How Much Follow Up Is Too Much?

Dear J.T. & Dale: I’ve been told companies hate it when you keep contacting them after an interview. how much follow up is too much? — Cheryl

J.T.: My rule of thumb for my clients is this:

  • Always ask during the interview how long it will be until they make a decision. After that time has come and gone and you’ve heard nothing, e-mail a request asking if you’re still in the running.
  • Wait one full week from the day you send that e-mail for a response. If you don’t hear anything, e-mail again, making sure to keep it short and polite, stressing how interested you are in the job.
  • Wait three more weeks, and if at that point you haven’t heard anything, pick up the phone and see if you can find out if the job has been filled.
  • After that, it’s time to assume they hired someone else and put the company into your tickler file. That’s where you wait two months, then check to see how the new hire is working out and if they might be hiring in the future. (You’d be surprised, but sometimes circling back can result in your learning about a new job possibility that hasn’t been posted.)

I’ve found this pace of contacts is a nice balance — you’re not smothering the company, but you’re not giving up either.

Dale: That pace is a bit too passive, depending on who you’re re-contacting. If you’re stuck dealing with an HR screener as your contact, then OK. However, if you’re dealing with actual hiring managers, then your goal is they think, “She really wants the job” but NOT thinking, “What a pest — she’d be a nuisance to have around.”

How to find that balance? Ask. Among salespeople it’s known as permission selling. In your case, at the interview, you say, “Would it be OK with you if I call you next week to see how the decision process is going?”

Assuming the answer is “yes,” then you’re a loser if you DON’T call. So you call and if you get voicemail, you mention how you’re looking forward to being of help, and then you ask if it’s OK to call again. Maybe on the next call you say you’ll send an e-mail, in case that’s more convenient. You come across as helpful, not desperate or pestering. If you don’t hear anything, then you might revert to J.T.’s more patient schedule.

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