Following Up During the Job Search Process

You saw the perfect job posted.  You meet the qualifications.  You submitted your resume and cover letter.  Now you wait.  The waiting can be the most frustrating part for job seekers.  When is it appropriate to follow-up at various stages of the process?

From the moment you first apply, you need to remember that recruiters and hiring managers are busy people.  Filling this open position is far from their only priority.  The company also has a process that needs to be followed.  You don’t have to like this, but you have to accept.  No amount of follow-up from you or other frustrated candidates which change these basic facts.

Following Up On Your Application

If you submitted your application through a referral, wait at least 5 – 7 business days and then politely check in with your contact to inquire about status and next steps in the process.  Check in just once.  If you applied blindly, sending your application online, don’t bother to follow-up.   It is unlikely that anyone will respond and if they do they will not likely share any valuable insights.  You have to let the process play out.

Following a Phone Screen

You just completed a phone screen.  You should send an email thank you to the phone screener before the end of business that day.  Thank them for their time and the information they shared.  Confirm your interest in the opportunity (if indeed your are interested.)  Acknowledge any next steps that were discussed.  This shows interest and strong follow-up on your part.  To really stand out from the crowd, send a handwritten thank you note as well and have it the mail the next morning.

Following an In-Person Interview

Before the end of the day, send an email thank you to the interviewer.  Thank them for their time and the valuable information and insight they shared.  Confirm your interest and next steps.  Refer to something specific you discussed.  Again, write a handwritten thank you note to mail the next morning.

The Black Hole

If time goes by and you continue to hear nothing or the only updated is the dreaded “continuing to evaluate candidates,” it is important to be patient and to respect the process.  Aggressive follow-up or stalking can quickly eliminate you from any further consideration.  Certainly if you receive another offer, it is important to reach out to let them know in case they are interested.  If at least 7 – 10 business days have elapsed, it is acceptable to reach out once for a status update but not all companies will respond.

To help manage the process and your expectations, be sure to ask the interviewer, at EVERY step in the process what next steps they anticipate and what timeline they are pursuing.  Knowing what to expect helps ease the waiting game.


Responding to the Salary Question

Historically, job seekers have been advised to avoid the salary question for as long as possible in the interview process and to never be the one to bring it up.  Reality has intervened.  Hiring managers and recruiters do not want to waste their time or the candidates.  Often the very first question the candidate is asked is about salary in order to qualify the further conversation.  Don’t be surprised if you are asked your salary expectations or your current salary in an initial screening call.

In Massachusetts it will become illegal to ask salary history starting in summer 2018.  In the meantime, you need to be prepared in advance as to how you want to address the question or not.  It is ok in a professional manner, to state that you consider salary history personal information.  You can inquire about the range they are offering or even state your expectations in terms of a range.

In order to provide a realistic range, you must do your homework in advance.  Use online tools to research comparable jobs in the same geography to determine an appropriate range.  Using a range gives you more wiggle room later for negotiation and acknowledges that there is variation company to company and based on the candidates’ experience.

It seems strange to be researching salary data before your initial screening call but it is critical to be prepared for these questions that are being asked earlier and earlier in the process.  Do your homework so you are prepared with an answer you can substantiate.  If the recruiter pushes back on salary history data consider whether or not this is really a company you want to work for going forward.

What Questions Are Recruiters Asking?

To prepare for interview success, job seekers must anticipate the recruiters’ questions and be prepared to address them.  To help with the preparation process, here’s a list of questions recruiters are currently asking.

  • What are you looking for in your next role?
  • Why do you think you’re a fit for this position?
  • What projects/tasks are you looking for do more of in your next job and what do you hope to do less of?
  • What excites you about ABC Company?
  • Why are you interested in working for ABC Company?
  • What’s your favorite part of your current position?
  • What is your least favorite part of your current position?
  • How would your manager describe you?
  • How would your colleagues describe you?
  • What areas of improvement would your manager mention?
  • Why did you leave your previous company?
  • What motivates you?
  • Tell me about a time you relied on emotional intelligence.
  • What challenges have you helped your company overcome?
  • Why should I hire you?
  • What is your current salary?
  • Wit which other companies are you interviewing?
  • How do you need to be managed to be successful?
  • What do you know about ABC Company?
  • What do you already know about me?

Why Should We Hire You?

Students are often shocked to be asked directly in an interview, “Why should we hire you?”  Whether the question is asked directly or not, every candidate needs to answer that question for every interviewer in the process, if the candidate hopes to succeed.  If you are prepared to answer it directly, you are ready but in case they don’t ask, you can use that preparation in your summary.  You want to be sure the interviewers leave the room with the answer to that question firmly in their mind.

Take this opportunity to demonstrate your fit and your interest.

Skills and Expertise

What does the employer specifically need that you can offer?  How are your skills and expertise uniquely aligned with this position so you could contribute at a different level than other candidates?  Demonstrate that in meeting the specific needs of the employer that you are interested and excited about contributing to the goals of the company and the department in this specific role as a great next step in your career.  In addition to your skills and expertise you bring  motivation and a strong work ethic as well.

Unique Qualifications

If there is something unique about your qualifications be sure to emphasize that.  It is important to be well informed about the company, the department and this specific role in order to sell the on your unique skills.  Of course they are talking to other candidates but what is it about you they can’t find in others?  Do you have experience in their industry, using their software, working with their clients, or other unique perspectives?  Are you willing to share your knowledge of others for the good of the team?  Be sure the interviewers have a clear sense of your unique qualifications.

Solve Problems

Often the need to hire for a specific position is related to solving a business problem or eliminating a pain point.  Do you have a track record of solving problems?  Share some examples.  Are you motivated by the challenge of finding a better way to do something?  How could you specifically assist with this particular problem?

Don’t duck this question if it is asked.  Demonstrate your unique value add.  Be sure to do so even when the question is not asked.

Questions to Ask Your Interviewer

If you spend your interview preparation time only preparing for the questions you will be asked during the interview, you are only half prepared for the interview.  It is also critical to prepare the questions you will ask the interviewer.  Asking questions demonstrates your interest in the position as well as your approach to preparation.  The answers will also provide you valuable insight into the new position.

Of course you should always be fully alert during the interview and question anything that causes you concern.  In addition to the in the moment, questions, you should consider asking some of these questions to ensure you have the best picture possible of the opportunity.

Questions About the Role

  • What is the history of this role? Is it a new position or is it a replacement hire?  What justified approval of this position?
  • What does this role contribute to the achievement of departmental and company goals?
  • What technology is used by the person in this role?

Questions About the Department

  • How does this department fit into the overall organization?
  • What are the key roles in the department and how do people in those roles interact?
  • How does this department interact with other departments across the organization?
  • What internal customers does this role support?
  • Is there formal training for this position or it is it expected that the person will just jump in and ask questions?

Questions About Management Style

  • How do you prefer to interact with the new hire? Do you prefer regularly scheduled check in meetings, ad hoc meetings, email, team meetings, etc?
  • How do you communicate with your department? How are key project deadlines tracked and monitored?

Questions About Success

  • What are the success measures for someone in this role?
  • What do you hope the new hire will accomplish in the first three months on the job?
  • What will success look like for this position at the end of the first year?
  • What are the critical goals in the year ahead for this position? How do those goals support the success of the department and the company?

General Insights

  • What do you like most about working for this company? In this department?
  • How did you get to this role at this company?

While it is unlikely you’d ever have the opportunity to ask all these questions in an interview, it is important to be prepared to ask the ones that matter most to you.  Some questions can be handled via email as follow-up.  Put your best foot forward in the interview by asking insightful questions.

What Other Positions Are You Exploring?

Recent feedback from students actively interviewing is that in addition to being asked salary history very early in the screening process, they are also being asked what other opportunities they are exploring.  Is it illegal to ask this?  No.  Do you have to provide a comprehensive, detailed list?  No.  What is a job seeker to do?

Think about what you have to gain or lose as a job seeker by answering this question or not.  If you say you are not exploring any other options, what is the interviewer to think?

  • Maybe you aren’t serious about looking and this is just a trial balloon for you.
  • If no one else is inviting you for interviews, maybe there is a red flag we haven’t discovered yet.
  • With no other balls in the air, we can take our time with you and have no urgency to make a decision.
  • This will be an easy negotiation if you have no other options.

If you take a hard stand and claim it is personal information that you refuse to share, what message does that send the interviewer?

  • You are trying to hide something and are not being honest with them. They value integrity in their employees.
  • Maybe candidate is arrogant and has to always get his/her own way.

Clearly you do not want to discourage potential interest in you as a candidate early in the process.  You want to keep your options open while you gain more information to assess the fit of the opportunity.  You should be honest and share an overview of your search process.  For example, “Given my strong interest in the xx industry and my transferable skills in x and y, I am focusing my search on growing companies in this industry.  Given your industry leadership and outstanding reputation, this opportunity is of strong interest to me.”

This lets the interview know that you have something to offer the market, that you know what you want and what skills you can leverage and that you have done your homework.  Resist the urge to be annoyed by the question and use it to demonstrate your strength as a candidate.


Why Did You Leave Your Last Job?

Job seekers should always be prepared to address this question in an interview and how you respond can have a significant impact on the outcome.

Critical rule – never be negative about a prior employer or manager.  It gains you nothing but can detract from your responses.  Instead of sharing your negative thoughts and impressions, focus on what you have learned is most important to you in your career and how you are seeking a better fit culturally to align with those values.  Don’t blame the former employer for not being the company you want it to be.

Acknowledge that there are often business pressures and demands that make it difficult for a company to fully achieve their desired culture.  Rapid growth can be a great thing but it can also bring significant challenges to an organization.

Demonstrate that you are aware of what it takes to do your best work, that you take ownership for delivering your best results in spite of the challenges and that you are willing to learn and grow along the way.  Present yourself as part of the solution, not part of the problem