I am in the midst of a maddeningly long recruitment process and I'm not sure if I should be doing anything more to speed the process along. Here's a timeline:

Feb 8: Submit application for support position in Higher Education institution

Feb 20: Receive automated notification that I've been shortlisted

Feb 29: Enquire with HR as to progress of application

Feb 29: Receive interview date of March 10

March 10: Attend interview; find they are interviewing for three slightly different positions; one interviewer is away sick

March 18: Notice two missed calls from a withheld number, made at around 5:15pm (on a Friday?!); someone also called my home number and spoke with my husband but wouldn't leave a message but had all my contact info

All weekend: Freak out

March 21: Email HR to enquire as to interview outcomes; indicate that I am aware I might have been contacted on Friday

March 21: Receive email from one of the interviewers, asking me to call her. I do so. She tells me that the interviewer who couldn't attend was the one who called me on Friday evening and would like to meet with me in person. I agree to be contacted by email.

March 23: Hear from the missing interviewer. She will not be in for the next two weeks but suggests I meet with her colleague. Schedule meeting with colleague for March 31.

March 31: Meet with colleague. Am told that they are not meeting with any other candidates, but am advised not to give notice at my current job just yet. They were unsure about me because on paper this position looks like a step down for me. I explain I'm very interested in changing sectors and want a fresh start in a new role. We have a brief discussion about salary, wherein I enquire about starting one or two points above starting salary. Colleague says she'll speak to the mysterious missing interviewer and get back to me on April 5.

April 6: Today. Still nothing.

So I have a few questions:

  1. Is this a bad sign?

  2. Have I mismanaged something?

  3. At what point should I get in contact with them?

Edit: This question seems to be about another sector and is not quite as detailed about what has transpired.

Edit: I ended up emailing on Thursday afternoon as suggested by Richard below. This led to a phone call this morning wherein I was formally offered the job.

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    Possible duplicate of what if hiring process takes long time after almost all interviews?
    – Philipp
    Apr 6, 2016 at 15:12
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    If the missing interviewer was back in the office yesterday, you wouldn't expect this person to drop everything else and look into your case. Would you ? Patience is a virtue, best tested during hiring process. From this point on, I'd give them a week or so before contacting and asking them "what the heck is going on"
    – MelBurslan
    Apr 6, 2016 at 15:15
  • @Philipp nothing at ALL like that one. This question is detailed and outlines a specific series of events and outcomes. Also, that question was closed. Apr 6, 2016 at 15:18
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    @gnat The answers for that question do not apply to this person's situation, this isn't even close to a duplicate of that one. That one speaks of following up with a specific hiring manager, this question is dealing with an interviewer that he hasn't even met with yet. Apr 6, 2016 at 17:21

4 Answers 4


The hiring process for government agencies and/or Universities is arduously slow. It took me three months to get rejected by one, and six months to get hired by another, so the short answer is no.

An appropriate follow up would be Thursday afternoon or Friday morning, thanking the person for their time and stating that you just wanted to touch base. Include that you knew that the person was getting back on the 5th but that you wanted to give that person some time to get caught up before disturbing him/her.


Realistically, "too long" is when applicants stop waiting for you and accept offers elsewhere.

Ás an applicant, all you can do is pester them periodically, meanwhile continuing to apply elsewhere.

When you get another offer that you find interesting, you can make one more try, telling them that they are about to lose you unless they respond almost immediately. But you can't play that card until you're willing to lose them.


You may know that governments move slowly. But what most people don't know is that universities move even slower. I have worked for both, and I can tell you that they do not rush on anything -- least of all on permanent hires. When I was hired to work in a high priority position for public agency, it took 3 months. One month to process my application, another to interview, and a third month to decide whether or not to hire me.

Why? People in government and / or university positions are very difficult to terminate. Additionally, government and educational institutions typically make up for their lower pay by offering great benefits and fantastic retirement plans which tends to retain careerists. Put together it means that when you hire someone in the public sector, you are very frequently hiring them until they retire.

Consequently, the hiring process tends to be very plodding and methodical. Quick hires are just too risky -- everyone in the public sector has had the experience of working with very difficult, low-performing or problem employees who just stick around driving everyone crazy for years or decades, and nobody seems to be able to do anything about it. It makes you take a very long-view on hiring decisions.

Don't give up. It sounds like they like you, and eventually may extend an offer. Stay pleasant, be cordial, take some deep breaths and be patient. And, keep looking in the meantime, because it could (still) be weeks (or more) until they make a decision (and that decision could be "No").


Be advised that this is a taste of what working in the public sector can often be like. I worked as a programmer in a government IT Department for several years early in my career. We were paid fairly well, and had a lot of pressing priorities that needed our urgent attention. And yet? People still took their time chatting in the mornings, and making the rounds as they got their coffee. One long-term programmer would get her coffee every morning, and then walk around the building for an hour or two chatting with all of her friends. Then for morning break everyone would get together in the break room to eat shared snacks and talk about the news for 20 - 30 minutes. Then she would come back to her desk and call her offsite buddies to talk for another hour.

At least once or twice a week I would be sitting at my desk working hard on a high priority item, and my supervisor would just stop by and say, "hey kid, let's go get a donut." Then we would slowly walk a block away to a donut shop, and sit there and eat donuts and hot chocolate, and gossip about other departments or just chat for an hour or two. It was maddening, but I was a junior employee and didn't have any control over the situation. Meetings with this supervisor always took at least 2-3 hours, and nothing would be decided, and we would circle back and have another meeting (where we wouldn't decide anything) again in a week or two.

Working for the public sector can be very rewarding, and has a lot of plusses -- the benefits are good, the pay is OK, and you are insulated from disruptive market changes. But it can drive you a little crazy -- especially if you are a go-getter, enthusiastic type. Otherwise, put in your 30 years, collect your pension, and enjoy a very (very) secure job.


Unfortunately that is pretty normal for this sector. I once applied for an academic/administrative position with the European Union and it took them more than a year to get back to me by which time we already have happily moved to a different continent.

This type of sluggishness can be quite common in every aspect of this field, not just recruiting, so I would think carefully if you feel that such an environment is a good fit for you. It's certainly one the reasons why I don't work there anymore.

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