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The art of following up after a job application or interview without appearing desperate

It takes experience to master the nuances of following up with recruiters, HR executives and hiring managers at various stages of the job-search process, from the time that you send in your cover letter and resume and make it through a phone screening to the final in-person interview. This is what you need to do after applying for a job or completing a job interview to stay on recruiters', HR executives' and hiring managers' radar screen without coming off as desperate.

Following up after submitting a cover letter and resume

Tina Nicolai, career coach and the founder and CEO of Resume Writers' Ink recommends following up with a quick email or social-media message to make the headhunter or recruiter aware that you uploaded a cover letter and resume to a job posting, she said.

“Responding promptly and following up are the two keys to having a savvy relationship-building strategy,” Nicolai said.

If it's an entry-level job you're going for, it's probably not worth following up on an initial application, simply because the volume of applications most financial services firms get is so high. If it is an off-cycle drop, then it's best to get someone else to follow up for you, said Janet Raiffa, investment banking career coach, the former head of campus recruiting at Goldman Sachs and the former associate director of the Career Management Center at Columbia Business School.

“The person receiving resumes will probably get a lot and not be excited about going through a stack,” Raiffa said. “If someone within the organization knocks on that person's door or sends an email endorsing the candidate, then that will get a lot more attention."

If you are uploading your resume to an applicant tracking system (ATS) and you do not receive an automated confirmation that your resume has been received, you might call in 24-48 hours to ensure that the document has been received, said Amy Adler, executive resume writer, career coach and the founder of Five Strengths Career Transition Experts.

“Once you’re sure that your resume is in play, whether by ATS or by a personal connection, you can follow up with HR or your [recruiter] contact after a week,” she said.

Following up after an interview

Always discuss appropriate next steps before leaving the first interview. You're setting an expectation of when to follow up, and you want to have a verbal agreement from the person conducting the interview to continue the process, Nicolai said.

It’s OK to either ask or state: “I’d like to follow-up after our meeting today; what date would be convenient for me to check in?” or “I’d like to continue our talk surrounding this opportunity; when are you available for a follow-up call?”

You should get some clarification from the hiring manager on when you might hear from them.

“If you don’t hear from the person within the time frame he or she specified, then feel free to call your contact,” Adler said. “In no case should you bombard them with multiple calls, as this might be perceived as intrusive.”

The same goes for email. Bombardment is not a good strategy.

“You’ll receive an answer, and if you do not hear from the interviewer within the communication timeframe, call the next day or send an email expressing your interest and inquiring about the next steps,” Nicolai said. “Hiring leaders, recruiters and headhunters tend to like the ownership to be in the hands of the candidate as it shows initiative.”

Timing is key

Some candidates’ follow-up can be too frequent or too fast.

“I've heard of emails received five minutes after an interview, and even thank-you notes being sent in advance,” Raiffa said.

“If an interviewer has a full schedule, then you can wait until the end of the interview schedule for the first-round follow-up or a few hours [after your interview wraps up],” she said. “For a second-round interview, [send a thank-you note] within 24 hours.”

Adler agrees that you should follow up via email or, for an extra-special touch, a hand-written note within 24 hours after your interview with each person you met.

Your letters should be personal and individualized to each recipient; after all, your conversations with each of those people were likely to be different, and you want to try to build a relationship with each to the extent possible.

“In this letter, sometimes referred to as a job proposal letter, refer to and reflect on the needs of your interviewer, elaborating on the reasons you are the optimal choice for the role,” Adler said. “In fact, once you’ve done this, don’t hesitate to demonstrate enthusiasm for the position and ask for the offer.

“If you are invited to multiple rounds of interviews, then be sure to continue to write thank-you notes, even if your collective plan is to meet again for the next round of discussions,” she said.

Help them to remember you

The person who interviewed you likely interviewed many other people that week and probably that same day, so when you're following up, be sure to mention anything noteworthy you talked about, something you have in common or a distinguishing factor related to your background or experience that came up in the interview. Depending on how many people they interview for a particular role and how good their memory is, candidates may all start to blur together even a day later, so do what you can to job your memory and make yourself stand out from the pack.

In certain situations, it is appropriate to share a link to a relevant article, especially if a related topic came up in conversation during the interview.

Be concise

While you want to do what you can to leave a positive impression, you'll have to do so with a very limited word count. Recruiters and hiring managers are busy people, and they are unlikely to read any follow-up note longer than a paragraph or two. Be cordial, get to the point, which is giving a brief summary of why you’re the right fit for the position, say thank you and sign off politely. The same goes for leaving a voicemail message.

Don't burn bridges

If you hear back that you didn't get the job, don't ignore the message or vent your frustration at the injustice of it all. Politely thank them for their consideration in getting back to you and the opportunity to meet them and ask them to keep you in mind for future openings that may be a better fit for your skillset and experience. You never know what might open up down the road or when your paths might cross again.

Photo credit: GettyImages

AUTHORDan Butcher US Editor
  • Ti
    Tina Parker
    6 March 2019

    Good point and good recommendations. Thanks for sharing!

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