Following-Up: An Essential Key to Success

January 11, 2010 at 8:12 am 23 comments

A few weeks ago, I posted a long blog titled “How to Network: A Step-by-Step Guide for Job Searching.” After making a target list of companies, identifying and reaching out to decision-makers in those companies, and actually talking and meeting with those people … the simple act of following-up with them was the final step described in that guide. Following-up (and continuing to do so on a regular basis) after a networking meeting, a phone call, an interview, an online application, emailing your résumé, after sales calls, and with so many other interpersonal interactions is a critical activity for success in the business world. Unfortunately, it’s a step that most people fail to do consistently. Failure to follow-up is a formula for non-results. I’m not sure why a lack of follow-up seems to be such a common failure point for so many people – perhaps it’s a combination of laziness, and a fear of picking up the phone and actually talking with a live person. However, I can say with a great deal of certainty that those people who actually do follow-up properly have a huge advantage over their competition.

A friend of mine was recently offered and then accepted a great job. That offer came purely through networking activities. The person who offered him the job was a decision-maker who my friend first met as a referral from another networking connection. He reached out to that decision-maker – not by asking for a job, but by using this classic networking approach: “Our mutual friend So-and-So spoke very highly of you, and suggested that I reach out to you. Since you are an expert in your field, I’d like to find out more about your background and experiences, and ask for your career advice and help.” [For more ideas on how to approach decision-makers, read “Targeted Networking: How to Effectively Reach Out.”] When they met for coffee, my friend was given several new referrals to other decision-makers in his industry niche. After that meeting, he emailed and called each and every new person he was given, and set up meetings with many of them. Now here’s the critical part: he then sent the original decision-maker regular emails with updates on everyone he had contacted, who responded, who he met with, and what the results were. He also called a few times and updated him verbally on his progress. The referring decision-maker told my friend that over the last year he had been approached by a TON of job-seekers asking to meet with him to “network.” The vast majority of those people never followed-up with him after those meetings. He never knew if any of his referrals were ever actually contacted, or if they were – what the results were. My friend’s diligence in following-up was so impressive (and so outside of the norm) that it made him a memorable and stand-out candidate. When that decision-maker’s own company began to experience growth, my friend was the first and only person that he contacted. He ended up offering my friend a newly created, non-posted job. Obviously, my friend’s overall talent and specific experience in his industry niche were the main factors that landed him that new job. But his new boss told him flat out that it was his excellent follow-up with his networking activities that cinched the deal!

Now, consider one of the least effective ways to find a job these days: applying to an online job posting. Despite the well-known low success rate for that method, I’m constantly amazed at how many job-seekers still spend a huge portion of their time doing just that! And what is the typical result of such a time-consuming activity? Nothing! Silence! No response at all from the recruiter or the company they’ve just applied to! (Sound familiar?) So, what do most job-seekers do when their résumé has gone into the “Black Hole of HR” after applying to an online job posting? Nothing! They sit back and wait for an email or a phone call that almost never comes. Inaction leads to more inaction!

I recently spoke with a job-seeker who makes it a point to follow-up after every online application with a phone call one week after applying. It’s not always easy to figure out who to call … it takes some investigative researching, and sometimes plain old cold-calling. However, this candidate was a sales professional, and was accustomed to such sleuthing. He would call the main switchboard of a company he’d applied to, and ask for the name of the person who oversaw the department he was applying to … or barring that, the name of the person who headed up the HR area. He would then call that person directly, and simply say he wanted to follow-up on his application and make sure that the person actually received his résumé. So what happened when he did that? Last week, an HR Director told him that she had received over 300 applications for the particular position he had applied for – but he was one of only two people who called to follow-up after applying. Because of that, she said, he was going to the top of the list for consideration! Now, does that mean he’ll get the job — or even get an interview? Who knows. But clearly, his follow-up put him a step closer than his competition.

The lesson to be learned here about following-up is not just for job-seekers. Following-up consistently is an essential key to success in almost every business activity. Sales people should certainly know this. And remember – job-seeking IS a sales activity! [See “Why Job-Hunting is a Consultative Sales Position.”] How many times have you heard someone say: “Let’s stay in touch” … and then you never hear from that person again? How about a sales call or a business meeting where someone promises to do something or get back to someone within a certain amount of time … and then simply doesn’t! This sort of “dropping the ball” stuff happens all too often in the world of sales and business in general. Earning someone’s trust and gaining credibility are basic goals that are deeply connected to a person’s ability to simply follow-up and follow-through! My favorite two business mantras are: “Don’t make a promise you can’t keep.” and “Under-promise, and over-deliver.” People who follow those guidelines, and truly make an effort to follow-up with every person of significance that they encounter are heading for success.

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Entry filed under: Advice for Job Seekers. Tags: , , .

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23 Comments Add your own

  • 1. ABClarke  |  January 11, 2010 at 5:39 pm

    Michael,
    Thank you for an excellent explanation of a core concept for job-seekers in particular and business people in general. I am constantly encouraging my clients to follow-up in all kinds of ways. The ones who take the risk and do it get better results. I’ll add your examples as yet two more reasons for not going silently into the night. Thanks again.

    Reply
  • 2. Anne Hydock  |  January 11, 2010 at 6:50 pm

    Thank you for outlining the importance of following up. Some of us may do this for business purposes, but hesitate when we’re the job seeker. Perseverance is key and so is nurturing our business or networking relationships.

    Reply
  • 3. Umesh Satija  |  January 11, 2010 at 7:59 pm

    This is so very true. Following up works everywhere , in whatever you do. I have experienced it myself a lot. It has really worked out for me. Initially I used to think that it wasn’t right and it would create a bad impression with the other person, but now I actually work with it.

    Thanks for sharing.

    Umesh

    Reply
  • 4. AssociAD  |  January 12, 2010 at 10:03 am

    Common sense, but often too far down on the ‘to do’ list. Systems help.

    And, good post. Not only is follow up often the missing step for more than just job seekers, so is asking for advice! It is a great way to open doors to a job or to a potential client … ‘Since you are an expert in your field…’

    Most professionals like to be helpful, love to be recognized as experts, and have something valuable to contribute – whether it’s to a job seeker’s efforts, or a sales professional’s.

    Appreciated the reminder to ‘under-promise and over-deliver’!

    Reply
  • 5. Jackie Swanson  |  January 12, 2010 at 3:58 pm

    Hi Michael,

    I always enjoy reading your blogs. Following-up … was especially full of good common sense tips. I found myself scrolling back through previous messages, taking notes along the way. I struggle with the line between keeping in touch and becoming a pest, your two touch discussion was helpful! Lots of interesting hints for 2010, thanks ~

    Jackie Swanson
    Just A Moment…canvas images

    Reply
  • 6. Deborah  |  January 12, 2010 at 8:52 pm

    As someone who’s followed up repeatedly to online postings (which I stopped wasting my time doing entirely) I can tell you for the most part they don’t give a crap if you call and in fact usually treat you as a nuisance. Well, except for once when it got me an interview, in fact two interviews, and then not even the courtesy of a phone call when the other candidate was selected. I hope the employers of the world are getting ready for massive payback when the economy picks up and good, qualified people remember how they were treated.

    Reply
  • 7. Alina  |  January 13, 2010 at 3:52 pm

    This is an excellent post. I am hoping that by being consistent in this area I too can land a dream job after relocating to the area.

    Reply
  • 8. JP Michel  |  January 14, 2010 at 12:58 pm

    Thank you for sharing Michael. I’ve shared your blog post with our Career Coaches at the office, and got some great feedback.

    Reply
  • 9. Andrea Dal Pra  |  January 19, 2010 at 9:51 am

    Yes Michael, this is a great reminder of what we should always do in our business, but also in our private life (and often forget to do). Following up is first and foremost a courtesy gesture that shows our respect for the other party.

    Reply
  • 10. Heather Brizzi  |  January 19, 2010 at 2:59 pm

    Michael, great post! You are so right. One of the things that many don’t do anymore that I really like about candidates is send a Thank You following an interview. That is a huge differentiator for me.

    Reply
  • 11. Jennifer Harper, PHR  |  January 20, 2010 at 11:47 am

    I love your blog! Your entry on ‘follow up’ reminded me I am definitely doing the right thing by continuing to let someone know my interest. Good luck with your job search.

    Reply
  • 12. Judith Becker  |  January 21, 2010 at 7:34 pm

    Thank you for your timely information regarding all aspects of the job search process. Follow-up after an interview is essential and can be beneficial. My question, is it advisable to follow-up with a hiring manager when ‘the other candidate’ is offered the job?

    Reply
    • 13. Michael Spiro  |  January 21, 2010 at 10:11 pm

      Judith:
      I say sure, why not follow-up with the hiring manager – even if someone else was offered the job. Tell him thanks for being considered, and offer to stay in touch for the future. You never know what may happen. Perhaps the other person will not accept the job. Or maybe they’ll start and then won’t work out. You still might be a viable candidate at a later date. It never hurts to follow-up.
      Michael

      Reply
  • 14. Don Harkness  |  January 27, 2010 at 10:20 am

    Michael you write good stuff. I’ve been a hiring manager, a job hunter at advanced age and been a recruiter now for over 5 years. Got it covered from all views. I particularly agree with the points on networking and follow up. There is a lot of sage advise on the value of networking. But as a recruiter and as someone who likes to help job hunters, one continually sees, and frequently hears from people, that they don’t know what networking is, i.e the rules of engagement. And in my view, follow up is a MAJOR piece of it, very little understood. As a recruiter, follow up is one of my differentiators. I believe there’s no profession where follow up isn’t important. If you can’t follow up in your search, why would I believe you’d follow up when you do your job. I’m working with someone right now whose follow up is great, and because it is, I can be significantly more helpful, and I think it’s working. Again you write good stuff

    Reply
  • 15. ANIL ANAND  |  March 23, 2010 at 7:57 am

    Hi Michael,

    This is Great stuff! Very thought provoking…

    Reply
  • 16. Kent L. Hamilton  |  March 23, 2010 at 10:44 am

    Good evening Mr. Spiro,

    I just wanted to say that I really enjoy your articles. I have learned alot. I have encountered both types of recruiters and one particular last year cost me a very lucritive position. Through your recent articles, I am able to read into what the recruiter’s real objective is.

    As for the telephone interviews, you are right on target. I have been very fortunate to have encountered a friend that is an HR employee for a company here in the Cleveland market. I forwarded your publication blog on to her and she totally agreed with everything you had mentioned.

    Keep up the the good work.

    Best regards,

    Kent L. Hamilton

    Reply
  • 17. Amin  |  March 25, 2010 at 5:46 am

    Mantab Bos, Nice info Thanks

    Reply
  • 18. Carmelo Avon  |  April 4, 2010 at 2:23 am

    Hey, I found your blog while searching on Google your post looks very interesting for me. I will bookmark your site. Keep up the good work!

    Reply
  • 19. Hester Green  |  April 14, 2010 at 1:54 pm

    In addition to the courtesy, goodwill and respect that following up conveys, thank-yous and following up also often provide additional opportunities for you to possibly ask another intelligent question about the business. Following up can be a way of further demonstrating your interest and insight to someone who may have valuable connections.

    Best regards,
    Hester

    Reply
  • 20. Mamoona  |  August 24, 2011 at 2:10 pm

    Thank you Michael, l just love your articles. Even paid books which promise to provide Successful Job Searching Tips don’t even provide such insight — which you have done.

    Thanks once again 🙂

    Reply
  • 21. Rachel Ha  |  August 28, 2012 at 11:15 pm

    Hi Michael,

    This is my first time visiting your blog but I have to tell you that all the articles here sound invaluable. Thank you so much for providing them!

    I do have one question. When I follow up with the recruiter or the person who is in charge of the department, is it appropriate to remind him/her of my qualifications and skills, or is that overdoing it?

    Thank you!

    Rachel

    Reply
    • 22. Michael Spiro  |  August 31, 2012 at 10:20 am

      Rachel:
      I’m glad you are getting value from reading my blog! As to your question — I think it’s a great idea to “remind” your contact of your qualifications and skills in any follow-up communications you send. It’s especially important to connect those qualifications and skills to the specific requirements of the job you are pursing. Be sure to read The “T” Cover Letter — The Only Type Worth Sending.
      -Michael

      Reply
  • 23. reginaldyarborough  |  December 11, 2013 at 9:20 am

    My cousin recommended this website to me. I’m so glad I found it, because it’s been incredibly helpful. You are incredible! Thanks!

    Reply

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Michael Spiro

About the Author:

Michael Spiro has been a 3rd-Party Recruiter and Account Executive for over 15 years. He is currently the Director of Recruiting / NE Ohio Region for Experis Finance, a dedicated business unit of ManpowerGroup. Other recent positions include President of Midas Recruiting, a boutique head-hunting firm, Director of Talent at Patina Solutions, and Executive Recruiting positions with two of the largest search firms in North America. Before his career in the staffing industry, Michael was a manager in a large non-profit social-services organization. And in a former life, Michael was active in the entertainment industry, with extensive road-warrior experience as a touring performer (singer-songwriter / guitarist / comedian) and as a recording artist, producer and booking agent.  [More...]

Index (by Topic):

Résumés & Cover Letters:
 The "T" Cover Letter - The
         Only Type Worth Sending

 The Brutal Truth on How
         Résumés Get Eliminated

 Explaining Short Job Stints
         and Employment Gaps

 The Résumé Test &
         Checklist: Does Yours
         Pass?

 Beating the Résumé-
         Elimination Game: Where
         Do Recruiters' Eyes Go?

 The Truth About Lying on
         Résumés

Networking:
 How to Network: A
         Step-by-Step Guide for
         Job Searching

 Looking for Networking in
         All the Wrong Places

 Targeted Networking: How
         to Effectively Reach Out

 The Art of Giving: the Key to
         Effective Networking

Interviewing:
 Face-to-Face Interviews:
         Secrets, Tricks and Tips

 Phone Interviews: Secrets,
         Tricks and Tips

 Skype Interview Tips ...
         Welcome to the Future!

 Nuggets: A Secret
         Interviewing Technique

 Answering the Dreaded
         Salary Question

 20 Surefire Ways to Blow
         an Interview

 "So, Do You Have Any
         Questions?" Nailing the
         Interview Closer

 Cool InfoGraphic: "What
         You Wish You'd Known
         Before Your Job
         Interview"

Age Discrimination:
 Age Discrimination: Secret
         Conversations Revealed

 Age Discrimination:
         Exposing Inconvenient
         Truths

 Are You "Overqualified?"
         Handling the Age Issue

 Baby Boomers to the
         Rescue! An Idea Whose
         Time Has Come ...

 Overcoming Job-Search
         Obstacles and
         Redefining Your Career
         After 50

 Advice for Recent Grads
         and Career-Changers

Switching Jobs:
 The Proper Way to
         Quit a Job

 Counteroffers: Just Say No!

General Job-Seeking Info:
 The Real Truth About
         Working with Recruiters

 Contract/Consulting Jobs
         Explained ... Available in
         3 Different Flavors

►  What Recruiters Say
         vs. What Job-Seekers
         Hear

►  The Dirty Truth About
         Misleading Unemployment
         Statistics

►  Let the Jobs Find You:
         Making Yourself More
         "Searchable"

 "Help ... I Need a Job!" A
         9-Step Guide for Newly
         Minted Job-Seekers

 Avoiding the "Black Hole
         of HR"

 Is Your Elevator Pitch
         Taking You UP
         or DOWN?

 Time Management: Recipe          for a Well-Balanced Job          Search
 Getting Un-Stuck from your
         Rut!

 The Double-Whammy of
         Rejection and Isolation

 "Unemployed Need Not
         Apply" - Working Around
         This Scary Message

 Using Social Media to
         Enhance Job-Searching

 Warning: That Rant You
         Posted Just Went Viral!

 The Golden Rule for
         Business: Never Burn
         Bridges

 The Power of a Positive
         Attitude

 Why Job Hunting is a
         Consultative Sales
         Position

 Top 10 Most Helpful Things
         for Job Seekers

 Top 10 Most Annoying
         Things for Job Seekers

 New Year's Resolutions for
         Unemployed Job-
         Seekers

Job-Seeking Humor:
 Comic Relief: Volume 1
 Comic Relief: Volume 2
 Comic Relief: Volume 3
 Comic Relief: Volume 4
 Comic Relief: Volume 5
 Comic Relief: Volume 6
 "In Transition" and Other
         Awkward Euphemisms

 Candidates Gone Wild:
         Recruiter Horror Stories

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