You’ve invested the time in completing the job application, polishing your resume and writing a compelling cover letter. Once you’ve submitted your materials, though, you enter the black hole — the space between applying for jobs and hearing back from potential employers. Managing this period of the job search process effectively is harder than ever in a tight economy. “We’ve all been on the opposite side of the desk,” says Armen Arisian, HR manager at Nytef Group, a plastics manufacturing company in West Palm Beach, Florida. “Twisting in the wind is no fun.”
But don’t stress. Employ these strategies to survive the uncertainty without losing your sanity.
It’s important to remember there are people on the other side of the black hole who are doing their best to fill the job in a timely manner, says Will Pallis, a lead recruiter for VistaPrint, an online supplier of graphics and printing based in Lexington, Massachusetts. Chances are good the hiring companies have been inundated with applications.
“While there are a lot of variables here, the most important factor is how much time the corporate recruiter or hiring manager has to sift through the resumes submitted for each job,” he explains. “Skilled corporate recruiters have the ability to review large quantities of resumes to determine if the applicant has the required skill sets and education required for a particular role. But if that recruiter has a large volume of active resumes, the amount of time to review them is obviously decreased.”
There’s nothing wrong with checking in on the status of your application, as long as your job-seeking behavior does not become desperate. Unfortunately, there’s no industry standard for how often to inquire. “Do not be a pest” says Jay Meschke, president of EFL Associates, a Leawood, Kansas, search firm. “It is fine to seek acknowledgement of application material after a week, but diplomacy is the watchword. A potential employer becomes wary of applicants who become 'stalkers.’”
If you’ve got a real person to contact on the inside, ask about the ground rules or protocol up front. “Inquire about when you should expect to hear back, if you should proactively contact the gatekeeper and at what intervals, plus what forms of contact would be most appropriate, such as telephone calls, emails, etc.,” he says.
And if you don’t hear back at all? “After more than a couple [follow-ups], move on same as you would in any other potential relationship,” Arisian counsels. “They’re just not that into you.”
The biggest challenge may be managing your own emotions. “Learn to be comfortable with being uncomfortable,” says Scott Silverman, executive director and founder of Second Chance, a nonprofit agency helping the homeless and chronically unemployed in San Diego. “The only thing you can control is your own attitude.”
To do that, Eric Frankel, a personal branding and job search expert in Westwood, New Jersey, suggests, “Transition your negative, stressful feelings to positive, optimistic emotions by supplementing your job search tactics with positive activities. A limited number of 'vacation’ days are OK when unemployed.”
You also can busy yourself by continuing your job search.
Dealing with uncertainty is never easy, but it’s a fact of life. Use this time as an opportunity to focus on what can happen, not what isn’t happening.
“As with the universe, realize that thousands of black holes are present,” Meschke notes. “Each one is worth exploring. You never know when the black hole evolves into a worm hole that leads to the next job.”