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Follow up, Follow up, Follow up!!!

image “It’s been a week since my interview and I haven’t heard anything...”

“I had a great informational interview but that was the last I heard…”

“I had a phone conversation with a good contact in the company…”

“I have almost 100 people I’ve networked with in my job search so far…”

“I met someone, at (an event) that said they knew someone, but haven’t heard back…”

…should I follow up?”

I teach an 8 week class on job hunting skills, and these are the most common questions I’m asked regularly. And my response is always the same: YES!!!

“But I don’t want to annoy them, or come across as a stalker.” …is a common reply.

In my experience, I’ve found that candidates think they are being annoying long before the recipient of their follow ups ever do. Professional, timely, pleasant follow up is key to setting yourself apart from other candidates they are pursuing.

Why should you follow up, and how do you do it effectively? Here are some ideas…

Most people don’t follow up, it’s a chance to set yourself apart. Even after a formal job interview, generally less than 25% of people send a Thank You note of any kind. Other meetings, phone calls, email contacts generally get little to no follow up from most people. Doing something different from the norm, in a professional and upbeat way, will virtually always create a positive impression. You have far more to lose by not doing it, than the infinitesimal risk of losing an opportunity by doing it. Especially if someone else does follow up, and you don’t, you will lose by comparison.

It’s another chance to cement a relationship. Whether it’s a casual networking contact, or a formal interview, the chances of gaining more consideration from them is very much dependent on building a relationship. If you only make an initial contact and they never hear from you again, it creates no reason on their part to invest any more thinking in helping or working with you. Building a relationship requires contact and effort in following up.

It’s another chance to mention something you may have forgotten before. Although you don’t want to launch into an in-depth explanation of something else in your background in a follow up… a succinctly worded phrase or sentence adding value to your earlier discussion can help in improving their impression of you. It’s another chance to provide additional or new relevant information.

Keep it brief! Too often, if someone does follow up, they either ramble on too long on the phone, or write too long in an email or letter. After the first minute of engaging in some way, patience begins to run out and there is either no chance of making a positive impact after that, or you are actually increasing the risk of annoying them. Even an extremely short “Just wanted to thank you again for your time” will have a more positive impact than 5 or 10 minutes of going further into in-depth information. That’s true in a phone call or written communication. It’s best to carefully plan exactly what you want to convey and say it as briefly as possible to make the best impression.

Be professional! Regardless of how friendly your meeting or prior discussion may have gone, never assume too casual a relationship. Even though a hiring manager wants to like you to hire you, or a professional networking contact enjoys talking to you, in order to take additional steps with you they need to feel confident that you will always be professional with others they introduce you to as well. The referral process, and the hiring process is still essentially a business transaction. Don’t take it too lightly.

Switch it up! Effective, and consistent follow up doesn’t mean a steady stream of phone calls every other day. That does become annoying. However, you can have some form of contact with them regularly to keep you fresh in their mind and build a further relationship with them in the process. Within a day of any of the scenarios listed at the top of this piece… Thank them. You might send them a Thank You card in the mail, or email a brief note, leave them a voicemail, or call and thank them for their time. Then, in a week or two, connect again, but in another form, and in two to 4 weeks again in yet another form. Keep the process going, but you end up actually talking to them directly only every couple of months.

If they are hearing from you regularly, but in various and unobtrusive forms, you are building a relationship, not haranguing them. Building that professional relationship has everything to do with their perception of your persistence, your follow through, your professionalism, and their interest in you.

Should you follow up??? Yes! Definitely! Absolutely!

…but do it right!


John Smetana said...

Harry, this is great information and often so easily missed. Follow up is a key part of all successful business dealings, not just sales and job hunting. For example, how about an idea put forth to your boss or a project that has dependencies of deliverables from a co-worker.

Here's a few more thoughts on the topic specific to job/career hunting:

1. I like to gain agreement of when to follow up next by simply asking, "When will be an appropriate time to call you or how much time do you need to think about our discussion?" . . . don't stop there, ask them what time of day is best?; try to nail down a specific date and time if the situation is appropriate. . . what number to call, office or mobile (especially if they travel a lot for business)? . . . etc. By gaining agreement that when you will follow up, you remove those feelings of "being too aggressive, stalking, etc."

2. This is one time when you should not use email for the follow up. You actually need to talk with people. I use email for a quick follow up after a meeting/interview or sending something additional from the meeting that they requested of me. But for the "real" follow up, it is a live conversation.

3. If you get voicemail, keep control especially if you leave a message. For example, "Hi Joe, I am touching base with you as we discussed, I am available this afternoon from 2 to 5 pm. If we don't reach each other today, I will attempt to reach you on Friday morning." Again, this type of posture relieves you of those feelings like you are stalking or being too aggressive. Secondly, you aren't left with waiting for them to call, you know have another reason to call them and the expectation has been set with the person you are following up with.

When the person you are trying to reach has gone "radio silent" then there are other strategies to use and a topic for another day.

John Smetana

nisha said...

You got so many points here, that's why i love reading your blog. Thank you so much!

SusanWhitcomb said...

Harry - This is so right-on. I think follow-up ... gracious, tenacious, upbeat, and other-focused ... is the key to job search success!

elccollins said...

What is the best way to follow up after sending in a resume for an advertised job?

Harry said...

Here's another article that may be of help to you on that:

Best wishes!


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