When You’re a Finalist for a Job
It’s an exciting moment: You find out that all your hard work has (almost!) paid off and that you’re a finalist for a job you really want. You call a few friends to give them the news and maybe you head out to celebrate a little. And then, what? You wait, and wait, and wait…Is there anything you can do in the meantime to move yourself from the position of finalist to THE candidate who gets the offer?
While there are a few smart moves you can make at this stage, hiring experts warn that if you become too aggressive and intervene on your behalf — or try to get others to do so — in too pushy a way, this could backfire. And rather than helping you land the offer, such actions could actually hurt your candidacy. Also, it’s important to remember that many people who are finalists don’t get that job yet they often get the next job or the one after that in the same organization — so maintaining a good relationship with the recruiter(s) or hiring manager(s) is critical at this stage.
Here are a few strategies to employ once you find out you’re a finalist for a position:
*Tap your contacts wisely. It’s a good idea to get back in touch with any contacts you have in the organization and let them know you’re a finalist (they may not be aware of this, especially if it’s a big company). You can ask them to let you know what they’re hearing and request that they carefully put in a good word for you for at this stage — especially if your contact is well-regarded by this hiring manager. But be prepared for what you might hear back. Often, there is one “key” finalist and several others. However, many times that top candidate — for whatever reason — doesn’t accept the job, and smart hiring organizations will have already identified a No. 2 (and sometimes No. 3) candidate who they can turn to right away with an offer. So even if your contact says they are focused on someone else, don’t despair.
*Don’t keep checking in. When you’re told you are a finalist, ask the hiring manager their timetable for making a decision and when you should check back in if you haven’t heard. Don’t check in before then — all you will do is annoy the hiring manager and you may end up looking desperate. Even if you get the offer, looking desperate will not help you in salary and benefits negotiations. Instead, wait patiently — as tough as that may be. If you have a real reason to be in touch with the hiring manager (say you’ve received another offer that you must respond to relatively quickly) send them a polite email with the information and ask them to be back in touch.
*Prepare for the negotiating phase. Use this waiting time to research and come up with your bottom line on a salary. While these days there often isn’t a lot of give for hiring managers in salary, you should determine what you’d like and the bottom line you won’t go below. Also, think of other benefits or perks you may want to negotiate if the salary comes in lower than you’d like — more vacation time, a bonus, a more flexible schedule, or a commuting allowance, for instance. Think about a start date and if you’re still employed, consider how much notice you feel you’d have to give your current employer. This will allow you to be ready if they make that offer!
*Focus on other parts of your search. You don’t want to put all your eggs in one proverbial basket. If you allow your search to stall while you’re waiting on this offer, you’ll be doubly frustrated if it doesn’t come through: Not only will you feel the sting of rejection but you’ll have to get your search going again. By staying busy with other parts of your search, you’ll likely distract yourself from the waiting game you inevitably must play as a finalist (and by keeping busy, you’re less likely to feel the urge to check in with that employer) and who knows, you may find something better out there in any case! Keep at it until you actually accept an offer.