How Long Does It Take To Get Hired As A PhD?

I spent a lot of time being disappointed during my job search; things were taking longer than they should have. 

At least, that’s what I thought.

The longer I didn’t hear back from a recruiter or hiring manager for a job I really wanted, the more jobs I’d apply to and the more confused my job search would become. 

I also didn’t realize that recruiters and hiring managers would trade notes and become confused by my frantic frequent applications to as many jobs as I could find. 

What I didn’t know was that my impatience was costing me potential jobs and confusing recruiters because I wasn’t well-versed in what their hiring timelines would look like because I was used to the process of academia.

You’re Working On The Company’s Timeline

First of all, you’re going to have to apply a lot. While networking is a huge part of finding a job in industry and getting out of academia, data shows that job seekers who apply consistently and submit between 20 and 80 applications will see a job offer. 

Once you hit “send” on your application, you’re now on the potential company’s hiring timeline. Whatever happens next is up to the hiring committee and/or the recruiter. There are so many different factors that employers have to take into account when looking for a new candidate to fill a role that impacts their hiring timeline.

If you apply for a job and don’t get it, you didn’t really lose anything – you didn’t have the job, to begin with.

From an employer’s perspective, choosing the wrong candidate can be a costly and time–consuming decision that becomes detrimental to the function of the company. 

According to Apollo Technical, hiring the wrong employee could cost a company up to 30% of that individual’s salary, so hiring the wrong person for a $ 90k-a-year role could cost the company up to $30,000. In some instances, the higher the salary, the higher the company loss if they make the wrong decision. 

They don’t just lose the salary they paid their bad hire, they risk losing time and energy from managing a poor performer, the in-depth time and training a new hire requires, and they risk damaging relationships in the industry and with their customers if the employee was particularly bad at their job.

 75% of employers report having hired the wrong person for the job, with the US losing a collective $550 billion dollars in bad hires last year. 

All of this data impacts a company’s hiring timeline: it’s essentially more cost-effective to not fill a role than it is to hire the wrong person.

So how long does the hiring process take from a business perspective?

The Hiring Process Can Take Up to 42 Days, Sometimes Longer

Most of the hiring process time is an estimate that rests on a lot of different factors; are they hiring for an entirely new position?

Are they replacing an established employee?

How experienced is the hiring manager at hiring?

Is the hiring manager or committee new at working with recruiters or the interview process?

Are they racing the clock to fill a position before a hiring freeze goes into effect?

 Those are all factors that can slow the process down, also understanding that larger companies have more applicants per job opening and still have to narrow down their candidate pool.

 The idea that you’ll hear back within 24 hours is a fallacy, less than 4% of candidates hear back on an application within 24 hours of applying. These are all important parts of your transition into industry that you should keep in mind as you apply.

What stage of the hiring process are you in?

1. Application: The average corporate job listing sees an estimated 250 apply, and up to 10 million new positions are opening across the US monthly. Most job postings stay open for 30 days in the US with bigger companies, and two weeks or less for mid-range companies.  Stay organized during your job search by keeping a spreadsheet of where you applied and when you applied – that way you’re not just throwing multiple applications at one company because you applied to so many jobs you don’t know who’s contacting you for a phone interview.

Some hiring committees interview candidates as new applicants apply, while others close the posting entirely before sorting through their pool of applicants. While you’re in the application process, check with your network and name-drop if you haven’t already done so. Ask one of your connections for an introduction to a hiring manager, or if they could put a good word in for you to make your application stand out.

2. Interview: Say 249 people also applied for the same position. 80% of that applicants are going to be rejected by an applicant tracking software, which is why it’s imperative that your resume is ATS optimized. Over 95% of Fortune 500 companies use applicant tracking software to scan their incoming resumes, which automatically rejects unqualified or unreadable resumes without anyone from the hiring committee even setting eyes on them. The remaining 20% of those candidates will get invited to interview – so 50 people. Ideally, you’re one of those invited to interview, so for every job you’re up against an estimated 49 other candidates. Since most interviewers will interview you more than once, you can expect this process to be lengthy. Job seekers who have had at least one interview with a company have at least a 37% chance of getting hired. Because employers know how expensive it is to hire someone who is a poor fit, you can expect to have multiple rounds of interviews. 

3. Reference Check: Hiring managers want to hear “You’d be stupid not to hire this person,” when they check references. Given how much a business can lose by hiring the wrong fit, it is very rare for companies to not ask for or check references. Time is of the essence, so they’re not going to play phone tag or wait for someone to get back to them. Be sure your references are prepared to provide a reference because if they don’t hear back within several business days, it’s likely the hiring team will move on to another candidate.  “Backdoor” references, such as a hiring manager reaching out to a mutual connection on LinkedIn or through networking to get an unfiltered take on a candidate, can also happen. Make sure you’re in good standing with your network. References can take up to a week, and any federal or state background checks can also take up to five business days or more depending on your history. Networking is an important keystone to getting a job in industry, you should be reaching out to your professional network throughout the process, especially if you have connections within the company.

4. Offer/Negotiation: So you got an offer. Great. Most PhDs don’t know how to negotiate their benefits and salary when they get an offer. Not negotiating your salary limits your career trajectory because you’re showing the company what you think of your hireablitiy and what you bring to the table. Negotiations can take up to five-10 business days if you’re invested in your worth as a PhD.

Manage Your Expectations

 So let’s break down this timeline from start to finish:

It takes two to four weeks from application to phone interview, so let’s meet in the middle and say you get an interview offer three weeks after you applied, that’s 15 business days.

You have three interviews with the company, one a week so that’s an additional 15 business days, so we’re at 30 business days. Ten business days to check references and clear a background check.

That’s 40 days, and if you’re negotiating as you should, that’s an additional five days. So now you’re at 45 days from the date of your application, minimum. 

Fill Your Time By Staying Focused

Monitor your other active applications, and keep engaged with them as well. I’ve seen too many PhDs drop the ball once they get just one interview and neglect following up with their other applications because they assume this one is a magic bullet – they’ll get an offer because they had an interview. 

Keep applying and networking but don’t rage apply or complain to your network that someone hasn’t gotten back to you or that you’ve given up on a potential offer. 

Here’s When You Should Reach Out During The Hiring Process

After you apply, reach out to the hiring manager within 48-72 hours after you’ve applied to give the recruitment team enough time to process your application, and if it didn’t make it through the first ATS screening, they’ll be able to let you know that. It’s not uncommon for hiring managers to be contacted on LinkedIn with questions about the position.

Once you’ve interviewed, if you haven’t heard anything within 5 days after your interview, send an email checking in.

You should send a thank you email immediately after your interview, within 24 hours. If you don’t hear back from the company or recruiter within five days of your interview, reach out again and ask if they need any information or if they’ve reached a decision. 

  • Here’s why they’re not getting back to you right away:
    • They’re still in the interview process with the remaining candidates
    • The job search was paused by the executive team (nothing to do with you)
    • Reorg – the role was broken down and redistributed
    • Unsuspected illness or time off in the hiring team
    • They’re hung up on who to hire

85% of Positions In Industry Are Filled By Recommendation – How’s Your Networking

Use this time wisely and leverage your network to find out what the company wants, needs, and is looking for in an ideal candidate. This is the time to ask for referrals or professional introductions, especially if you’ve already interviewed. Someone in your network dropping a simple “Hey, I heard NAME interviewed with your company, they’ve got an impressive reputation, I’d really recommend them,” is enough to push a hiring team to your side of things if they were on the fence. 

Concluding Remarks

Once you submit your application, you’re on the hiring team’s timeline so make sure to manage your expectations. Rage applying, emailing them too frequently to check in, or not at all can cost you an interview. Not preparing your references ahead of time, or simply not formatting your resume correctly can cost you an interview. You’re on their timeline and they can’t afford to hire a bad fit. In academia you were used to the hiring process taking several months, this is a similar process. Stay patient, proactive, and engaged with your network and you’ll see results.

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ABOUT ISAIAH HANKEL, PHD

CEO, CHEEKY SCIENTIST & SUCCESS MENTOR TO PHDS

Dr. Isaiah Hankel is the Founder and CEO of Cheeky Scientist. His articles, podcasts and trainings are consumed annually by millions of PhDs and other professionals in hundreds of different countries. He has helped PhDs transition into top companies like Amazon, Google, Apple, Intel, Dow Chemical, BASF, Merck, Genentech, Home Depot, Nestle, Hilton, SpaceX, Tesla, Syngenta, the CDC, UN and Ford Foundation.

Dr. Hankel has published 3X bestselling books and his latest book, The Power of a PhD, debuted on the Barnes & Noble bestseller list. His methods for getting PhDs hired have been featured in the Harvard Business Review, Nature, Forbes, The Guardian, Fast Company, Entrepreneur Magazine and Success Magazine.

Isaiah Hankel, PhD

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