Master this balancing act, and you will be well on your way to the very job you’ve been looking for...
Last month we discussed a number of strategies a job seeker can use to rise above the white noise and get noticed by a hiring manager. We briefly touched on the importance of following up at various stages in the application process. Following up is a key strategy in any job search, and this month we will discuss it further while pointing out why it can be crucial to your success.
When trying to fill an open position, a hiring manager is going to be assessing multiple candidates on multiple criteria; he/she is going to be looking for professional skills, organizational skills, integrity, and perhaps most importantly, interest in the job. From the initial submission of your resume to the hiring manager’s final decision, it is likely that you can find several opportunities to demonstrate these skills and qualities.
One key point to keep in mind is that many candidates don’t follow up after an initial resume submission, nor even after a first interview. This represents a tremendous opportunity for you, the candidate who does follow up—it makes you stand out from the crowd. Those who neglect to follow up do so because they feel intimidated by the balancing act between being seen as a pest and lacking real interest in the job. But you can take the guesswork out of that equation simply by taking control (and initiative is certainly another attractive trait to the hiring manager).
So how do you gain control with regard to following up? By taking the initiative to either establish a timeframe or asking the employer to do so—if you are in a conversation with the hiring manager, simply ask, “May I follow up with you by phone two weeks from now?” If you are corresponding via email, simply state your follow-up time as if it were a service you feel obliged to offer: “I will follow up with you next week to see if I can answer any questions or provide further information.”
Don’t be shy about seeking information to help you establish the timeframe; for example, ask the hiring manager about his/her deadline for filling the position, then apply this as a yardstick for measuring out reasonable follow-up intervals. If you offer to follow up at a certain time and the manager expresses resistance, simply say, “I understand. When would it be convenient for you to have me follow up?”
Establish this control with genuine interest and sincerity, and you will have revealed yet another desirable trait to your potential employer: conscientiousness. And don’t give up—if the hiring manager has given you permission to follow up, then you are within your right to systematically and politely do so for as long as the position remains open.
BACKTRACK WITH GRATITUDE
Sending a note of thanks or following up to remind someone of their commitment is your responsibility, and it applies not only to your interactions with hiring managers, but with referrals as well. When someone gives you a referral of any kind, let them know what the outcome was—or, at the very least, let them know you have pursued the lead and that you appreciate their providing it. This feedback will let the person know you care and will make them more likely to help you (and others) in the future.
This is especially important after a job interview. If you genuinely want the job, it is important for you to express that to the hiring manager in a cool, professional manner. If it was worth your time to interview for the position, then it is worth more than your time to follow up with a note expressing (a). thanks to the hiring manager for taking the time to interview you, and (b). your sincere excitement about—and interest in—the job.
GET THE INSIDE SCOOP
If you happen to know someone within the company at which you are applying, reach out to them. Arm yourself with any knowledge you can gain regarding the job, the challenges faced by the department, and the objectives of management. The more fluently you are able to discuss these challenges and objectives in your follow-up, the more likely the hiring manager will see you as a strong candidate.
With too much to do and too few resources, recruiters and hiring managers often need a little nudging. Never assume your application was received. If you haven’t heard from the employer after applying, contact the appropriate person to learn the timeline for filling the position and the status of your application.
It is important to read communications from employers carefully—and follow their instructions. If you had an interview, be sure to ask about the timeframe and next steps to help you gauge the timing of your follow-up(s). Be persistent, but be professional, humble, and patient. Stalking a recruiter or hiring manager like a zealous fan stalking a celebrity will not serve you well, but neither will failure to follow up. Master this balancing act, and you will be well on your way to the very job you’ve been looking for.