When Joseph Waites* first applied for a new job in early November, he had no idea it would take over a month before he’d hear from anyone. After six weeks, an email arrived to invite him to his first interview. A second was scheduled within a few days. Waites was hopeful, especially after the employer sent him an assignment so that he could prove he had the right stuff for the job.
Once he completed and submitted it, the hiring manager responded within the hour, saying they would look at it over the weekend. The following week came and went. Then another, and still another passed. Waites was eager to hear either way, so he sent the hiring manager another email–after nearly four weeks had gone by.
“Just checking in on what the results on this test run were. Even if it’s negative, just would like an update,” he wrote. Waites added another line emphasizing something they’d specifically discussed in their meeting, then signed off. The next day, the hiring manager replied with an apology for the delayed response.
Waites is one of the lucky ones. The hiring process now takes longer than ever, according to Glassdoor, and half of applicants surveyed by Talent Board said they never heard back at all after submitting their resumes. No wonder 39% of respondents to a Robert Half survey said they’d lost interest and pursued other roles, while 18% gave up and stayed in their current jobs.
Is there a better option? Some other way to get hiring managers’ attention and earn a fast response–or any response–besides sending email after email, just “following up”? Fast Company went to the pros to find out.
Tey Scott, director of talent acquisition, global programs at LinkedIn, says there are a number of reasons a candidate may not hear back immediately from a prospective employer. “The recruiter may be awaiting details on your status from the hiring manager,” she points out, or they may simply have a lot of candidates to sift through. Another (less pleasant possibility) she notes, is that they just might not think you’re a fit. In any case, says Scott, “At LinkedIn we believe in proactively following up.“ So if you haven’t heard back, write and email, she advises, “up to three times over a two-week period.”
There’s no one-size-fits-all approach, though. So Miranda Kalinowski, vice president of global recruiting at Facebook, encourages candidates to think of it as a first date. “You want to be following up with the right balance of enthusiasm and interest,” she notes, “but without coming across as desperate.”
There’s a fine line between persistence and pushiness, cautions Lindsey Dole, VP of people at Updater, a tech company that facilitates home moving. Dole, a veteran of Google who subsequently grew Tumblr’s workforce by 300 people, says that in order to stay on the right side of that line, you need a mind-set of “continuing the conversation” rather than “asking for a decision.”
After you’ve completed an interview, sending a killer thank-you note is de rigueur. Kalinowski tells Fast Company that she’s got six handwritten thank-you notes on her desk at Facebook right now. “I like them,” she admits. But they also serve an additional purpose, Kalinowski says.
“People can feel quite different about an interview thinking back and reflecting on it afterwards than they do leaving the room,” she explains. “They can be quite anxious and a little bit shell-shocked.” Although she underscores that’s not how Facebook wants candidates to feel throughout the interview, nerves are normal. With the benefit of time and hindsight, says Kalinowski, the way a candidate reflects on the interview in their thank-you note is “quite telling.”
After that, Dole says, “It’s completely acceptable to follow up once more if you haven’t heard back.“ But what’s the best method to use? This is where some of these experts differ, but they agree that candidates should be guided by whatever rapport they’ve established with the interviewer.
Dole recommends emailing over calling. “You can provide follow-up materials or reference articles and information that pertain to topics you covered in the interview,” she points out. On the employer side, Chris Layden, managing director of Experis, which is part of Manpower Group, points out that while a phone call is more personal, you might catch the company off guard. “An email will allow the hiring manager to provide a considered, thoughtful response,” he suggests, “though this may take longer to receive.”
As for social media, Dole says it’s fine if you’ve already connected through LinkedIn or Twitter and exchanged information there. But “engaging in a new communication platform could send the wrong signal,” she says.
Regardless of which vehicle you choose, Layden recommends sticking to that one form of communication, not branching out.
One thing Waites did right, according to Facebook’s Kalinowski, was connect back with the hiring manager on a specific point they’d already discussed. If someone is interviewing at Facebook, she looks for follow-ups to include one of three things they’re reflecting on:
- A highlight from the interview discussion
- Something that they learned about Facebook that surprised them
- Something that really resonated with their own values
Emphasizing any of these things while following up “can reinforce their interest and level of engagement,” Kalinowski explains. “Those are things that recruiters and companies want to make sure exist with a candidate.”
Scott says if you haven’t taken the time to identify the company’s most pressing issues that you can tackle once on board, don’t fret. Use LinkedIn (naturally) and other online resources to research articles or business challenges the company or industry might be facing. “If you have experience or thoughts on how to solve or build these solutions,” she says–and this is true, regardless of whether it came up in the interview–you can say: “‘I’m not sure if we had a chance to discuss my interest in the new technology I recently read you are exploring, but my experience in X might be of interest.’”
Waites ultimately wasn’t offered the job. However, the hiring manager did send him a thoughtful email outlining exactly why they thought he wasn’t the best fit.
This is relatively rare. Many times, hiring managers are careful not to share why they reject certain candidates, out of an abundance of caution against opening themselves up to employment discrimination suits. So Waites at least left with valuable feedback that he could use to position himself for other jobs.
Getting rejected is never fun, but no matter what happens, Layden says it’s important to remember that “you’re running a career ultramarathon and not a sprint,” so it’s important to stay positive, even if it doesn’t work out. “Your willingness to learn, apply, and adapt is key to staying relevant for the long term and landing the right job for you.”
*Name has been changed for privacy