Advice for following up while on the job hunt

Looking for a job can be a lot like dating.

You’re trying to present the best version of yourself, and the same questions and anxieties come up: Is it a fit? Do our long-term goals match? When should I follow up? 

There are few easy answers for how to navigate the job-search process, even if it’s just figuring out how to follow up. A recent Robert Half survey found that two-thirds of HR managers recommended following up within two weeks to make sure a company received an application. One-third of those HR managers recommended waiting longer.

Most (64%) preferred email queries over phone calls (21%). None suggested checking in via text.

Regardless of how you reach out, make sure you’re checking in at a time that’s not overly hectic.

“If someone were to send me a résumé on March 20th and follow up a week later, I would think they don’t have any appreciation for what we do,” said W.G. Spoor, CPA/PFS, CGMA, a managing partner at Spoor Bunch Franz, a 60-person public accounting firm in Florida.

So, what should you do when it comes to follow-up? Here are more thoughts shared by finance professionals and career coaches.

Keep it short. It’s acceptable to follow up with a company to make sure your application was received, but don’t go overboard in making a pitch to the organisation, said Duncan Brodie, FCMA, CGMA, managing director at Goals and Achievements, a career consulting firm for accountants near Brighton, England.

“Make it fairly low-key, just asking them to confirm that they have your application and the timescale going forward,” Brodie said. “If doing it by email, it’s often worth just reiterating a few key reasons why you applied and why you felt you were a good fit.”

Whatever you do, don’t show up in person, Spoor said. That can feel invasive to the employer.

Use internal contacts. Stacey Lane, a career consultant in Portland, Oregon, advised against following up to confirm receipt of a job application.

Instead, she suggested trying to network and talk to existing contacts at the company. Those people can offer insight about the working conditions and hiring process that isn’t available otherwise.

If you don’t know anyone at the company, make contact using networking sites such as LinkedIn. Many in hiring appreciate candidates being proactive and connecting with their company on such platforms.

“Hiring managers welcome that; it shows initiative,” Lane said.

Get a timeline. One way to ease anxiety about a job search is to find out the employer’s timeline for making a hire.

Spoor, the Florida accountant, said he brings up a timeline during interviews. He suggested applicants ask so they know approximately how long out the process will take and when to follow up.

Lane agreed. Asking about timing means the interviewer is giving permission to follow up.

“Your follow-up will be easier to manage if you understand what the timeline is,” she said.

She cautioned that following up is more about reassurance for the applicant and isn’t the key to getting a job.

“I don’t think anybody [has] ever gotten a job because they followed up,” she said. “It’s more because [the applicant] wants closure.”

Say thank you. Not enough candidates send thank-you notes after in-person interviews, Spoor said. He said he doesn’t expect it to be complicated, just a simple email within 24 hours thanking the interviewers for their time.

The effort will likely be noticed. A study by job-search website The Ladders found that more than 75% of hiring managers felt thank-you notes made a difference in their hiring decisions.

Sending a handwritten note is less important than it might have been in years past. Spoor said it may make sense if the organisation is formal.

In England, Brodie said he never received a handwritten note when he was in the position to hire and wouldn’t expect one. He does appreciate a well-thought-out email after interviews and suggested that accountants use the follow-up email as a chance to highlight their skills.

“If anything, accountants tend to undersell rather than oversell themselves,” Brodie said. “Of course, it’s a fine line, and the key is to try and get the balance right.”

This article originally appeared in CGMA Magazine with the headline "Advice for following up while on the job hunt​"

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