The Psychology of the Career Search – Your Perception of Time

Have you ever noticed that the process of job hunting and interviewing can feel painfully slow sometimes? In this post I’d like to talk about time and in particular, your own perception of time when you’re on the career hunt.

From experience, I can share that when you’re excited about a role that you’ve just applied for, it can seem like an eternity before you start to hear back. I call this “the lag” and it’s a common phenomenon you’ll encounter when you’re on the hunt. What this means is that you’ll need to get comfortable with a delay between the actions you take and the responses you get. Lags of 2-3 weeks or more are quite common, so don’t fret if you don’t hear back the day after you submit your resume for that dream job that just popped up.

Throughout the hiring process you’ll notice that time will occasionally feel like it passes by quickly and on other occasions it will feel like it’s moving glacially slow. If you look at the times when the process feels like it’s in the slow lane, you’ll likely see that more often then not, you are waiting for something to happen. Perhaps you’re waiting for the employer to reach out. Maybe you’re waiting to hear if you made it to a second or third round interview. And perhaps, you’re waiting for the final word on whether you got the job or not.

Some clues you may have slipped into waiting mode include …

  • You find yourself replaying your interviews answers over and over in your head
  • You’re distracted and unfocussed and can’t remember why you’re in the kitchen
  • You’re constantly checking your inbox
  • You heart jumps every time your phone rings
  • You’re not working on moving your other opportunities forward

Behind the scenes, there is likely a lot going on that you’re probably not seeing that unfortunately take time. This can include things like …

  • Sorting through all the applications to narrow down a pool of the top candidates
  • Trying to co-ordinate calendars so team members can all meet for an interview
  • Reference checks
  • Having team meetings to review and discuss interview results and select a final candidate
  • Making decision about benefits and compensation and putting together an offer
  • Dealing with internal changes, challenges and roadblocks that have come up

While time may seem to be moving slow on your end, it could seem to be moving quite quickly for the employer.

From your perspective, time will drag on while you are waiting to hear back. The real danger with taking a waiting approach is that you are not taking action and are surrendering your control.

While you can’t control what the employers is doing on their end, you can control what you are doing during on your end. You should continue to apply to new opportunities and keep actively interviewing. The company is likely interviewing multiple candidates so why shouldn’t you be checking out multiple potential employers? At the end of the day, would getting multiple job offers really be such a bad thing?

By not sitting still, you put yourself back in the driver’s seat. If the employer has realized what a great candidate you are, they will get back to you. Until they do, make sure you keep pushing forward. Remember, sharks keep swimming!