A client of career counselor Mary Anne Walsh called in triumphantly after a job interview. Shortly after sitting down with the interviewer he had discovered that the two had attended the same high school. "’Can you believe it!" he crowed. "’It’s a lock. I’m going to get that job!’"
The job candidate told Walsh that he and the interviewer had had a grand time reminiscing about their mutual alma mater. "And how much time did you spend telling him about your qualifications?" Walsh asked.
"Oh, about the last 10 minutes," said the job candidate. "You’re never going to hear from him again," said Walsh.
Sometimes, she says, dealing with her clients requires tough love. And remedial action. In this case, an immediate follow-up, supplying information that should have been conveyed during the interview, was imperative. No matter how well – or badly – an interview goes, follow-up is always a vital part of a job search, a golden opportunity to close the deal. It is also something that the majority of job seekers do badly, in Walsh’s view.
Walsh, who has offices in Manhattan and in Mendham, refers to the Five O’Clock Club (www.fiveoclockclub.com) again and again. She read a career book by founder Kate Wendleton, and now works both with individual clients and with Five O’ Clock Club groups. Her advice on follow-up for job hunters comes from the Five O’Clock Club philosophy and from her own experience:
Be a consultant, not a candidate. People looking for a job most often see themselves as supplicants. They want something from the companies they approach. This is the wrong attitude, says Walsh. The job hunter is a person who is ready, willing, and able to ferret out an organization’s problems – and to solve them. He is, in short, a consultant.
Replace "interview" with "meeting." Words have power. When job hunters go to speak with potential employers, they are not on an interview, insists Walsh. Rather, they are going to a meeting. "Take a pad and pencil," she commands. Listen, ask good questions, and think of the ways in which your solutions can move the company forward.
Know that employers don’t know what they’re looking for. When the hunt for a new worker begins, employers often have only a vague idea of what they would like to see in that worker, and are rarely clear about exactly what they need him to do. This leaves substantial room for the job hunter to demonstrate why his mix of skills and experience are just what the organization needs.
Find out where you stand. This step is an important part of crafting a follow-up that will win a job. "Ask the interviewer how you stack up against the other candidates," says Walsh. Some will demur, but many others will provide details. "I had a client who was told that she was not assertive enough," says Walsh. She reports that the woman, after hearing this, asked for an opportunity to make a presentation. "She showed up in a red suit, and wowed them," says Walsh. She got the job, but almost certainly would not have had she not asked about how she stacked up.
Carefully compose follow-up notes. A follow-up note needs to be sent to every single person the job hunter meets at a company. And each one needs to be different. Most people send out cookie cutter letters thanking interviewers for their time, saying how much they enjoyed speaking with them, and expressing a hope that they will meet again.
These notes are worthless. Use the notes to turn around perceptions, as the woman in the red suit did. Don’t be shy.
Make the follow-up a lead-in to another meeting. If all went well during the initial meeting, make the follow-up into a lead-in to a second meeting. Having learned about some of the issues facing the department you are seeking to join, suggest another meeting, perhaps to address some of these issues.
Companies appreciate the extra effort, says Walsh. It sets the job seeker apart. What’s more, it increases the chances that he will be the last candidate seen. Because hiring managers tend to refine their job descriptions as the search for a new worker goes on, Walsh believes that the last candidate seen has the best chance of landing the job.