Are Jobseekers “Annoying” Or “Showing Interest?”

Recently I was interviewed by CNNMoney's Kathryn Vasel for "How to get on a hiring manager's radar without being annoying." She wanted to discuss how candidates can follow up with hiring managers on the status of applications and interviews, without being a pest.

"Nobody wants to be THAT candidate. Everyone is afraid of looking stalker-ish or coming on too strong," said Adam Karpiak, a public accounting recruiter. "So many people are eager, but they don't know how to go about showing their excitement for the job."

I wanted to expand on the ideas discussed in the article, and offer up some more tips/suggestions.

When You Find A Listing You Are Interested In

If you are searching the job boards and see a job of interest, APPLY FIRST *THEN* NETWORK. Most of the time if you try contacting a hiring manager or networking candidate prior to applying, the first thing they will tell you is "Apply." They literally can't do a thing for you until they have received your application. It makes for an awkward first contact.

Candidate - Hey I'm interested in X job that I saw online.

Hiring Manager/Recruiter - Great! Did you apply? Happy to look over your application and contact you if there is interest.

Candidate - No, I didn't apply yet.

Hiring Manager/Recruiter - I see. So you weren't interested *enough* in the job to actually apply.

Candidate - I...I was trying to network.

Hiring Manager/Recruiter - 

Candidate - 

Seriously, their hands are tied. Put your best foot forward, apply for the role, AND THEN follow up with your application. Your follow up should be based on 1) Why you applied/are interested in the role and 2) Why you are a fit for the role.

Start Following Up DURING The Interview

Countless times, candidates have said to me "I interviewed X days ago. When do you think I should follow up?" My first response is always the same- During the interview, what did they say they expected to get back to you by? "They didn't." Did you ask?

Most of the time they don't ask. Start nailing down the next steps before you leave. Approach it like a salesman and work on the close. If they ask if you have any questions, or while you are leaving, ask them when they anticipate making their next steps/decisions. If they give you an ETA, adhere to that timeline. Don't follow up sooner. That's just annoying and shows a basic lack of following directions.

Candidate - Hey it's Adam! Really appreciated the opportunity to meet you and discuss the role. Just wanted to follow up and see if you had any further questions for me.

Hiring Manager/Recruiter - You...you're in the parking lot. I can see you out of my window.

Also, during the interview, take detailed notes- About the role, the company, about questions/concerns they may have about you and/or your background. When you follow up, it can feel disorienting and starting the conversation can be awkward if you don't have a game plan.

If you are the one following up, you can't expect the company to carry the conversation and walk you through it.

Your notes can offer you a "warm" intro into the conversation and give you topics of discussion other than "Well, did you make a decision?"

Look at your notes and come up with an outline or a game plan for the call. Recall what was discussed and use it to reiterate interest in the role. Offer up more information if they need it as it relates to the previous discussions. If you feel like you bomb a question, this is a great way to fix it. "You know, I was thinking about X, and I thought this may be of interest."

Phone or Email?

The interview is over. You've taken notes. You haven't heard back yet. Now it's time to follow up. Should you call or email? Following up via email is 1) Safe (i.e. Editable) and 2) More productive.

What do I mean by safe? Let's say you nail the interview. You brought the A game and were flawless. You were poised, charming. No question could stump you. You call up the hiring manager to inquire about your status annnnnnd you just absolutely bomb. They ask you a question that you were just not ready for. BUT IT WASN'T IN MY NOTES. You just took the initiative to call, and now you just took yourself out of the running. My main philosophy in recruiting is "Candidates have to eliminate the opportunities for error and shouldn't introduce their own red flags." If you did great on the interview, DO NOT CREATE YOUR OWN OPPORTUNITY TO SCREW IT UP. In sales there is a saying - If you have closed the sale, STOP TALKING. You can only screw it up.

If you've seen the movie Swingers you know EXACTLY what I'm talking about. In the movie the main characters discuss how soon is too soon to follow up with women they have met. Mikey, who is looking for love, decides to follow up sooner than later. It..it does not go well.

Phone calls are unpredictable. And hard. I know we do it all the time. We also make mistakes on the phone all the time. Think how many times have you accidentally ended a business call with "Love you." And it's met with awkward silence. Or worse, they say it back. And if you have kids, odds are at some point you have accidentally called a business associate "buddy" or "pal."

Don't open yourself up to the possibility of failure. Hiring managers are always looking for reasons to eliminate candidates...don't offer one up. Email is the way to go. Just proofread it 10 times and have 16 people look it over first.

It's also more productive to reach someone via email over phone. People are busy...they aren't just sitting around in the office reading articles with fantastic gif usage. They have deadlines. They are in the middle of projects. There are people that have their days planned out completely. They aren't just sitting around waiting for you to call. Candidates that call to follow up are usually met with 1) 5 seconds of silence as they try to remember who you are and what position you are talking about or 2) 10 seconds of silence as they try to remember who you are and what position you are talking about. Calls bring their day to a halt as they try to accomodate you. Odds are they will take your name down and then offer to get back to you, since they have to go look you up. Keep in mind, you are probably one of 100 people that applied to the role. And that there are possibly several roles. And if everyone calls for an update...well...their work is going to pile up pretty quickly. But emails...emails can be flagged and prioritized, forwarded to others for review and updates, etc.

Keeping Them Updated On OTHER Opportunities

One good way to follow up with companies is to keep them updated on other opportunities you are pursuing. If they really do like you, they will appreciate the updates that you are getting close to offers, you have received an offer, etc. It forces updates. I just wanted you to know that I anticipate getting an offer. I remain extremely interested in your opportunity and wanted to give you a heads up in case there was mutual interest.

Or it can help you if other offers have been made. I just wanted you to know that I have received an offer. I remain extremely interested in your opportunity, but they have given me a deadline of X, so I wanted to check in and see if there was any continued interest on your end. If they really do like you, they will push the process along on their end. Sometimes obstacles come up and they can't push the process along. Then you know to pursue the other opportunity and you don't miss out on it. And sometimes the company doesn't want you to miss out on the other opportunity and will tell you to pursue it. They don't want you to miss out on opportunities while waiting for them. They aren't cruel.

BOTTOM LINE - It's Almost Impossible To Be Annoying...If You're Qualified

The bottom line is this...it's almost impossible to be annoying enough to be eliminated from contention...if you're qualified. It might be the final nail in the coffin, but it won't be the only nail. Recruiters want the jobs off of their desks. They want the jobs filled. If they are external, they want to make money and fill the job. No recruiter doesn't want to make money. They will never say "this person is qualified, can do the job AND we could make a nice fee off of them. But they followed up. BETTER LUCK NEXT TIME." They want to find the best candidate for their client, and get paid along the way.

If they are internal, they want to be able to fill it and move onto other jobs. Internal recruiters have a massive workload, filled with hiring metrics, meetings, and hiring managers breathing down their necks. They aren't going to pass on someone for following up.

Hiring managers/Supervisors DO NOT WANT TO KEEP PICKING UP EXTRA WORK. They WANT to hire someone that can take work off of their plate. Because every day that someone is not hired, the work still has to get done, and it is their responsibility to get it done. No company has ever turned down an employee they are considering because they followed up. They’ve never said “That candidate is perfect. They are exactly what we want. But hey, remember that time they followed up? What an ass...expressing interest. I guess we’ll just keep looking and creating more work for ourselves. I'm really digging this ulcer."

The notion of "the annoying candidate" is a myth, perpetuated by...I really don't know. It's turned into one of those job search facts that everyone blindly accepts. As a recruiter I want people to follow up. Anything that helps me remember a candidate is helpful. Anything that initiates a dialogue...dialogues result in something. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but something will come of that follow up. There will be *something* you can take away from the process.

*NOTE* - If you are a recruiter submission, follow up with the recruiter, NOT the hiring company. 1) Recruiters (should) know how to best manage the client and will handle it for you 2) In some cases the company ONLY WANTS to talk to the recruiter, not the candidate. People are weird.

If you follow up and they tell you that you are no longer in consideration, it is not because you followed up. It is because of a skill (or lack thereof), or fit or...something. It is NOT the follow up. In this case, the follow up was still successful because you got an answer. It might not be the one you wanted, but at least you know.

If you have any questions about anything I discussed in the above article, looking for a job and/or working with a recruiter, just ask! Shoot me an email at akarpiak@karpiakconsulting.com

For more about me or my firm, please visit www.karpiakconsulting.com or www.linkedin.com/in/akarpiak I am always looking to network with good professionals that share my values in recruiting, so shoot me an invite if you agree with me (or at least Follow me)

If you're curious about my take on recruiting in social media, or if you want to see me yell at T-Mobile about my phone bill, you can follow me on Twitter @Adam_Karpiak

You can find job postings, as well as loads of content on Karpiak Consulting's Facebook page www.fb.com/karpiakconsulting Please "like" or follow the page to be kept up to date on all of new content daily. I re-post articles of interest I find online regarding recruiting & public accounting, and I also post emails & messages I get (redacted of course) regarding recruiting that I think are of interest, including stories from candidates about other recruiters doing bad/confusing things.

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