To Follow Up or Not to Follow Up

{Click here to read the original article on Career Rocketeer.}

A very hotly contested topic: following up. The prevailing belief is that if the company wants you, they’ll move mountains to hunt you down and bring you in or hire you. True . . . and not true.

I ask my retained clients to step outside their comfort zones. One way is by following up with targeted companies. They learn how to do this repeatedly, and in that process, they’re forced to examine a lot of misconceptions. They learn what being pro-active means, and the benefits it reaps.

This is a sales process. Part of selling is to brand yourself, and to do that you need to stand out from the crowd in a way that matters to the hiring authority. And to do that, you need to keep your name in front of them.

Here are a few basics: when you provide your name, also supply a memorable piece of your resume that connects to the ad. The piece of resume information helps the person to place you, while connecting it to the ad makes it relevant to them. The first rule of sales is that the buyer always wants to know, “What’s in it for me?”

Additionally, don’t finish the inquiry with a closed question such as, “Did you receive my resume?” Instead, ask “Where are you in the screening process?” then ask if they’ve received your resume. You can also say, in a tone of voice that acknowledges they’re doing you a favor, “Would you be willing to tell me, please, if you’ve received my resume and where it is in the process?” That’s an open-ended question designed to tell you what you want to know, and provide you with additional information about where you are in the bigger picture.

When you call and say, “I’m Beatrice Bigelow. I sent you a resume for your Marketing Director position, and I’m wondering if you received it?” you’re not going to get a satisfying response. Why would they possibly remember your name from one resume, especially when your name is all you provide and they have many other projects on their plate?

You anticipate that they will automatically take the time to do that, but again, you’re speaking with a busy person. That’s why you hear this: “If you sent it, then I’m sure we have it. If we decide to bring you in, we’ll let you know.” Hence your conclusion that following up is pointless.
If after your initial introduction that includes the resume fact they still don’t remember you, ask for their email address and tell them you’d be happy to send them your resume again. Then follow up again. But while you’re on the phone, ask a few questions about the hiring process, its timing, the next step. This will not only help you to brand yourself – because so many people don’t ask those questions – but it will help you plan your continued follow up strategy.

While you’re on the phone, express enthusiasm for the position. Say you were excited to have seen it, and you’re eager to learn more. Make sure you get the name of the person with whom you were speaking and then thank them – by name!

Start a few days after you’ve sent your resume. After that, every two to four days is sufficient. That’s often enough for them to remember you, but not so often you become annoying. Leave the “I’m following up on my resume” part until the end, because otherwise the rest of your message is unlikely to be listened to.

After about three calls, if you still haven’t spoken with anyone, try someone else in HR or the hiring authority or the hiring authority’s admin. If that doesn’t work, give it up for a few weeks. Or forget the company altogether. Sometimes that’s an excellent option, too.

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