Career Clinic

Q: How long should I wait to hear about a job application?

This is tricky, because the answer is so dependent on the role and circumstances. I can hopefully set your mind at rest slightly by saying that in recruitment terms, two weeks is not necessarily a long time (even though it might feel like two years).

Some organisations work very quickly to schedule interviews or assessments within a few days of the closing date and this is the way it would be in an ideal world, but for a range of reasons this tends to be the exception rather than the rule.

Essentially there is no simple answer to the question of “how long is long enough?”. The time it takes to shortlist and recruit depends on the position, the process and the panel. Each of these factors obviously impacts on the time it takes for a decision to be made and unfortunately things will move at their own pace, regardless of how fast you might want them to move.

I appreciate that having so little control can be frustrating – one thing you can do is check the progress of your application. By doing so you are not appearing desperate – you’re showing you’re keen and I have never worked on a recruitment campaign in which the candidate “wanting” the job has worked to their disadvantage.

There is obviously a big difference between showing you are interested and stalking your potential employer so use your common sense, wait a reasonable amount of time, call once (or twice if you don’t get a response) and remember the person you are speaking to may be recruiting to 20 roles so may not know the progress of your application.

These situations are really personal and there are always going to be many variables so unfortunately, there are no hard and fast rules (except the common sense one). I agree that it is important to know when you can “let it go”. Organisations should contact you to confirm the outcome of your application whether you’ve been successful or not, but this is another of those “ideal world” situations.

So set yourself a cut off date. Decide on a reasonable date when you apply, by using the information you have (interview/start date, etc). Plan what you’ll do if you haven’t heard anything by that date (call, e-mail or nothing) so you can walk away. By making these decisions ahead of time you’ll minimise the chances of nerves, disappointment or anticipation clouding your judgement.

Mary Jackson is recruitment manager for Hackney Council’s children and young people’s directorate

Readers’ views:

A: I suppose it depends on who you have applied to. My recollection of applying for posts is that if you have not heard back after six weeks then you must assume you have not been successful. I believe that they brought this in due to the high amount of applications employers were receiving by post. This cut down on the financial burden and time of having to reply to each applicant separately and of course the issue of using so much paper to reply.

Name and address withheld

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