The wait to hear back following a job interview can feel endless, especially when days or even weeks pass with no news. Many job seekers wonder why the hiring process takes so long. Unfortunately, a long recruitment process is now the norm in many industries. Feel like you’re stuck in limbo? Here’s why the hiring decisions take so long and how to manage it to your advantage.

How Long Does the Hiring Process Take?

According to a report from Glassdoor Economic Research, the average hiring process in the US takes 23 days. Some industries tend to have more extended processes (government jobs take an average of 53.8 days to fill), while others make speedier decisions (restaurant and bar jobs take just 10.2 days to fill on average). Where you live matters as well: Washington D.C. clocks in at 33.2 days, whereas Kansas City, MO, has an average interview process of just 16.9 days. For professional positions in mid- to upper management, expect to wait several weeks or longer.

Why Does the Hiring Process Take so Long?

There are plenty of reasons why the hiring process takes so long these days. According to the US Department of Labor, the cost of a bad hire is around 30% of that employee’s first-year earnings, so companies want to make sure they take their time vetting prospective employees before making any commitments. Additionally, many companies begin the hiring process with a long “wish list” of skills or experience they’re looking for in a new hire. In many cases, finding a perfect hire to tick all these boxes is unrealistic, but hiring managers may still need time to decide which skills are truly critical. Finally, with the cost of a bad hire being so high, companies are adding more stakeholders to the interview process in hopes of avoiding a hiring mistake. The more stakeholders involved, however, the more difficult it is to reach a consensus on decisions, especially if someone is out of the office or tied up with an urgent project and can’t weigh in immediately.

How to Handle a Long Recruitment Process

Adjust your expectations.

Even if the hiring manager gives you great feedback and you walk out the door feeling like you’ve nailed it, you should still mentally prepare for a long wait between each step of the hiring process. Setting realistic expectations from the beginning will help you to maintain a positive mindset.

Ask about next steps after each touch point.

At the end of each interview, go ahead and ask the hiring manager about the timeline for next steps. You’ll get a sense of whether they’ve just started speaking to candidates or are looking to make a decision soon. Make sure that the hiring manager has everything he or she needs from you as well, and answer any requests for additional information promptly, ideally within 24 hours. You don’t want to be the cause of any delays.

Take timeline promises with a grain of salt.

The hiring manager might tell you that the company is looking to make a quick decision and hopes to make an offer to the best candidate next week. That’s exciting news– but don’t celebrate just yet. From background checks to formal offer packages, each step in the hiring process often takes longer than anticipated, so be prepared for the inevitable delays.

Follow up with the correct people.

You might be tempted to reach out directly to HR if you haven’t heard anything back from your recruiter, but that’s generally inadvisable. Companies usually retain recruiters precisely because they don’t want to manage communication with candidates on their own, and they may be annoyed if you try to contact them directly. You’re also unlikely to win friends by bypassing your recruiter and HR and reaching out to your potential boss. When you ask about next steps at the end of your interview, clarify who you should be in contact with and then follow those instructions. Chances are if the right contact doesn’t have news for you, no one else will either, so it’s not worth ruffling feathers.

Don’t get frustrated.

Some interview processes will drag on for weeks with no news, even after multiple rounds of interviews. Companies may not even contact you to let you know they’ve chosen someone else. While this is understandably frustrating, you’ve got to grin and bear it. The worst thing a candidate can do is fire off a nasty email to the hiring manager or recruiter. If you’ve made a good impression, those hiring managers and recruiters may keep you in mind for future opportunities even if the job you initially interviewed for doesn’t work out. There’s no sense in burning bridges unnecessarily. Instead, channel your energy into applying for other jobs. This will keep you too busy to agonize over any one role and might even result in multiple employers competing to hire you.

No one likes waiting by the phone to hear whether they’ve landed their dream job, but in today’s market, it’s an inevitable part of any job search. Stay confident, follow up appropriately, and continue searching for other leads, and you’ll land a new position before you know it.