why do companies wait so long to contact candidates for interviews?

A reader writes:

Why do companies wait so long to contact candidates for interviews? I applied for a job in a month and a half ago and just received a request for a phone interview today. It seems like waiting so long would result in the loss of a lot of good candidates. Personally, unless the job description lists a closing date, I assume I am not moving forward if I haven’t heard anything 3-4 weeks after applying.

I’ve come to believe that there are two different time zones in job-seeking: employer time and candidate time. You’re in candidate time.

Hiring often takes a lot longer than candidates expect it to, for all kinds of reasons.

For instance, some employers set up application periods for four or more weeks, and don’t make decisions about who to bring in for interviews until that period is up. That means that if you apply early in the application period, you’re not going to hear anything for at least four to five weeks and possibly longer, depending on how quickly they review resumes once that period is over.

Other times, other work is simply a higher priority. While it shouldn’t get bumped out the way by other work, the reality is that hiring is often low on the list of busy employers.

Or, something may have come up that the employer needs to figure out before they move forward: a budget question needs to be ironed out, or there’s a question about whether to change the job description, or they’re considering moving an internal candidate into the role instead of hiring from the outside. Or maybe Bob just announced he’s retiring, which means that Jane will move into his role, so now they’ve got to figure out if they should reconfigure Jane’s position and what that will mean for the job you applied for. Who knows. Job seekers tend to assume that hiring goes smoothly and quickly on the employer’s side, when in reality it can often be fairly messy.

Or, sure, maybe you are indeed out of the running and they haven’t bothered to tell you (which is rude and inconsiderate, but common). But you don’t really have reason to assume that until time has gone by.

Do they risk losing good candidates by waiting so long?  Yes. Do they care in this market? Generally not. It’s frustrating, but your best bet is to simply assume that every step of the hiring process will take a lot longer than you think it should (from setting up interviews to making decisions after that to extending an actual offer). Meanwhile, put the job out of your head and move forward with other ones — there’s no point in agonizing over what their silence means or whether you should have heard from them by now.

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