Note: This blog is a modified excerpt from professional “headhunter” and bestselling job-hunting book author Skip Freeman’s next book in the “Headhunter” Hiring Secrets series of job-hunting books, Career Stalled? Publication is scheduled for late fall.


You were a literal “shoo-in” during the initial job candidate telephone “screen.” You also sailed through the “official” telephone interview, and now, because you were able to quickly and effectively brand yourself as a professional worthy of further time and consideration, you’ve been invited in for the all-important “face-to-face” interview with the hiring manager or Human Resources representative.

Does this mean, then, that you are now getting closer to the “finish line” in your new job search? Well, maybe, but in today’s job market, probably not.

As businesses across a wide range of industries continue to slowly expand, more and more companies are somewhat more aggressively reaching out in search of top talent to fill an increasing number of open positions. Many companies realize that, in order to stay competitive in a global economy, they must now at least consider hiring new people. The place they are searching for those new people, primarily, is among the currently employed—men and women who are already performing at peak levels in positions companies are trying to fill. But be forewarned: These companies still are taking their own sweet time about making hiring decisions.

In the not too distant past, the hiring process involved essentially FIVE steps:

  • STEP 1 – A potential candidate first underwent the initial telephone “screen,” i.e., that first contact from a hiring professional to see if the candidate who gave them “cause for pause,” i.e., an eye-catching résumé, apparently exceptional experience and/or career achievements, etc., really was as good as he or she looked “on paper.”
  • STEP 2 – If the candidate passed this first hurdle, shortly thereafter came the “official” telephone interview, usually conducted by the hiring manager and perhaps by a representative from Human Resources.
  • STEP 3 – If the candidate did well in the “official” telephone interview, then he or she was invited in for a face-to-face interview on the hiring company’s premises.
  • STEP 4 – In very exceptional cases, and if the candidate was especially impressive during the first face-to-face interview, he or she may have actually received a job offer shortly after the interview. More likely, though, it was on to the second face-to-face interview—if the candidate did well in the first face-to-face interview!
  • STEP 5 – If the candidate made it all the way to the second face-to-face interview, it was very likely that he or she would finally reach the “finish line” after this second interview, i.e., he or she would either be eliminated from further consideration at that point or go on to be offered the position.

Of course the number of viable candidates dwindled markedly at each step in the hiring process, as candidates were steadily eliminated. By the time STEP 5 was arrived at, i.e., the second face-to-face interview, only a select few “finalists” remained in the running for the position. And it was from those “finalists,” of course, that the winning candidate was ultimately selected.

Typically, making it from STEP 1 all the way through STEP 5 would take a few weeks, but once a candidate was at STEP 5, he or she could reasonably anticipate that the process was over for him or her, one way or the other, and a hiring decision normally would be made in just a matter of days, or at most, within a couple of weeks. So, the entire hiring process would take about a month, maybe slightly longer if the position was a middle management or higher level.

It’s ‘Hurry Up and Wait’ in Today’s Job Market

In today’s vastly changed, far tighter job market, all FIVE of these steps are still an integral part of the hiring process, but it hardly ends at step FIVE, and the time it is taking for hiring managers and companies to make a final hiring decision is significantly elongated.

Today, it is not at all unusual for candidates to have to undergo three (or even more!) face-to-face interviews, and for the entire hiring process to take up to several months from beginning to end! And even after running this “gauntlet,” there still is no guarantee that any of the surviving candidates will be successful in landing the position. The position ultimately may go to an “inside” candidate. Or, the hiring company may decide to put the position “on hold.” Or, the hiring manager may decide that he or she really isn’t all that sold on any of the candidate “finalists” and start the whole process all over!

What kind of “perfect storm” has occurred—or is occurring—in the job market to generate such inordinate indecision and turmoil? The short answer is that hiring managers, as well as the companies they represent, remain very, very leery about today’s economy, or more precisely, the long-range prospects for the economy. Yes, things are looking up, but is the “recovery” for real? Yes, business is picking up, but will the pace continue, or is it merely just a teasing “blip” on the economic radar screen? In other words, hiring managers and hiring companies remain extremely “gun-shy” because they don’t want to make a “wrong” hiring decision, one that could potentially come back and really “bite” them.

Obviously, there is little that you, the new job seeker, are going to be able to do to change how hiring is conducted in today’s job market. Rather, you must commit to adapting to its current processes and practices. The way you make that adaptation is to never, never, never “put all your eggs in one basket,” i.e., place your entire focus on one particular position or one particular company, and . . . WAIT . . . and . . . WAIT . . . and . . . WAIT . . . for a hiring decision to FINALLY be made!

Consistently brand yourself as clearly being among that elite group of “top contenders” for a number of career opportunities you should continually be exploring. Certainly, not all of these opportunities will ultimately come to fruition, and of course that is never the case, anyway. You can be sure, however, that if you are persistent, and continue to do the right things, one (or more!) of these opportunities will indeed come through for you—just at the right time!


Skip Freeman is the author of “Headhunter” Hiring Secrets: The Rules of the Hiring Game Have Changed . . . Forever! and is the President and Chief Executive Officer of The HTW Group (Hire to Win), an Atlanta, GA, Metropolitan Area Executive Search Firm. Specializing in the placement of sales, engineering, manufacturing and R&D professionals, he has developed powerful techniques that help companies hire the best and help the best get hired.