Your job interview went great, and the employer said you'd hear something soon. But it's been a week, your phone hasn't rung, and you're getting antsy to hear from them. When you're waiting to hear back about a job, time often seems like it's passing incredibly slowly, and each day of silence can be agony.
But as anxious as you are to hear something, make sure that anxiety doesn't drive you to actions that will actually harm your chances. Here are five things you might be tempted to do while waiting to hear something -- but which you should never, ever do.
1. Check in aggressively. It can be nerve-wracking to wait to hear back from an employer after an interview. But if you give into those nerves by contacting before you should or too many times, you risk undermining the good impression you hopefully made when you met with the employer. That means you shouldn't check in before their timeline for making a decision has elapsed; email and then email again when you don't get a response to your first message after a day or two; or call repeatedly and hang up when you get voicemail (which looks pretty stalker-ish on caller ID).
The reality is that hiring often takes much, much longer than either side expects it to. But if an employer wants to hire you, they're not going to forget about you. If you're the strongest candidate, you don't need to do anything to keep yourself in the forefront of the hiring manager's mind; you're already there. Following up once -- after the timeline they give you for hearing something has passed -- is fine. But, beyond that, all you can do is be patient and wait.
2. Bluff by saying you have another job offer when you really don't. If you have another offer that you need to respond to, it makes sense to contact any other employers you're waiting to hear from and let them know of the offer and any associated time constraints.
But sometimes a job candidate, eager to move the process along and get a decision, will make up an offer, hoping that it'll push the employer to move faster. This is a dangerous move, because there's a good chance that the employer will tell you: "We can't expedite things on our end and don't want to prevent you from taking another offer, so we'll remove you from consideration on our end."
3. Stop applying and interviewing for other jobs. No matter how well your interview went, no matter how perfectly suited for the job you are and no matter how enthusiastic your interviewers appeared to be about your candidacy, never assume that you have the job in the bag. Even if positive signs seem to be raining down upon you, a better candidate could emerge, the CEO's nephew might need a job, they might freeze hiring altogether -- and all sorts of other things could prevent you from getting an offer.
Until you actually have an offer, don't count on getting any particular job. Keep job searching just as actively as you would have if you knew you weren't getting this job -- because if you don't get it, you don't want to have wasted weeks waiting for it when you could have been talking with other employers.
4. Go on vacation and become inaccessible without giving the employer a heads up. You don't need to put your life on hold while you're waiting to hear about a job -- in fact, you shouldn't. But if you're going to be inaccessible for more than a couple of days, and you're at the finalist stage of interviewing, you should let the employer know. Otherwise, you risk them contacting you with an offer or for another conversation, not hearing back, assuming you're no longer interested and moving forward with other candidates instead.
So if you're going away and won't have phone or email access, just send the employer a quick email to let her know that's the case and when you'll return.
5. Agonize and obsess. Why haven't they called yet? Should you have heard something by now? Does the lack of contact indicate they're not interested? If you can't find the job ad anymore, does it mean they hired someone else? If the hiring manager looks at your LinkedIn profile, does that mean they're getting ready to make you an offer?
Trying to read into every detail like this is a recipe for a miserable few weeks (or even months). You're far better off putting the job out of your head and mentally moving on after you interview. Obsessing won't do anything to increase your chances, but it will make you miserable. Instead, mark your calendar to check in with them once at an appropriate point in the future if you haven't heard back. Otherwise, put the job out of your mind, and let it be a pleasant surprise if you receive an offer.
Alison Green writes the popular Ask a Manager blog, where she dispenses advice on career, job search and management issues. She's the author of "How to Get a Job: Secrets of a Hiring Manager," co-author of "Managing to Change the World: The Nonprofit Manager's Guide to Getting Results" and the former chief of staff of a successful nonprofit organization, where she oversaw day-to-day staff management.