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the future of work

Patience has never been my strong suit, but to apply for a job these days, you need plenty of it.

Fortunately, I haven't needed to apply for a job in a few years, since my last experience as a candidate left a terrible impression. The hiring manager made several last-minute changes to our interview times – once to 7 a.m. on a Saturday – and made me wait for weeks before presenting an offer. I didn't wait around before deciding it wasn't a good fit.

Unfortunately, common decency and respect for candidates' time have not improved over the years, according to a recent study by the research arm of Glassdoor, a site where employees can review companies anonymously. The study, which drew from 340,000 job interview reviews in five countries, showed that wait times post-interview ranged from 22.1 days in Canada to 31.9 days in France in 2014. In Canada, that's up from 12 days just four years ago.

The interview process has become longer since more employers now require candidates to jump through more "hoops and hurdles," including group presentations, IQ tests, personality tests and more, according to Andrew Chamberlain, Glassdoor's chief economist.

While the report suggested that a longer process may be a smart move for companies hiring people for highly complex jobs, it also observed that the delays are largely wasteful.

Not surprisingly, larger companies take dramatically longer to hire than small to mid-sized firms, and there is no evidence to suggest they are getting better job matches when they keep candidates on hold, leading to lost productivity, lost wages to the job seeker and longer unemployment times in the economy.

Mr. Chamberlain suggested hiring times could be truncated if companies re-evaluate their interview process to make it more efficient. Naturally, this not only saves companies time and money but also makes the process less frustrating for candidates.

While interviewees may feel their hands are tied waiting for a hiring manager to make a decision, there are several steps they can take to regain control, according to Marie Burns, founder of TalentAmp in Boston.

For starters, she suggested "owning" the interview process, meaning asking the right questions so the employer sees you are thoughtful and enthusiastic. After every phone call or in-person interview, especially with a superior, ask "When are you looking to make a decision for this position?" "Where are you in the interview process?" or "Whom should I expect to hear from about next steps?" and listen carefully. Try to secure two points of contact, in case your main contact is busy or away, and ask what mode of communication is best for each person.

Your body language during any in-person or video exchange should convey confidence; do not lose eye contact.

Ms. Burns says following up within 24 to 48 hours remains critical. Write a personal e-mail to each interviewer, keeping in mind that they may compare notes. While she observed that times are changing, not writing a thank you can lose you the job.

If you are in the final stages of the interview process elsewhere, mention it tactfully, letting the employer know that you may be looking at other offers in the next few days.

Ms. Burns said not to fret if you do not hear back within a week. "One week in recruiting is one day in most other worlds," she observed.

One week after sending your thank you note, follow up about your status and the company's interest level.

"Personally, I'm happy when candidates send me e-mails, texts, LinkedIn notes, etc. It gives me a friendly reminder to catch up with the hiring manager. Constant communication doesn't faze me in the least," she said. If you know someone's communication preference, that helps you interpret signals when they do or don't respond.

Unless a different timeline is agreed upon, Ms. Burns said if you don't hear back one month after your interview, it's time to move on. Sadly, she said, you can expect this more than 50 per cent of the time. For startups, a candidate can expect a one-month time frame from introductory phone call to offer. Anything longer than that likely means they do not have the role fully defined yet.

Despite the frustration, Ms. Burns encourages candidates to stay positive.

"We all know waiting to hear back about a recent interview, especially with the job you want, is stressful. … Always keep in mind that you can't make or wish a reply to fruition. You can only control what you do and how you do it. Never let any one company get you down. I promise, it happens to the best of us."

Leah Eichler is founder and CEO of r/ally, a mobile collaboration platform for enterprises. Twitter: @LeahEichler