The Waiting Game: Surviving Job Offer Anxiety

the big bang theory

The whole process of getting a new job is full of ups and downs. There are times it feels like everything is moving too fast and others when progress feels glacial. You spend a disproportionate amount of time waiting for the phone to ring, until the phantom phone buzzes are driving you insane. We’ve all been there.

From the stress of deciding to look for a new role in the first place, right up to the inevitable onset of first day nerves, it doesn’t really feel like the anxiety abates for the whole period.

For many, the most stressful part of finding a new job is waiting for the interview outcome. Time can drag on as you wait for the phone to ring, and it often feels like the hiring manager and HR are working on a completely different timetable to you.

You feel completely unable to influence the decision one way or another, but doing nothing somehow feels wrong too. The hard work should be over by now really, but sitting on your hands waiting for a call (and hopefully a juicy job offer) is every bit as hard as the interview itself.

If you’re in this position, living through job offer anxiety, then here’s how to get through the experience unscathed. Unfortunately, if this is your first experience of job offer anxiety it probably won’t be the last!

See also: Why Should I Quit My Job?

Remind yourself: you were ready

You’re overthinking things. You might be stressing about whether your resume was good enough. Or if that answer you gave was really the best you could come up with. Stop. Thinking too hard isn’t going to help you out. You were ready. Take a walk in the park. Hit the gym. Switch on your favourite tunes loud. Just block out the worry in whatever way works for you.

Keep a sense of perspective. It can help to think about how you will feel in ten minutes, ten months and ten years. Whatever happens with the job offer. How much of a big deal is it going to feel a little way down the line?

Understand the expectations

The biggest cause of job offer anxiety is the unknown. Limit this by making sure you ask the interviewer when they believe they will be contacting candidates and what the process is from here. This is a great way to wrap up your interview and reiterate that the role is interesting to you and you’re excited to proceed with the process.

Of course interviews don’t always quite go to plan. If you forget to ask about the next steps, or the interviewer is vague then don’t be afraid to follow up. If you write a thank you note to the interviewer then this can be a good place to ask any questions you still have about the next steps.

Review and reflect

Depending on how the interview went, thinking about the experience might be the last thing you want to do. Interviewing well is a learned process, so a little reflection will actually help you a lot with your job search. Make a few notes shortly after the interview (maybe wait until the nerves have abated a little but before you have forgotten any of the details!). Record the questions you recall being asked and how you felt you answered.

If there are places you could have done better then note it down but don’t worry about analysing your performance too much at this stage. Reflecting can help, but worrying will not, so don’t think too hard about things you could have done differently unless it will help you deal with your next interview experience.

Follow up with a thank you


A common cause of interview anxiety is not knowing when and how to follow up with the interviewer. There aren’t really any hard and fast rules here - which is why this is so tricky to navigate the etiquette minefield.

Follow up after your interview in the way you think is most appropriate. While some people might feel better for sending a hand written note, others would rather leave it lie. If you’re unsure, then drop a quick email to the interviewer to thank them for the time and say you’re looking forward to hearing from them. If you connected well during the interview then the note could be relatively informal.

Have a negotiating strategy

If you have any genuine anxiety about the mechanics of getting a job offer sorted, then it’s likely to be about negotiating a package. Most anxieties are about things that have already happened (making worry futile). But few of us enjoy the negotiating stage, and it’s certainly not something you can do well ’on the fly’.

Having a negotiating strategy is a smart move, so that if you get put on the spot by the interviewer you don’t get flummoxed or say something you later regret! Have an ideal outcome for base salary and a good idea of the range of outcomes that would be acceptable to you. Make sure you have a list of the non financial benefits that matter to you as well, so you can ask all the questions you need to, to be informed.

Cut yourself some slack

Finally, cut yourself some slack. Job offer anxiety is stressful but usually stems from the pressure we put on ourselves. Ironically the highest achievers tend to be the ones who struggle the most, as they crank up the pressure more than ever. High achievers are used to everything working out right for them, so when things look a bit shaky it can feel extra stressful.

Worrying won’t help anything, and could even become a destructive force. Give yourself a break. Talk to friends. Have a good old moan. Crack open the wine. Just try not to think too much about whether or not that phone call will come today or not.

But don’t let up in the job search


Whatever you do, don’t give up looking just yet. Keep up your job search, making applications and leveraging your network to make sure you have the connections you need to get a role fixed up. Not only will it keep you busy (and therefore distracted), continuing the job hunt will make sure that you maintain a sense of perspective. There are more roles out there. If, for some reason, things don’t work out with this job then you are still in the game.

Unfortunately anxiety is something that comes with the territory when you’re looking for a new job. Eliminating it completely is pretty much impossible, but managing it, can be done. Even if you’re doubting it right now, you can be sure that the email will arrive, or the phone will ring. The news you’re waiting for will come eventually, it just feels like it takes ages.

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Keep busy, keep a sense of perspective, and remember a career is a marathon, not a sprint. Whatever happens now, chances are you’re going to have to go through this whole sorry charade again at some point in the future. Perhaps it’s time to get used to it, after all.

Do you have any other tips on surviving job offer anxiety? Let us know in the comments section below.