Jason White wanted to work for DragonSearch, but, despite applying in all of the usual ways, wasn’t able to secure an interview.
After several attempts with no response, he decided to start following the CEO on Twitter to try to build a relationship and hopefully gain an inside track to employment.
After two months of interacting, the CEO tweeted him about an open position. White immediately expressed interest by asking some questions about the position, and the CEO responded with the name of the person to contact.
At the interview, assuming that he had nothing to lose because he thought it was going poorly, he described the strategy he used to get the interview.
As you might have guessed, White was offered the position and is currently a senior SEO strategist at DragonSearch.
Persistence and follow-up are key attributes of a successful job candidate. So I asked several recruiters and career experts for their views on how best to follow up during a job search.
Here are some representative responses:
Career coach Anna Ranieri points out that it doesn’t pay to waste time following up with repeated online activity when you submit an online job application but don’t receive a response.
“When online applications first arose, applicants at least got an e-mail reply telling them that their application had been received. Today, it’s a black hole.”
If you know where the organization is located and you can get there, it may be worth doing so, however, Ranieri says.
She points to a client who, after not getting any response to her online application, went to the company’s headquarters.
This client struck up a conversation with the receptionist and, lo and behold, the receptionist flagged the head of human resources, who by coincidence happened to be walking through the lobby at that moment. The candidate got to speak with him and eventually was hired.
Aaron Basko, career services officer at Salisbury University, believes that when it comes to interview follow-up, “less is more.”
This is “not the time to try to upsell an employer’s perception of your skills or fit for the company,” he points out. “That was the purpose of the interview.”
The purpose of your follow-up should be to “demonstrate how professional you are and what kind of colleague you would be.”
Basko advises candidates to immediately send a handwritten thank you note, although an e-mail can work if it is written professionally. Follow-up communication should also be minimized after the thank you note.
Damian Birkel, author of “The Job Search Checklist,” has a slightly different take on the best format for a thank-you note.
He stresses the importance of getting it to the employer immediately, which, by definition, means using e-mail.
However, he also suggests a creative way to combine the timeliness of an e-mail with the professional image a formal written thank you letter affords.
He advises immediately composing a formal thank you letter using Microsoft Word or whatever word processing program you use, then sending that thank you letter as an attachment with a short covering e-mail. The e-mail should be followed in three days by mailing the letter via United States Postal Service.
Preparing and sending a “real” thank you note that night, attached to a short thank you e-mail, creates a sense of urgency and efficiency. Although the attachment may, or may not, be read at that time, when it arrives as a thank you letter approximately five days later it will almost certainly be opened and read. This two-pronged thank you approach will make a lasting impression.
Regional vice president Jim Caporrimo of staffing firm Adecco advises to make each note unique. Follow-up notes should be sent to everyone that interviewed you, either in person or by phone.
Each note should be tailored for the particular recipient. Employers will often discuss follow-up notes that they receive, so never use the same “copy-and-paste” note for different associates within the same organization, he notes.
Instead, try to recall something unique or interesting that was discussed during your interview and include that in your note.
Caporrimo adds that, “although these notes should be kept short and to the point, it may be appropriate to highlight a key skill one more time or expand on a key skill you did not adequately cover at the interview as long as you don’t forget the primary purpose of the letter.”
In today’s crowded job market, it’s important to find ways to make yourself stand out. Following up in a thoughtful manner, without becoming annoying, may be just the thing that tips the scales in your favor.
A veteran human resources executive, Lee E. Miller is a career coach and the author of “UP: Influence Power and the U Perspective — The Art of Getting What You Want.” Mail questions to Lee@employability-expert.com