A reader writes:
I’ve read your thoughts on candidate time versus employer time, and have found it to be 100% accurate (and understandable — the massive priority that my application is to me is just a tiny part of the picture that the employer on the other end deals with). That being said, given how many employers don’t even acknowledge the receipt of an application, much less reply with a firm rejection, is there any reasonable barometer to interpret when the “employer time” is stretching long?
Certainly there will be some outliers who get back to you in less than a week, and others who might conceivably take months, but if you had to make a ballpark estimate, when would conclude that silence equals time to move on? Two weeks? Two months?
If I could control your brain (and the brain of every other job seeker), I would make you move on the minute after you send your application. There’s nothing to be gained by the agonizing and waiting and wondering — send the application and move on immediately. If they call, great. If they don’t, you’ve already moved on anyway.
But I know that most people won’t find that realistic. You send an application and then you wait for that contact, no matter what I say. So let me give you a alternate answer.
There’s no universal estimate of how long it takes employers to get back to candidates about their initial applications. Some employers take months to contact people. We’ve had stories here of people getting calls six months or more after applying for a job. However, in general, if it’s been 4 weeks — maybe 4-6 weeks — you’re probably not getting a call.
But I can’t stress enough that this varies wildly by employer. Employers who are on the ball will contact candidates within a few weeks (some within a few days). Others are not on the ball.
However, I maintain that the more relevant question is when you should move on because it’s better for your mental health to do so. And if you won’t take my initial piece of advice and move on as soon as you apply, then I’d say to assume that silence means “no” after three weeks or so. It might turn out not to mean that, but there’s no point in letting it take up space in your mind at that point — so move on and let yourself be pleasantly surprised if you get a call.
But really, if you want to treat yourself well, move on right after sending it. You have nothing to gain from waiting and wondering for even an hour, until there’s been an expression of mutual interest.
And obviously, regardless of when you do move on, don’t let up on your job search even a bit meanwhile. You will kick yourself later if you didn’t apply for other jobs while waiting to hear from a company that ends up never contacting you.