Following Up

Have you ever been here? Spending what seems like endless hours looking through job description after job description, sending resume after resume, and some instances, filling out tedious application after tedious application. Most of the jobs look so generic and unexciting; until something happens. You see one that stands apart from the rest, a description of a job that looks like it written talking about specifically you. A job you feel you can not only do, but do well. A job that looks like it could definitely grow into a career with a company who has an excellent reputation. You take extra care customizing your resume and cover letter before clicking that final “Submit” button.

And then…nothing. No phone call to request an interview. Not even an email saying the company has decided not to move forward with your application. Nothing. Nothing, but deafening silence.

What do you do? How dare the company not so much acknowledge your submittal! Don’t they know how smart and engaging you are? That they would lucky to have you in their corner? Didn’t you make yourself clear that they would not find any other applicant who would be a better fit? While this bitter grapes line of thinking may be very tempting to follow, I can almost guarantee you that getting defensive and upset will get you nowhere. Moving on to the next unexciting opportunity is an option, but do you want to give up so easily?

In this situation, you do have another option. You can follow up with the company directly. However, you need to tread with caution. The first place to look of course is the job description. Sometimes, there will be the name and number of the person accepting the applications and resumes. Understand that this person may not be the final decision maker but they may just be the gatekeeper. Therefore, it is necessary to obtain their approval before you can move forward in the process.

In some instances, you may have to dig a little deeper. This is where social media can be very helpful. Try searching HR Professionals for the company. If the company has more than one location, make sure the locations match. If you know exactly where the company is located, try to gather as much information as you can. If the company has a general information number, you can try that too. If you do, don’t expect whomever you speak with to have all the answers. Be courteous and only ask to be pointed in the right direction. Once you have the name and number of the person to whom you need to speak, it’s time to make that call.

Again, tread with extreme caution. When you do call, be prepared for some roadblocks: the person you need to speak with is in a meeting/at lunch/on another call/away from their desk. In that case, don’t leave a message. Ask when they will be available and call back at that time.

When you finally do speak the HR professional or Hiring Manager take these steps:

Be polite. You’ll always get more flies with honey. Not to mention being rude is unprofessional.

Make a quick pitch. Introduce yourself and explain that you saw the job posting, how interested you are and that you think you could be a great fit and have submitted an application. The Hiring Manager may prompt you on why you think you are right for the position so be prepared to answer that.

The most important question to ask: Did they receive your application/resume? Be ready for the Hiring Manager to not have a straight answer. You may have caught them off-guard. If they are willing to look, give them a few moments to do so.

And here’s the major key: If the Hiring Manager can confirm receipt of your application, back off right there. You can say it sounds like a wonderful opportunity for which you hope to be considered.

Don’t ask for an interview. Of course you want to interview. If you didn’t want to interview, you wouldn’t have applied and you wouldn’t be taking the time to follow up that application has been received. The Hiring Manager knows that.  I can speculate to what you are thinking now. Doing all this work to connect to the right person and then not asking for an interview is like traveling to Manhattan to visit the Empire State Building and then only going into the lobby. But it isn’t. You need to understand an offer of interview is the company’s to extend and yours to accept. The point of making contact with the Hiring Manager is to put yourself on their radar. If it sounds like the Hiring Manager is responding positively to you, you can ask this question: What is the next step in the process? This shows interest but you respect that they have a process.

Be ready for bad news. There is a flip side to all of this. Depending on when you follow-up, the position could have been filled. The Hiring Manager may also begin to explain (and not too gently) that you are not as qualified as you think you are. However, this is still an opportunity to grow and you should embrace it as such. Don’t be afraid to ask the Hiring Manager what you can do differently or what qualifications would make you an asset to the company in the future.

Say thank you. ALWAYS thank them for their time. While this opportunity may have been at the forefront of your mind ever since you saw the posting, the fact is it is probably just one more thing on the Hiring Manager’s to-do list. Taking time out of their day to speak with you is something you need to acknowledge.

Another key: Only call and speak with the Hiring Manager once. After that, the proverbial ball is in the company’s court. Contacting them more than once takes you out of the persistent/interested/shows initiative camp and plants you firmly in the annoying/going-to-be-a-pain-to-work-with/you’ll-never-see-the-inside-of-an-interview-room camp. You don’t want to live there. Don’t forget that seeming too eager is a big turn-off to anyone. If you don’t hear from the company, it’s time to move on and find the next opportunity that excites you.

Following up on the receipt of an application may be a great way to show initiative and interest in a company but don’t make a pain of yourself. Even if you don’t get the answer you want, take the opportunity to grow and improve. Happy Hunting!

By JoAnna Tumminello | People Science Talent Advisor