3 application follow-up fails for job seekers to avoid

5 Tips for Job Seekers in Today's Volatile Market
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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