Follow-up in the job search

Heather Krasna is the author of Jobs That Matter: Find a Stable, Fulfilling Career in Public Service, and the Director of Career Services at the Evans School of Public Affairs at the University of Washington.

The art of follow-up is an essential one to master during the job search process. There are at least three points at which it’s important to follow up with hiring managers during your job search:

1. When you apply for a job, it’s worth following up within 3-7 days after you apply to show your excitement and interest in the position and ask any questions related to the time frame, hiring process, or technical qualifications they seek. This can lift your resume to the top of the pile by itself, because few people take the time to call about jobs they’ve applied for. One no-no is to call when the position states “no calls.” Otherwise it is better to call than not.

2. After the interview:
After your interview, it’s essential to write a thank-you note immediately. I suggest sending two thank-you’s: one by email and one as a formal business letter on resume-quality paper stock. The reason for this is that email is faster, and if decisions about next steps are being made in the next day or so after an interview, it’s important that your thank-you note is viewed by decision-makers soon. But at the same time, many people did not grow up in the era of email, and much appreciate the more formal tone set by a written thank-you letter.

3. If you are turned down: Most people don’t think to do this, but a thoughtful response even if you are rejected for a job can actually lead to you being hired for another job with the organization–even the position you were rejected for! People don’t realize it, but many people accept a job but then leave after the first month or so if the job or organization simply isn’t a good fit. This leave an opportunity for the second-choice candidate to walk into a job he/she was originally rejected for–but only if you have been positive with the recruiter all along the process. By sending a thank-you for the opportunity even if you are rejected, you show professionalism and a desire to still be considered for opportunities in the company. You can also ask for feedback about your interview so you can improve for next time.

Be careful, though– there are times when people have ruined their chances with an organization through inappropriate follow-up. I once had a student who left a long-winded thank you message on an executive’s
voicemail, which she read from the thank-you letter she was going to send. This was just weird from the employer’s perspective, and came across as too intense or desperate as well as an inappropriate use of
voicemail. She would have been better off had she just mailed a thank-you note.

I also had a horrific experience once, years ago, where a candidate sent an angry email to a recruiter because he did not get the job. He actually said he was glad he didn’t get the job because he wouldn’t have wanted to work for the company anyway, and then “complimented” the recruiter on her figure! Needless to say, this email was forwarded along to the college career center and the student was informed that he would no longer be allowed to use our career services. It was a while before the college’s reputation would be recovered at that company!

People can also hurt their chances in a more mundane way, by simply not using good grammar and spelling in their emails. Taking the time to write a careful thank-you note that touches on all the reasons you want to work
for the organization, as well as how you would be a perfect fit for them, will make you stand apart in a more positive way.

For examples of thank-you letters and other follow-up letters, check out my book, Jobs That Matter.

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