The Thin Line Between Annoying and Assertive When Following Up on a Job Application

What's considered pushy to some may be appropriate behavior to others.

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You've been told not to be pushy, aggressive or a stalker when following up with an employer after submitting an application or going on an interview. What exactly does this look like? The reality is, what one person may consider pushy, another person may consider demonstrating your interest. Your message is interpreted by the receiver, and each receiver has personal preferences. Your goals are to try to meet the unique preferences and needs of the person who will be listening to your voicemail or receiving your email. While it may not always be possible to conduct enough research to understand the unique preferences of the person who will be listening to our voicemail or receiving your email, you can at least attempt to take informed risks.

Application Follow-Up

Not following up at all. One of the worse mistakes any job seeker could make is not following up at all after submitting an application. How do you know your application was received? If you're lucky, the company has an automated system to notify you, otherwise you're left to wonder. Finding out if your application was received may be as simple as contacting the human resources department; however, HR is flooded with these inquiries. While it is their responsibility to respond to applicants' inquiries, that can become a full-time job, and the result, unfortunately, is a lack of response. Many HR professionals suggest not bothering them to find out if your application made it into their system. They contend that constant emails and voicemail messages are not the way to get a response or gain the right type of attention. But you may have heard stories about applicants who were granted interviews because they persistently followed up. Which advice do you follow?

Try taking an alternate route by connecting with employees inside the company to see if they might help, either by forwarding your résumé to the right hiring manager or by getting you an update on where the company is in the hiring process.

Timing is everything. Many career professionals would say that you should follow up shortly after you apply. But what does that mean? How many hours, days or weeks do they mean by shortly? If you applied online and didn't receive any type of response that your application was received, an immediate or same-day call or email to the HR department isn't totally out of line. Technology can fail, and it has – for example, FCW.com reported in 2011 that 70,000 federal job applications were lost, partially lost or otherwise affected during the outage of an application support system connected to USAJobs.gov.

Your priority is to ensure your materials were received, meanwhile, HR's priority is to screen the applications, not troubleshoot why yours wasn't received. Be polite and show empathy for their busy workload when you communicate with them. If you do not get a response to your message, following up one week later for an update on the status of their screening process is also not out of line, as long as your wording is courteous. Giving up is a choice you may be faced with. However, if it is a job you are very interested in, don't throw in the towel. Asking connections inside the company is also a helpful way to gain insight as to what is going on in the company and with the screening process.

What is stalking? This would be defined as unwanted or obsessive attention. When or if you get a "no thank you" or "don't call us, we'll call you" response, you need to stop following up. But if you're still awaiting a response, don't cross the stalking line; instead, find alternative ways to show your interest. For instance, following the company on social networks isn't stalking, but sending regular messages to its inbox might be. Sharing some of its updates probably isn't going to mark you as a stalker, and the social media managers may even appreciate your promotional assistance if it's done in moderation. Think outside the box and find alternative ways to gently remind the hiring manager that you're qualified and interested.

Interview Follow Up

Two questions to ask. Asking these two questions will help gauge the appropriate follow-up after an interview: "What are the next steps in the process?" and "When may I follow-up with you?" Timelines slip, people take vacations and jobs just take longer to fill than the company expected – there are many reasons you haven't heard back from the company. It would be nice to know exactly what the holdup is, unfortunately, this isn't always possible. Be patient, persistent and know that you've done your part to take ownership of the situation.

The real reason. While it would be helpful to know why you didn't get the job, it's unlikely you'll learn. In a 2012 study by The Talent Board, only 4.4 percent of more than 2,000 job applicants said they'd received feedback from hiring managers and recruiters. The good news is you know where you stand. Just knowing you weren't selected allows you to invest your time following up on the other potential opportunities.

Never say never. Every job and every industry is slightly different. What might work for you in one field may not work for someone else in another industry. A sales professional might be expected to be pleasantly persistent in his or her follow-up after an interview because it shows how he or she might follow through after a sales call. There is also some degree of trial and error. Don't be afraid to take a calculated risk as you follow-up.

Hannah Morgan is a speaker and author providing no-nonsense career advice; she guides job seekers and helps them navigate today's treacherous job search terrain. Hannah shares information about the latest trends, such as reputation management, social networking strategies, and other effective search techniques on her blog, Career Sherpa.

TAGS:
careers
interviews
job searching

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