Why It Takes so Long to Hear Back on a Government Job

Waiting by the phone.
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It can seem like forever between the time you submit a government job application and when you receive any sort of word about the job. This happens because there are many steps in the government hiring process, and there is no set time that this process takes. The time it takes from applying to the final answer depends on several factors, but whether the position is currently vacant or expected to be vacant in the future has a significant effect on the time frame.

If there's a vacant position, the particular agency has an incentive to speed up the process. If that's not the case and the agency knows well in advance that an employee is leaving, it has more time to sift through applications.

The organization also has an incentive to be thorough, which can slow down the process. If the person that's hired turns out to be a poor fit, it can take a long time to correct that situation, especially in government where agencies protect employees from unfair personnel actions.

If You Don't Make It Past the First Screening

If you are screened out of the selection process when the agency's human resources department reviews all applications for the minimum requirements, it could only be a week or two after the application closing date that you get a rejection letter. The good news is you generally get this information relatively quickly.

A Month of Silence

If you don’t hear back after a month, you can most likely forget about that job.

The agency could be interviewing other candidates and might notify all applicants that they were not selected after they choose the new hire. Nevertheless, do not delete electronic copies of the application materials you sent because there is still a slight chance you’re in the running -- you might be next on the list if those in front of you don't work out.

If You Are a Finalist

If you are selected as a finalist, you should hear back in about two or three weeks to set up an interview. After you interview, you should hear back on the final selection within a week or two. This timeline can get stretched out quite a bit if the agency offers the job to someone else and that candidate winds up rejecting the offer after salary negotiations do not work out. If you get a job offer after waiting about a month or so after the interview, this is likely what happened.