what does it mean when a job opening is reposted with a new deadline?

A reader writes:

About a week ago, I applied to a job right before the application deadline of January 31st. I was back on a job posting site and saw that the position was just reposted today with a new deadline of February 20th. I was wondering if you have an idea of what this means? My immediate thought is they felt their current applicant field was weak and thought it was worth trying again to get a better pool to pick from. I was wondering if this means I should definitely give up hope, or if it’s worth sending them a little note. I’m not all that sure what I’d even say but the thought of hoping in vain until the 20th is just quite…sad.

I know there’s no such thing as a dream job but I’ve never read a job description that has gotten me so excited.

It might mean that they weren’t satisfied with the applicant pool they got in the first go-round and decided to try again, but there are all kinds of other things it could mean too: They might have changed the deadline because a decision-maker or interviewer is going to be unavailable until then, so they figure they might as well keep accepting applications until then. They might have initially had an early deadline because they thought they needed to move very quickly but then discovered that they have more breathing room, so they changed the date to reflect that. They might have simply put in the wrong deadline the first time. Or, both of these dates might mean nothing at all, and the jobs site where you saw it posted simply requires that all jobs have deadlines attached — which prompts employers to make up arbitrary dates to comply with the system. Or it could be something else altogether.

There’s never any way to know this kind of thing from the outside, and trying to interpret it is a recipe for driving yourself crazy. People in your shoes tend to like to know what all this stuff might mean because it’s a way of feeling more in control of a process that, unfortunately, at this stage you don’t really have any control over. All you can control is the application you submit and whether your resume and cover letter are both awesome and tailored to the opening. Beyond that … it’s a crap shoot. You could be the perfect candidate for the job and get overlooked because someone incompetent is in charge of hiring, or because they hire an internal candidate or someone’s nephew, or because the job gets restructured halfway through the process, or because the system somehow lost your application (rare, but it can happen).

That’s one of the reasons why it’s smart not to get too invested in any particular job opening. There are just way too many factors that you don’t know about and can’t control, and it’s far better for your mental health to send in the application and then wipe it from your mind and move on.

You asked about sending a follow-up note. You certainly could send an email reiterating your interest and your hope that they’ll contact you when they’re ready to begin scheduling interviews, but only if you promise me that you’ll mentally move on as soon as you do. Otherwise, you’ll be fixating on this job — a job that you don’t actually know if you’d enjoy (because the environment could be toxic or the boss a monster or the work quite different than described or the salary half of what you make now) — and fixating on such things is Not Allowed, not if you want to stay sane.

Good luck!

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