re just as eager as you to hire someone. If they engage you and let you know they enjoyed meeting you, chances are good that you’re still in contention.

If the hiring manager doesn’t respond to your email or responds back with something bland and “PR-speak,” it means you aren’t their top candidate.

How can you tell the difference? Sometimes you can’t, as some companies have strict email guidelines for candidate interaction before an offer is made. But know this: If the hiring manager wants you and feels as though you’re being dragged along for any part of the process, things will start moving a lot more quickly after you reach out.

3. Let Them Know You’re a Wanted Commodity

There’s nothing worse than a desperate candidate. If you’ve placed all of your hopes and dreams on just one job, you’re going to be disappointed.

Let HR know that you’re still interviewing and the various stages you’re at with certain companies. Unless you already have them on the phone, I would send an email like this:

Hi HR,

I wanted to check in about [enter position] and your estimated timeline for the next steps in the recruiting process. I also wanted to let you know that I have continued to explore other positions and am at the final interview stage at another company. While your job is the one I want, I wanted to be sure to keep you in the loop in case our timelines don’t match up. That being said, please let me know if you need anything else from me to continue to move the discussion forward. I look forward to hearing back from you.

In most cases, you can immediately figure out your candidacy based on their response.

  • If they respond with, “Thank you so much for telling me. I’m going to let the hiring manager know and get back to you ASAP with a timeline,” then you’re one of their top candidates.
  • If they respond with, “It sounds like we’re still a few weeks away from moving forward on this position,” then you’re not their top candidate and they’re OK with the possibility of losing you in the process.

Parting Words

The most important thing to remember when HR is dragging their feet is that it usually has nothing to do with you as a candidate.

That being said, if HR doesn’t get back to you for weeks, doesn’t respond to any of the above steps or continuously says, “thank you — we are still considering you as a candidate,” those are all red flags indicating you’re not going to move on to the next step.

HR likes to keep their best candidates warm at all costs. They may not be able to offer you a job tomorrow or give you an exact timeline, but if they want you, you will know it.

Image: Flickr

This post originally ran on CareerMeh: smart, actionable advice for Millennials, by Millennials.