How and When to Follow Up During Your Job Search

Every job seeker on the planet has experienced the agony of waiting to hear – about a job, an interview, a key contact, a next step in the selection process. These guidelines will help you minimize the waiting without antagonizing your contacts.

Set the expectation.

At the end of every meeting, clarify the next step and the expectation for follow-up. “Great, I’ll look forward to your call on Friday. If I don’t hear from you, may I check in on Monday?” With this approach, you’ll feel confident on Monday that your call won’t be viewed as intrusive.

Keep the ball in your court.

Whenever possible, rather than waiting for someone else to take action, take the initiative to pursue a contact or expedite a process. Busy executives will appreciate it, and you’ll be assured that progress is being made toward your important goal of finding a new job. For example, if a network contact promises to pass your résumé on to a colleague, you might say, “I know you’re busy, so I’ll be glad to save you a step and get in touch directly. May I use your name?”

Don’t be demanding.

No matter how impatient, frustrated, or angry at a lack of response, never let negative emotions show in a voice mail, email, or person-to-person message. If your contacts feel uncomfortable when hearing from you, they’ll be less and less inclined to take your calls.

Follow up with a purpose.

You can simply call to follow up on a prior message or letter, but why not find a better reason to get in touch with your contact. Can you supply a bit of information on a topic you discussed? Share a news story or an idea? Refer him or her to someone who can help with a specific problem? With this approach, you’ll call with confidence.

Never ask for something your contacts can’t give.

Remember, you want your call to be cordial, friendly, helpful, and professional at all times. If you ask for something your contacts can’t give, such as a job, they’ll feel guilty and uncomfortable when hearing from you.

And what about the protocol for following up when you haven’t had a meeting or even a conversation? You’ve sent your résumé in response to an ad, and now you want to know if you’re in the running. Here is a strategy for this kind of follow-up call:

Try calling early or late in the day (before 8 am and after 5 pm) to improve the odds that your quarry will pick up the phone.

Leave a polished, positive message. Practice in advance so you can perform beautifully whether you reach a live voice or get routed to voice mail. Preparation will boost your confidence in making these difficult but critical follow-up calls.

Don’t leave your number or ask your target to call you back. Sounds contradictory, doesn’t it? But remember, you want to keep the burden off your contact and the ball in your court. Instead, leave a brief message and indicate you’ll call back “tomorrow at 8:30 a.m.” Then be sure you call precisely as promised, and repeat the process until (a) you give up; (b) you reach your target; or (c) your target calls you. (This happens much more often than you think, even if you didn’t leave your number.)

Decide how many times you’ll follow up before giving up. For many job seekers, once is more than enough. But chances are, your target is simply busy, and returning your call never reaches the top of the “to do” list. Consider persisting for four or five times, leaving a brief message each time, before you give up.

Most importantly, when calling any contact during your job search have a clear message about who you are, the value you offer, why you’re calling, and how (specifically) they can help you. This clarity will help your contacts to help you as best they can and will give you confidence when you pick up the phone. And that’s half the battle, ensuring that you approach your calls with an upbeat tone and a positive attitude.

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