By Caroline Levchuck
The first interview was tough. But now comes the real test: Waiting for an offer.
Companies can take a long time to make a job offer. And some will conduct a second, third or even fourth interview before choosing a candidate.
So you need to know how to conduct yourself between the first interview and the final decision.
How often should you follow up? What can you do to keep yourself in contention for the job? And is there any way to speed up the decision-making process?
Stay in Touch
There's a fine line between being conscientious and being annoying.
The first rule is: Don't wait for the recruiter to contact you. You need to keep in touch not just to stay informed about the interview process, but also to stay fresh in the recruiter's mind.
So how long should you wait after an interview to make contact?
The majority of recruiters (53 percent) said candidates should wait one week before following up, according to a Yahoo! HotJobs survey.
When you do follow up, reiterate your interest in the position. Ask what the next step is (if you don't know) and find out when the company anticipates making a decision.
Don't Stop Searching
Don't put all your eggs in one basket.
One of the biggest mistakes job seekers make is taking a break from their search in the hopes that an offer is imminent.
It's very hard to predict if you'll be offered a particular job. So even if you're confident that an offer is coming, keep looking.
You won't lose your momentum if the offer never comes. You'll also increase your chance of getting another offer, which can be helpful when negotiating.
If you're lucky and ambitious -- and your job search is going well -- you may get one job offer while waiting for another.
You might be able to use the other offer to speed up the hiring process, but you need to be extremely careful.
Keep in mind: This tactic can work well if you're the top candidate for a job. The company may speed up their hiring process to avoid losing you. But, if you're not the clear front-runner, it's unlikely to be successful.
Let the recruiter know that you've received another job offer and are seriously considering it. Again, reiterate your interest in the first position. Tell the recruiter the date by which you need to respond and ask if it would be possible to have a decision by then.
Give the recruiter a reasonable amount of time -- at least a few days. Don't expect a decision in 24 hours, or even 48.
Don't Think It's Time Wasted
You don't get the job. And you've been waiting for weeks, counting on an offer.
Don't consider it a waste of your time. You've made valuable contacts at the company and in the industry.
If you established a good rapport with the recruiter or hiring manager, send them a brief note. Thank them for their time, tell them how much you enjoyed meeting them and ask them to keep you in mind for future positions.