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Do employers check references if they aren't going to hire you?

When it comes to the hiring process, there's more going on than meets the eye, and employers aren't always great at cluing you in as to what's taking so long. In that case, let us shed some light on what really goes on behind the scenes of the hiring process.

After you submit your application:

Wondering where your resume goes after you hit "apply"? Chances are it goes straight into an applicant tracking system (ATS). An ATS is software that's programmed to scan resumes for specific keywords to quickly screen out unqualified resumes and identify the ones that most closely match the job description. This saves recruiters and hiring managers the time and labor of manually going through the many resumes they receive on a daily basis. (Want to increase the odds your resume gets in front of an actual human? Design your resume to get past an ATS.) Once your resume passes the ATS, a hiring manager or recruiter will review it and decide whether or not to contact you and move you ahead in the interview process.

After the phone interview:

While not every company does a phone interview, they are becoming more commonplace as a way for employers to get a better feel for a candidate's skills and personality. After the phone interview, the hiring manager or recruiter will discuss your conversation with other stakeholders and advise them on who to bring in for an in-person interview.

After the in-person interview:

The waiting period after the in-person interview can feel like torture, but employers aren't purposely trying to make you suffer. There may be perfectly legitimate reasons for it.

  • They're interviewing other candidates. Depending on the role and the company, there may be several other candidates up for the role, which means more waiting time for you as the company brings in other candidates to interview.
  • They're checking references. After the in-person interview, employers often take the time to call a candidate's professional references to verify your work history and level of professionalism. Trying to get a hold of references can prolong the hiring decision-making process.
  • They're doing background checks. The majority of employers conduct background checks on candidates before they hire them. Background checks may involve everything from credit checks to drug screening to criminal record-checking. Depending on how extensive the background check is, it could take anywhere from several days to a few weeks.
  • They're Googling you. A recent CareerBuilder study found that the vast majority of employers (70 percent) use social media to screen candidates before hiring, and 69 percent look up candidates via search engines like Google and Bing. The main reasons for doing so include looking for information that supports the candidate's qualifications, seeing if the candidate has a professional online presence, seeing what other people are posting about the candidate and looking for any reason they should not hire the candidate.
  • They're talking to decision-makers. Hiring someone usually involves more than one person. Between the recruiter, hiring manager, other team members, HR and senior leadership, a lot of people need to consulted and in agreement before a final decision can be made.

After the offer letter:

Once a company makes a hiring decision, it will send an offer letter to the chosen candidate. This letter contains the salary, benefits, role, name of superior and other key information. The candidate is usually given a day or two to sign the letter, during which time, the candidate is given time to consider the offer and in some cases may try to negotiate more money or benefits. (In fact, the majority of employers are open to negotiating salary, yet less than half of job candidates even try, according to CareerBuilder research. Learn how to negotiate pay the right way.)

As you can see, there's a lot going on when it comes to the hiring process. Each step of the hiring process can take anywhere from days to weeks, so practice patience. Most importantly, keep applying to jobs and networking throughout the process, as it's important to keep your options open.

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