3 application follow-up fails for job seekers to avoid

5 Tips for Job Seekers in Today's Volatile Market

If there's one thing I've learned in my work as a career coach it's this: There's a ton of really bad advice for job seekers. If you're relatively new to the game, it can be hard to tell the difference between solid job search strategy and junk.

I tend to see a lot of confusion around following up with prospective employers. Sadly, a lot of well-meaning loved ones offer some pretty wacky ideas on this topic. Even a few so-called professional career advisers are still peddling several old-school ideas.

Here are three follow-up strategies you may encounter in your quest for job search advice and a few reasons you can – and should – ignore them.

1. "Follow up on every application."
Active job seekers submit a lot of applications through online systems, and the vast majority of prospective employers say they do not want phone calls. After all, they would likely receive hundreds of calls if every applicant did this. The online application is your shot to make an impression. If they're interested in talking with you, they'll call.

You should not initiate more contact at this point. It's annoying for the person on the other end of the line – or email, Linkedin messageor tweet – and it's a fruitless endeavor. You probably won't actually reach anyone with hiring authority, and even if you do, there's not much more you can say than what's already in the application. You'll look desperate and out-of-step with modern job seeker norms.

The only time you should follow up at the application stage is if someone on the inside is referring you. In that case, let the person know you've completed this step and are looking forward to the next.

2. "Be persistent."
One of the most common questions I get is from people who are wondering how much they should follow up after an interview.

After an in-person interview is the right time for following up. It's a smart idea to drop a quick thank-you note within 24 hours of the interview. In addition to that, most interviewers will give you some idea of when to expect notification regarding next steps – and if they don't offer it, ask.

If you haven't heard from the prospective employer within the stated period of time, a quick check-in is absolutely appropriate. I recommend sending an email to simply reaffirm your interest in the role and inquire about status. If you don't receive a response in two or three days, a phone call may also be appropriate, depending on the level of interest expressed in the interview.

This is where some people get overly persistent. Just because you had a great interview doesn't mean you're a shoo-in. All kinds of things can derail the process and, unfortunately, many employers do not feel the need to inform candidates of what's going on. Making more phone calls and sending more emails won't do anything but annoy them.

Again, if they're interested, they'll contact you. At this point, you should always keep looking. Don't hold your breath as you wait for their response. I realize that every situation is unique. Some employers have a very slow hiring process. Others are just less communicative. But don't convince yourself that more contact on your end is the key to getting the job. It's not.

3. "Send a gift."
This one baffles me, but it's still a commonly suggested strategy. Sending a gift to the recruiter or hiring manager is not only totally inappropriate, it's counterproductive. You might think of it as a polite gesture – a way of saying, "Thanks for the opportunity." But they won't see it that way.

To some, it looks like bribery. To others, it's downright suspicious. Regardless, it's out-of-step with modern job seeker convention.

Remember, if they're interested, they'll call. If you're not a strong candidate, no gift is going to change that. If you are a strong candidate and you send a gift, however, it will likely get your name crossed off the list.

I think you can probably see a theme here. Much of the hiring process is outside of your control. All you can do is put your best foot forward and be courteous. There's little you can do at the follow-up stage to improve your chances – and there's plenty of harm that can be done.

Don't be a victim of these follow-up fails. And the next time someone recommends one of these strategies, please gently redirect them – or send them a link to this article.

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3 application follow-up fails for job seekers to avoid

1. Email signature.

Your email signature is possibly one of the most important branding tools you're not taking advantage of. It’s your chance to let everyone know what your expertise is, how to contact you and where to learn more about you online. Employees are often required to add the company logo, tag line and contact information to email signatures. As job seekers, an email signature is a subtle way to remind people what you do.

Quick tips: The most important information to include is your name, phone number, email address, desired occupation and link to your LinkedIn profile. An easy solution is to use an app like WiseStamp to create and insert your signature.

(Photo: Getty)

2. Active and robust LinkedIn presence. 

LinkedIn has become a go-to source for companies of all sizes to seek out talent. While your profile will be similar to your résumé, it is not exactly the same. LinkedIn is a social network where people share information. Besides having a profile rich in content and media, you should also share newsworthy articles to help build your online reputation and stay connected with your network.

Quick tips: You must have a headshot, a headline that describes what you do and a summary where you tell your story. But don’t stop there. Embed a presentation that summarizes your experience or includes testimonials. Have you downloaded the SlideShare app for LinkedIn? What about the LinkedIn Connected or Pulse apps? ​These tools give you a better mobile LinkedIn experience.

(Photo: Getty)

3. An easily accessible, on-the-go résumé

There will be occasions when someone wants you to send your résumé ASAP or when you arrive at an interview and your résumé is MIA. Save your résumés so you can easily access them and share them from your mobile device.

Quick tip: Being able to access important documents from anywhere is critical not only in your job search, but at work, too. Learn how to save and share documents using Dropbox or Google Drive, which provide free storage and are easily accessible from any device.

(Photo: Getty)

4. Business cards. 

This may seem old-fashioned, but business cards make life easier. When you meet someone new or reconnect with an old friend, just hand him or her your card at the end of the conversation.

Quick tip: Your business card need only include the information you want to share: your name, occupation (or desired occupation), phone number, email address and links to any social media profiles, like your LinkedIn URL. If you want to use something more high-tech, try one of the apps that allows you to share your card from your phone, like CardDrop. Or pick up a business card with FullContact’s Card Reader.

(Photo: Getty)

5. Your perfected pitch.

You only have one chance to make a great first impression. Don’t blow it. You’ll need it when you meet people and they ask what you do. You’ll also need one customized for every interview you take. Your pitch conveys what problem you can solve for an employer. Use words and language to ensure your unique style and personality come through. And avoid résumé-speak or jargon that isn’t universally understood.

Quick tip: Keep your pitch under a minute, and practice so it sounds natural. If you need some guidance, check out the myPitch app created by Karalyn Brown of InterviewIQ.

(Photo: Getty)

6. Target list of potential employers.

Rather than searching job boards all day, looking for the perfect job and getting lost in the black hole of applications, why not approach people inside companies you would like to work for? This route is more work up front, but it will help you stand out and rise to the top of the referral pile if you make the cut.

Quick tip: There are tons of apps for finding posted jobs, but what you really need is additional help networking. Don’t miss Alison Doyle’s new app called Career Tool Belt. It's loaded with job hunting tips, including the 30 Days to your Dream Job series to guide you day by day.

(Photo: Getty)

7. A dose of motivation.

Job searching tends to lead to frustration. Rejection is an unfortunate part of the process. Invest time doing things that rejuvenate your energy and keep you feeling hopeful, such as exercising, volunteering or learning a new skill. Keep moving forward and create to-do lists and follow-up actions every day.

Quick tip: Whether you use a calendar system or an organizational app like Any.do, mapping out your weekly activities helps maintain momentum and puts you in the driver’s seat.

(Photo: Getty)


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