Be Persistent, but Not a Pest

Be Persistent, but Not a Pest

Beware of the fine line between appropriate follow-up and pestering. Proper follow-up communicates interest, enthusiasm, and initiative; conversely, improper follow-up communicates naivety about the recruitment process, excessive assertiveness, or even desperation.

One of the most difficult aspects of job-hunting is waiting. Once you send a resume to either a recruiter or a prospective employer, allow a reasonable time before follow-up. If the resume was unsolicited, that period might be longer than if your submission was in response to a particular opening. After about a week or so, you can e-mail or telephone the person to whom you addressed the submission to inquire whether it was received, if the position remains open, and when you should expect to receive a response. If there are no openings available, politely request that your resume be kept on file for future opportunities.

If a recruiter submits your resume to a prospective employer, your follow-up generally should be channeled through the recruiter. Employers use recruiters to streamline the process and most do not appreciate direct candidate calls. Your recruiter should brief you not only on prospective employers and particular opportunities, but also inform you of the hiring process for each. Some employers move very quickly while others have protracted procedures. Your recruiter knows exactly who to contact and when and how to follow up. Do not attempt to go around the recruiter and contact the prospective employer directly unless you are advised to do so.

If you sent your resume to a recruiter and there are no appropriate searches currently underway, it is fine to call periodically to touch base. Send another copy of your resume when necessary to update your data, but do not apply for every opening you see advertised. Your recruiter will keep your information on file and call when an appropriate search arises.

Appropriate interview follow-up begins during the interview itself. Collect business cards of those you meet so you have proper names and titles. As you wrap up, ask your interviewer where they are in the hiring process, what the next step will be, and their timeline for making the hire. Ask when you should follow up, with whom, and whether telephone or e-mail is preferable. This way, you know exactly what to do and when, and have obtained permission for further contact. Also inquire whether you can provide any further information, such as a writing sample or list of references. Follow their directions exactly. If, when you follow up, you find that the prospective employer is not ready to make a decision regarding your candidacy, ask when you should expect to hear, and follow up again as directed.

Sending thank you notes to your interviewers immediately afterwards is not only polite, but also allows you to reinforce the positive impression you made during your interview and emphasizes your enthusiasm for the position. It can be a useful tool to remind the recipient of your candidacy, especially if you have not gotten any feedback. Even if you learn that the firm has declined to pursue your candidacy, it is good form to send a thank you anyway, perhaps requesting that you be kept in mind for future openings.

If the interview was arranged through a recruiter, call your recruiter as soon as possible to debrief and discuss next steps. The prospective employer will be waiting to hear from the recruiter about your impressions and whether you remain interested in the opportunity. Use the recruiter to air your questions and concerns, and for coaching throughout the process. The recruiter is in a position to be more aggressive in following up and often can get more useful information and candid feedback than you can on your own behalf.

The recruiter wants to make the placement and will take all reasonable steps to facilitate your success. Therefore, gracefully accept the fact if your recruiter if informs you that the prospective employer is not interested in pursuing you further. Do not contact the employer directly after a “pass”; an attempted “end run” around the recruiter not only makes you look desperate, but also demonstrates your lack of understanding of the recruiting process and will annoy both the recruiter and the prospective employer.

Understand that the hiring process often takes longer than anticipated for a variety of reasons. If you have other offers but remain interested in this particular position, it is fine for you—if you made the original contact directly—or your recruiter to apprise the prospective employer of your offers. Do not use this as a ploy to speed up the process, however, as it can backfire. The prospective employer may decide that their hiring process cannot move quickly enough to accommodate you and advise you to accept another offer, removing you from consideration.

In all of your follow-up efforts, be patient, polite, and professional with both the recruiter and the prospective employer. Stick to the usual business communications tools: letter, e-mail, or telephone. Do not try any gimmicks such as flowers, candy, gifts, balloons, or singing telegrams. If you know someone who knows your prospective employer, it is fine to have that person put in a good word before a decision is made on your candidacy. If, however, the prospective employer has decided not to pursue you, do not have someone make any attempt to change their minds. You do not want to get the reputation of being desperate, pushy, or a pest. Accept the decision with dignity and grace.

Valerie Fontaine
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