Commerce: The value of follow-up and follow-through
OK, so you’ve spent countless hours reading, reviewing, researching and responding to job postings. You’ve taken the time to ascertain who the contact is that will be receiving the application or the hiring manager that will be making the decision. You have carefully crafted cover letters and resumes that focus on making sure your background, which consists of your knowledge, skills and abilities, is clearly articulated and understood. Then…nothing! Not a simple response, like “We have chosen other candidates,” not a postcard, a phone call, NADA!
Interestingly, I have had this conversation in the last couple of months with quite a few people. People have expressed to me their feelings of frustration, going so far as to use emotional statements such as feeling “ignored,” “unimportant” and “devalued.”
Clearly, these emotions and feelings stem from perception; however, they are certainly justified. One job-seeker shared with me recently that in the last four months, he has sent out approximately 20 resumes. And then finally comes the offer to interview. Of the 20 resumes he sent out, he received four interviews. Of those four interviews, not one of the employers notified him that he was not selected for the position. He went on to tell me that one company called him back to schedule an interview and wanted to know his availability. When he gave the person who called him some dates and times, the person on the line said, “Let me check with management and get back to you.” He never did hear back from the company. Finally, of the 20 resumes he sent out, he only heard back from two employers. They either thanked him for expressing interest in their company but were pursuing more qualified individuals, or they had selected another candidate. My hat goes off to those two employers, as this is a perfect example of good business etiquette.
I recently read an article on Forbes.com titled “10 Things to Do When You Don’t Hear Back After a Job Interview.” According to that article, a 2013 CareerBuilder study found that among 3,991 employees, 60 percent said they’ve experienced this as a job candidate. But candidates deserve to hear back—even if the news is negative. As it turns out, following up is beneficial to both parties in the long run (even if it’s awkward and uncomfortable at the time). The article went on to state that the
2013 CareerBuilder survey revealed that a candidate’s negative experience can adversely impact the employer’s business or the ability to recruit high caliber employees. Forty-two percent of respondents said they would never again apply for work with the company if they were unhappy with the way their application was handled. Twenty-two percent said they would discourage others from working there, and 9 percent would discourage others from buying the company’s products or services. In a small community, that can have a significant impact on one’s business.
I have to say, one of the many things that impresses me about my own employer is that regardless of how many applications are received for a posted position, the human resources department always responds to all applicants as well as interviewees who were not selected. Many of these positions are bringing in more than 150 applications each. It goes without saying that time is precious and often lacking. Business owners have expressed their concerns about finding qualified applicants, stating that the “applicant pool” is weak while job seekers are saying that the “job opportunity pool” is bleak. From this perspective, good business etiquette is a two-way street and one that should not be ignored. Here are some tips for both job seekers and the businesses seeking employees with respect to follow-up and follow-through.
To the prospective job seeker…it’s OK to follow-up; in fact, you should, but do so tactfully. In other words, take the initiative but do so with respect for the employer’s time. You certainly do not want to be like the kid in the back seat asking every 20 seconds “are we there yet…are we there yet?” Plan to follow up only a limited number of times within a specific time period. If you hear back from the employer, fantastic; if not, then by all means, move on. Although you may be feeling frustrated and annoyed, always be pleasant whether your follow-up is via email or by phone…this is a great way to demonstrate your caliber of professionalism. Do not be afraid to solicit an endorsement from a potential colleague or friend who currently works for that employer. Some of the best employees come from the referral of an existing employee. And most importantly, if you are not “the chosen one” for whatever reason, don’t take it personally. There can be a multitude of reasons why you were not selected for a position.
To the employers seeking qualified candidates and find yourselves suddenly drowning in the applicant pool, it is important to note that even a template letter of acknowledgment is better than no response. As the article mentioned above cautions, it might be difficult to find quality talent later if candidates are treated poorly now, because job applicants have long memories. Emails are an acceptable form of follow-up and are fast, and perhaps a great alternative if you are the one handling all of the human resource responsibilities of the organization.
A former business owner herself and graduate of the Urban Hope Entrepreneur program out of Green Bay, Michelle Madl-Soehren is currently the business development coordinator for Nicolet Area Technical College, where she assists and coaches new and existing entrepreneurs and small business owners with business plan development, provides professional development workshops throughout the area and coordinates and teaches Nicolet College’s eSeed Entrepreneur Program. She holds a baccalaureate degree from Mount Mary College in behavioral science and a master’s in management and organizational behavior from Silver Lake College. Madl-Soehren is also the current president of Northwoods Women in Business and past president of the Northwoods Entrepreneurs Club, and sits on the state advisory board for the Small Business Development Centers. Shemay be contacted at email@example.com or (715) 365-4492.