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How long does it really take to get a job?

Monster career expert Vicki Salemi offers her thoughts on setting realistic expectations when you begin the hunt.

How long does it really take to get a job?

This is what a best-case timeline might look like.

We totally get it: You want a new job and you want it NOW! (More like yesterday!) 

And you’ve been working it and hustling to make it happen: tweaking your resume, feverishly applying to jobs online, polishing your elevator pitch and pounding the pavement. And that, in your mind, means you should land a job offer as soon as possible—as in, say, a month or less.

Breathe.

As a former recruiter, I’m going to ask you to take a step back. A new job in a month’s time is likely not going to happen. And I don’t want you to set yourself up for disappointment. So let’s take a look at what a best-case job-search timeline might look like.

Today: You find a job on Monster and apply. Congrats! An automated email from the company has probably been sent to you to let you know your application was received, and that if there’s a fit, you’ll hear back.

Within two weeks from today: You hear back from a real person at the company. A hiring manager likes your resume and will be in touch soon to schedule a phone interview.

In an ideal scenario, you may get this coveted call within a day or two of applying, but it’s more realistic that the call won’t come until two weeks have elapsed.

Here’s why: The recruiters assigned to this search are busy. True, recruiters are trying to find a candidate as quickly as possible. But back when I was a recruiter, I used to have to find candidates for three dozen different jobs at any given time. I would search through virtual stacks of resumes in between client meetings, team conference calls, interview days and more.  Two weeks isn’t really that long of a time from the recruiter’s perspective.

While you’re waiting for this call—or if you don’t get the call—patience and persistence are your friends. Continue to apply to jobs, check the job alerts (you can sign up for alerts on any Monster job-search results page) that land in your inbox, and be consistent in following various employers on social media to learn about possible job opportunities.

Three weeks from today: You have (and hopefully ace) your scheduled phone interview. This is becoming a more common early hurdle in the process as recruiters try to get closer to perfect candidates before they waste anyone’s time with an in-person meeting.

Within three days: You hear back that they want you to come in for an interview. High five!

Four weeks from today: You head to the first in-person interview. You take a sick day from your current job (cough, cough) and probably meet with around four people on the hiring team. You think it went well. But then, crickets…and more crickets. You wonder if they’ll ever get back in touch.

Here’s the thing—so many things are going on behind the scenes, all unbeknownst to you. For starters, it could take a few days for the recruiter to schedule time on the interviewer’s calendar so they can debrief to discuss your candidacy and next steps. Out of protocol, they may have to interview unqualified candidates internally just because it’s the right thing to do. Finance may be questioning if the position should be pulled because it hasn’t been filled yet, and they’re also re-examining their budgets and head counts.

So, you see, often the behind-the-scenes stuff may not have anything to do with you. My advice: Remember to breathe and continue applying to other jobs, hoping this one will reach out.

Six weeks from today: You get the call that they want you to come in for a final interview with the company bigwig. You’re confident that you pretty much nailed it. There’s clearly interest in your candidacy because they asked about when you’d be available to start and about your salary requirements. This is looking promising.

But then you hear nothing for the next week. During the job search, a week may feel like a grueling, elongated month, but in reality, any number of things can be happening behind the scenes. The employer is likely still wrapping up interviews with final contenders and getting the hiring team on the same page to debrief and evaluate everyone. Don’t sweat it.

Eight weeks: You get an offer! At long last, you’ve heard back and received a verbal offer! Woo-hoo! Now, the conversation centers around your starting salary (keep Monster’s salary negotiation tips in mind) and your start date.

12 weeks: First day on the job! When start dates are being agreed upon, you and the employer are doing new-hire math. You’ll give two weeks’ notice to your current boss, and it could take two weeks for your background check to clear (or sooner, depending on the employer).

So there you have it: In my experience, three-plus months is probably the best-case scenario with regards to processes and normal setbacks that the best candidate for a single job can expect. Oftentimes, however, it was longer. It’s not atypical for delays to occur: The hiring managers are out of the office, internal candidates are being considered, finance is re-examining their budgets.

And also you’re not always the perfect candidate, the “one” who will get the job. So you may go through false starts of this process several times before you actually make it all the way through. For that reason, I often suggest that job seekers give themselves on average six months for the job search from start to finish.

Keeping your energy up for the job search can be tough. But your mission as a job seeker is to keep your eye on the prize. Regardless of how long the hiring process takes, the timing itself is not something you can control. What can you control? Your diligence, focus and positive outlook.

Could you use more insight into the hiring process? Join Monster today. As a member, you'll get job-search tips and career advice sent directly to your inbox so you can strengthen your candidacy and get the job you want.

Monster’s career expert Vicki Salemi has more than 15 years of experience in corporate recruiting and HR and is author of Big Career in the Big City. Follow her on Twitter at @vickisalemi


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