Are You a Pest or a Smart Job Seeker? How To Follow Up As If the Job Depended On It

hawkeye by denis jeong photography

By Sue Plaster, M.Ed.
Photo credit: Denis Jeong Photography

Job seekers used to obsess over what to wear to the job interview.  Almost the first step they took in beginning a job search was to buy that interview suit!  But today, job seekers are likely to find it’s their communications skills that are make-or-break, before they ever get a chance to put that interview suit on!  More likely than not, job seekers are building relationships by phone and email with company representatives whom they’ve never actually met. That distance makes it even harder to know how closely to follow up, and what channels to use to stay connected with a recruiter, search agent, or hiring manager.

How do you choose the follow-up method and timing that is appropriate for this recruiter or hiring manager, this job, and this company? If you are obsessing over how closely to follow up as you conduct your job search, here are some tips for adjusting your style to the situation.

1. Have a point of view.  I encourage clients to think of themselves as potential employees of the organization, and ask how diligently or persistently they would perform the job.  Wouldn’t you keep accurate records of your work and be consistent in your methods as you performed the job?  As much as possible, put yourself in the mindset of the job holder, not the job seeker, and behave as you know you will on the job.

2. Always be gracious.  Regardless of how the meeting or interview went, and regardless of how well you were treated as a candidate, your communications should always assume the best possible intentions, and apply an ounce of forgiveness for any mishaps that may occur.  Interview was delayed or cancelled at the last minute?  Five people interviewed you when you were told to expect one?  Your follow up communication should show how well you adjust to changed circumstances.  And – I also ask my clients to send an email to every interviewer that rejects them for a job, to let them know how much you appreciated the opportunity, and reinforce that you’ll be on the lookout for the next job opening that comes up.  Someone on that interview panel may have lobbied for you, and your email could remind him or her to suggest you for another opportunity.

3. Research your recruiter. It helps to know if he or she works directly for the organization, or for a third party recruitment agency. What time zone is your recruiter in? Does the recruiter specialize in your field or recruit for a wide range of positions? Understanding your recruiter’s role may help you communicate more effectively with him or her – even down to knowing what industry or technical jargon you can or can’t use.  Keep track of what times on what days you hear from your recruiter and you may get clues about work schedule that will help you time your phone calls or emails.

4. Establish multiple channels if you can.  Connect to the recruiter and hiring manager on LinkedIn if they are open to it.  Recruiters who are Premium users of LinkedIn or who have hundreds of contacts may be more open to a connection to you even if you haven’t met – but you do need to write a personalized invitation. This increases your odds of a successful connection, because your personalized invitation tells why you want to connect with them or with their company in particular.  And pay attention to the Linkedin patterns of your contacts. If they are on Linkedin often, posting or “liking” items, or making connections, they may be more responsive to being contacted through LinkedIn mail.

5. Answer messages promptly. Sometimes if people are doing email they will answer a quick reply from you immediately as well.

6. Send concise messages. Long emails and voice mails are less likely to be read and responded to.  Make your one-page email a model of good writing, and where appropriate, include something that helps your reader – a link to an article of interest, a quote, information about a meeting, a contact that may be useful to them, etc. One of my clients writes dynamite follow up emails – and her trademark is that she always finds a way to “give back” something in her email, to anyone who has given time to her.

7.  Know their timing.  When you are interviewed for a position, ask what timeline the company is on and make note of it. This cycle will usually be delayed, but it gives you an idea when you could reasonably send a follow up email, or make a call. Go back to your basic point of view – #1 on my list.  Always err on the side of giving them more time, and always be gracious. This is part of what makes you a diligent job seeker, not a pest.

8.  Make it easy to be contacted and to be met.   Review your LinkedIn settings and contact information and be sure you are open to being contacted, with the correct phone and email listed.  Be aware which groups you share with the recruiters and hiring managers you are in touch with. If you are in dialogue with them about a job, let them know of group meeting you plan to attend, in case there is a chance you can connect there.


What if, despite your best efforts at follow up, you hear absolutely nothing from the potential employer? I’ll write a separate post on this topic because it’s so critical for job seekers. Short answer:  rely on your consistent methodology, and when your own follow up gets no response, you still have the option to ask a contact or someone inside the organization to inquire gently on your behalf.

Sometimes job seekers seem almost embarrassed by the amount of follow-up job search requires. It gets to be trying to be always asking for something! While I completely understand this point of view, keep in mind that you actually only need to be successful one time to move forward and get that job!  I wish you the best in your job search, and I hope you call up every last ounce of persistence in you, because it will take that kind of follow up to get and keep the job of your dreams.

Sue Plaster, M.Ed. advises job seekers and consults with organizations on diversity, succession planning and leadership development. Sue’s corporate career includes communications and human resources roles with the Fairview Health System, Honeywell, Inc. and Boston Scientific.

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