Applying for a Job: Why Does it Takes So Long to Hear Back?

Job interview

Job interview | Source: Thinkstock

You’re probably familiar with the phrase “holding out for ‘Mr. Right,” or at least some variation of it. Typically, it’s a mantra repeated by your perpetually single friends, or those who have trouble building and maintaining relationships. These folks are convinced that if they keep waiting, the perfect suitor will come along. They just need to maintain their level of choosiness, even though it’s likely filtering out tons of solid prospects — perhaps even that perfect match.

Businesses are doing the same thing. There are roughly 5.4 million job openings in America, and still millions of people looking for jobs (or better jobs). Yet, it seems that filling those millions of positions is getting more difficult, or at least the process is keeps getting longer and longer. That leads to frustrated applicants, frustrated employees who need to pick up additional duties due to a lack of manpower, and overall economic drag.

So, what’s the deal? Why are companies taking so long to bring on new employees? According to a new study from Glassdoor, it’s a combination of several factors, and one of the biggest is the fact that businesses are unwilling to pull the trigger on a job offer unless they’re certain they’ve found the ‘perfect’ fit.

“In the U.S., average hiring times grew from 12.6 days to 22.9 days between 2010 and 2014,” the study says. “Job interview processes are getting longer, both in the U.S. and abroad. Average interview processes have grown by 3.3 to 3.7 days since 2009. This trend remains even after controlling for differences in job titles, companies, industries, and many other factors.”

The thing is, between the six countries the study took into account, and the more than 344,000 interview reviews from those countries, American job seekers actually have it better than most other economies. The average hiring time is nearly nine days longer in France than in the U.S., for example. As for what is causing so much drag on the process, it’s mostly a combination of the utilization of big data, and new screening methods.

Those new methods, which could include background checks, drug tests, and other things, are what generally has caused hiring times to spike. Of course, there are huge variations between both job and organization type that can increase or decrease average times as well. For example, if you’re applying for a government position, say to be a police officer, you can be sure that the screening process is going to be very thorough. On the other hand, if you’re applying for a low-wage position at a restaurant franchise, it’s probably going to be much faster.

As for why that is, it boils down to simple dollars and cents. A McDonald’s franchise needs workers to do simple tasks, and it’s usually not worth the extra expense to ensure they are getting the ‘perfect’ candidate to run the fryer or not — they just need somebody to do it. If that person flakes out, they can find a new one relatively fast. A police officer is a specialized position, which requires investment and training. If an applicant gets hired on and quits two months later, that’s a lot of money down the drain.

But what’s becoming widespread, much to the dismay of jobseekers, is the use of overly stringent screening processes for positions that may not require it. Do you really need to go through a drug test for a job that requires you do data entry? That could be just one example, though it’s also a matter of employers holding out for the candidate they feel will not only be a natural at a given position or task, but also a natural fit with their company’s culture.

The problem is, that person may not exist. Or someone might see a company’s hiring process takes several months and includes a systematic check of every background detail, and decide it’s not worth it. Effectively, companies can be shooting themselves in the foot.

Glassdoor’s findings show that a lot depends on the position, the organization’s size, and the country you live in when it comes to hiring times. While we have some insight as to why the process is taking longer, the bad news is that there is no sign that the trend will reverse any time soon. For jobseekers, that doesn’t mean the jobs aren’t out there — just that actually getting one is as difficult as ever.

Follow Sam on Twitter @SliceOfGinger

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