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The Seven Stages of Waiting for a Call Back

Written By John Locanthi | Oct 9, 2015

You’re walking out of the interview. You really got to meet the team. They laughed at your jokes, you laughed at theirs. They liked you. They really, really liked you. You didn’t even get the dreaded, “We’ll keep in touch.” You’ll hear back from them in “probably one-to-two weeks.” And so the waiting begins.

Some people might actually be juggling several promising opportunities at the same time, but for many of us, this was the one company to respond to the last forty cover letters and resumes you sent out. Not only did they respond, but for some bizarre reason they actually wanted to speak with you again after that first interview. This isn’t just your best shot at moving out of your mom’s basement: It’s your only shot.

This isn’t just your best shot at moving out of your mom’s basement: It’s your only shot.

The next “probably one-to-two weeks” are going to be some of the longest, most nerve-wracking of your young life. Like grieving or becoming a caterpillar, we go through several stages while waiting for that fateful callback.

1) Cautious optimism

On the whole, that interview went fairly well. You had a solid rapport with your prospective employer, and you represented yourself well. The details of the position you’re being considered for? Ha, you have great experience performing similar duties. From your proven attention to detail to your sharp wit and humor, you made a strong case for yourself as a future coworker. Okay, maybe not all of your responses were perfect, but you gave honest, thoughtful answers to every question. You gave yourself a chance to advance to the next round.

2) Visualizing yourself in the position

Actually, that job interview went really well. The more you think about it, the better it gets. You didn’t get to see too much of the office, but you liked what you saw. You can totally see yourself chatting with Frank by the water cooler and cracking jokes about that silly client with Janet. I bet the view from the corner office is really nice. Not to get ahead of ourselves, but you could get used to that view.

3) Nagging self-doubt

This sets in a few days after the interview. The example you chose of your experience performing similar tasks to those required of the job? It wasn’t as strong as it could’ve been. In fact, you had more closely-related experience, and a better anecdote, that just slipped your mind during the interview. It’s not the end of the world, but let’s not start looking at apartments just yet.


I mean, really, that was your answer to “What is your superpower?” I’d understand if they never wanted to speak to you again. You would, too. It was a joke question. It was a slow ball over the middle of the plate, and you swung, missed and hit your own ass on the follow through.

5) Burying yourself in work

Alright, so maybe running through the interview over and over in your head isn’t helping. Now is that time when you start looking for distractions. Maybe you start pitching articles to sections of the paper you’ve never contributed to before. Maybe you download a free-to-play MMO in the hopes that Mirunnas, your new Elven Lore-Master, will keep your mind off the job. Oh cool, TCM is marathoning Herman’s Hermits movies today! It doesn’t matter how you choose to distract yourself; you just can’t afford to think about the impending callback anymore.

6) Shouldn’t they have called me by now?

It’s been two weeks now. This is the most nervous step. You haven’t heard a “no” yet, but they could be in the final rounds of interviewing other candidates at this time. Maybe something came up at the office. Hiring timelines are never the most reliable thing. You shoot the hiring manager an email to check-in, but in the meantime it might be smart to start looking into other opportunities. By no means are you giving up or losing hope, you’re just not putting all your eggs in one basket. This is also a good time to check Eventbrite for upcoming networking events.

7) The callback!

Except it’s not the one you expected. Remember that agency that you applied to about a month ago? You know the one…or maybe you don’t. The important thing is that they remembered you. Your unconventional cover letter and resume made an indelible impression on the person at this agency who has the thankless job of going through applications. A time and date for the interview is agreed upon. They’re excited to meet you. You’re excited to meet them. The interview goes well—better than the last one even!—and they’ll let you know if you make it to the next round in “a week or two.” And so the cycle begins anew.

John Locanthi is a contributing writer at the Willamette Week, where he tastes the hastily made, modestly priced food of the common man in a weekly column called Haute-N-Ready

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