On the one hand, it's so exciting and fabulous to get a job interview after months of looking, networking and shoveling resumes into what seems to be an abyss. But then what? Why are companies taking so long to make a decision and what should the interviewee do in the meantime?

Let's put the part about the companies aside and focus on the "meantime" question.

Elva L. Bankins, managing partner of OI Partners, a global network of career consulting companies, and a longtime practitioner in the outplacement field, has some advice.
Interviewees must strike the right balance, she said, between being proactive and assertive and being irritating. 

After four to six weeks, companies figure that most finalists will just assume they have hired someone else, Bankins said. "People who are most persistent in following up are demonstrating leadership, and that is one reason they finally get offers. Following up does not mean merely calling and asking where a company is in its decision-making process. Instead, people should utilize a variety of 'touch base' approaches," added Bankins, who is based at OI Partners' Philadelphia office.

The first step takes place at the interview when the candidate should set up a follow-up procedure, with the goal being the ability to follow-up by phone.

The second step takes place the day of the interview. Within 24 hours, the candidate should send a follow-up email or letter to each person encountered who may have an influence in the decision-making process. The letters must be personal and relate to that person individually. Do not send a form letter and do not send the same letter to everyone.

Within five days or less, find a way to touch base, maybe sending the hiring manager and other key participants a link to a business article relating to a topic discussed in the interview.

Within five days, try to telephone to express your interest in the job. If they are still interviewing, try to determine when it would be appropriate to call back.

Then, try to keep in contact every seven to 12 days, varying your approach and varying the people you are contacting. If you are doing anything that sets you apart -- speaking at a conference, writing an article, participating in training -- let them know and explain how it enhances your value.

Meanwhile, don't stop looking elsewhere, Bankins said.