One of the most common mistakes job-seekers make is not following up after participating in a phone screen or interview. They automatically assume that an employer “isn’t interested” if they don’t hear back, or perceive that checking in will make them seem desperate or annoying.
These assumptions are not only false—they can sabotage your search. When done correctly, following up can not only help you stand out, but also give you the opportunity to have an open and honest dialogue about the opportunity. “It’s something you can control,” noted career coach and consultant Lea McLeod, who encourages her clients to practice “follow-up Fridays.”
Here are a few tips for following up effectively and distinctively at key stages of the hiring process.
After Submitting an Application
Why spend hours filling out an application or customizing your résumé only to have it fall into a black hole? If you’re really interested in a particular position or company, reach out to the recruiter or hiring manager to get a sense for the manager’s needs, expectations and timeline for bringing someone onboard.
The key is to express authentic interest thoughtfully and proactively, advised Taylor Meadows, career coach and marketing manager for Indeed. How? Have a “real” conversation that isn’t just about you.
One way is to reach out to the recruiter through social media, LinkedIn or email. Say something along the lines of: “I’ve submitted my résumé, but in addition, here are three things that are really speaking to me about this opportunity. I’d be interested in learning more about the company. Are you open to telling me a bit about your experiences there?”
Requests like these are usually well-received, because having a candid conversation lets both parties decide if it makes sense to move forward. Really, you’re helping the recruiter do their job and saving everyone time. Even if things don’t work out this time around, it may also open the door to future opportunities that are a better fit.
Another option is to take the initiative to reach out to the hiring manager directly. ,Anytime you’re following up or initiating communication during a job search, always strive to contact the person at the highest possible level, McLeod advised.
Remember, a job posting only scratches the surface. Acquiring a deeper understanding of the role you’re considering and how you can help the manager meet business goals lets you develop a strategy and frame your answers during the interview.
After a Conversation or Interview
Taking the time and effort to craft a well-expressed message—one that goes beyond thanking someone for their time—can extend a conversation and positive impression beyond an initial meeting or phone screen.
Say something like: “After reflecting on our conversation, here’s something you said that really grabbed my attention.” Then highlight or reiterate relevant experience that you can offer the hiring manager to solve their problems, and express interest in taking the next step in the process.
If you still haven’t heard back after five business days, it’s time to follow up again. Pick up the phone, McLeod advised, unless you only have an email address. Email fails to convey nonverbal cues; with a phone (or video) call, you may sense hesitancy or concerns that you can address to keep your chances alive. Plus, managers aren’t all that concerned about technical skills that could be out of date in a year; they want to hire someone who is motivated to keep growing and who really wants the job. Following up is a way to show you aren’t just in it for the paycheck.
After a Final Interview
When you’re waiting for a “yes or no” decision and the hiring manager goes silent, it’s definitely time to pull out all of the stops—respectfully, of course.
“Don’t just touch base,” Meadows said. Call the hiring manager and ask what else they need to see from you in order to make the decision. And don’t be afraid to get creative: For example, text the hiring manager a short 30-second video reminding them why you're the best person for the job.
After all, their first choice may not accept the job; even if you’re the runner-up candidate, you could still be in a prime position to land an offer.