How to Walk the Fine Line Between Persistence and Being a Pest
Hiring managers say they want job candidates to stay in touch. Yet surveys of recruiters and hiring managers also show that their No. 1 pet peeve — ahead even of job seekers who are late to an interview or misspell words on their cover letter — is “stalker” candidates who just won’t leave them alone. Clearly, there is a fine line between what I advocate as polite persistence and becoming a pest who the manager wants to avoid at all costs.
How do you stay on the good side of that line? First, you need to do some research so that you can put yourself in the manager’s shoes. How do they want you to stay in touch? Most, these days, abhor phone calls and prefer email that they can check when they’re not slammed. Most NEVER even open their snail mail, so don’t bother (except with a thank-you note after an interview). Some don’t mind Facebook or LinkedIn messages from candidates, but for many, that’s a bit weird and some don’t regularly check their social-network messages (though some do, so it’s smart to figure it out). It’s usually best to stick with regular email and not to “friend” or “connect” with hiring managers, unless they specifically suggest you do so or you’re already in their online network. And many won’t respond to an open-ended “Am I still in the running?” type of query but will look much more kindly on a candidate who attaches a recent article or blog post of interest — especially if it’s one they wrote.
Here are some other tips for staying in touch with an organization without becoming a pest:
*Craft all messages with care. Remember that email is atonal and also that it lacks the context of speech. So write and then carefully edit all messages to hiring managers. You want to adopt a friendly, conversational, slightly deferential tone though you don’t want to sound overly familiar. And if you know the manager from another part of your life — say your kids play sports together — you don’t want to chat about non-work matters as it may seem unprofessional in this context. Keep your messages brief as they’re busy. And here’s some email non-starters: nagging, “reminding” them that they promised to get back to you by such-and-such date (which has usually passed), repeatedly invoking the name of their boss or their boss’ boss, and trying to pin them down on a date by which they’ll make a hiring decision.
*Seek to get an initial introduction from someone they know. If your resume is delivered by someone a manager respects (usually in their organization but not always) they will think more highly of you from the start. An initial introduction is akin to an official endorsement of your candidacy. That will make it more likely that they’ll return your emails and will be open to your questions during the hiring process — you’re someone already in the loop. Be careful, though, not to try to trade too often on your connection, and always be honest about how you know the person introducing you; if you don’t know each other well or only in a personal and not a professional context, that’s okay, but make sure it’s clear.
*Figure out how you can help them. Often, there are ways to make life easier for a hiring manager and sometimes even to help them out. If you’re a candidate for a position they’re filling down the road and you know they have a more immediate opening, it’s often useful to suggest people who may be good for that opening. (Though be careful, obviously, only to suggest people who would be a good fit for the position.) Or email a piece in a trade publication they may not have seen that will be of interest. Follow up regarding an idea you discussed in an interview. Also, figure out how they prefer to communicate and when, and keep that in mind. These little things can add up and significantly boost your chances of landing a job with this organization.
*Accept the dynamics of the relationship. The hiring manager does hold most of the cards in this situation. While there’s no excuse for a recruiter or manager to be rude or dismissive, they also don’t owe you explanations or regular contact; until you are hired, the organization has no real obligations to you. If you accept that early on, you’re likely not to get as frustrated in your job search. And you’re also more likely not to nag, pester or annoy a hiring manager. Keep polite persistence in mind and be happy when you hear back. It may seem unfair but that’s the reality — and better to accept it than to fight it.