Follow-up. It’s one of the most crucial elements in a job search, yet only a small percentage of candidates perform any sort of follow-up.
Consider these scenarios.
Scenario #1: You found the perfect job. The description was written for someone with your exact background. You spent hours putting the final touches on your résumé and cover letter and sent your application package in plenty of time to meet the deadline. But it’s been weeks, and you haven’t heard anything.
Clearly, the candidate has taken pains to perfect application materials. The job was written for him (and possibly 250 other similarly qualified candidates). The goal of follow-up in this case is for the candidate to make himself stand out.
A well-placed phone call to the hiring authority (HA) is called for: “Hi, this is (identify yourself). I sent in an application for (name the position) two weeks ago, and I wanted to make certain you had received it.” (Sometimes the HA will look through the stack of résumés and confirm receipt; often, that résumé stays at the top of the stack.) The HA responds, “Yes, I have your résumé right here.” Here’s the candidate’s opportunity to be memorable: “Oh, good! I’m very interested in this position because … (whatever is appropriate and could potentially draw the HA into an extended conversation).” As the conversation draws to a close, ask for more information: “What is the status of your search? When do you anticipate inviting candidates for onsite interviews?” Offer to make yourself available: “I’m planning a trip to the area the week of the 15th. Would it be possible to arrange a meeting?”
Mission accomplished. The candidate has learned his application has been received, his résumé is at the top of the stack of applicants, he had a five-minute conversation with the HA and he has another excuse to follow up in a week.
Scenario #2: They called about your application and said you looked like a good fit. They’ll be scheduling campus interviews soon. They’ll be in touch. (That was last month.)
This situation is rampant with opportunities for follow-up. First of all, whenever contact is initiated by the HA, a letter of appreciation, even in the form of an e-mail, is appropriate. It doesn’t need to be long, but you should express continued interest in the position, highlight a specific element of the conversation you had and indicate flexibility for their deadlines. If appropriate, send additional information that supports your candidacy (a copy of a paper you authored, for example).
If it’s been a couple of weeks and you haven’t heard anything, by all means, place a telephone call: “When we spoke two weeks ago, you indicated you would be inviting candidates to campus later this month. I was wondering if you could give me an update on the status of your search.”
Scenario #3: Last week’s interview went great! You were well-prepared for the questions that were asked, and you clicked with the rest of the staff. Now, all you have to do is sit back and wait for the offer.
If you think all you have to do is wait, then think again. This is a prime opportunity to make your case as the right candidate for the job. Sending custom e-mails to everyone you met will help seal the deal. Express your enthusiasm for the position and identify specific areas in which you could immediately make an impact.
From an employer’s perspective, following up demonstrates a high level of interest in the position and also shows initiative and professionalism. The candidate who follows up with an employer has positioned him/herself as someone who will take the extra steps to make certain a job is not just done, but done well. That candidate will be memorable, provided the follow-up is handled in a professional manner.
Following up should always be employer-focused, but candidates benefit in a number of ways as well.
- It provides you with an update on the process.
- It can help direct your focus (when you are no longer being considered in a search, you can focus your efforts elsewhere).
- It can push the employer to make an offer, as the following real-life example illustrates..
A friend of mine was wrapping up a job search. She had received an offer from her second choice but was still waiting to hear from her “dream job.”
“Call them,” I told her.
“Are you sure?”
“Absolutely. Tell them you have an offer that you need to respond to, so you need to know if they’re close to a decision.”
In less than an hour, she called me back: “They’re (her dream job) putting an offer together right now.”
No news is no news. Following up provides information and opportunity and positions you as a memorable candidate.
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