Internship and Job Search – The Power of Follow-Up

If you are reaching out to complete strangers, some will just not respond at all—even if they are recruiters who are looking for candidates. For those who are not professional recruiters, but are someone with whom you have some connection or common bond, most will be willing to talk with you but many others will not.

Sometimes they will refuse because they are simply too busy. This is often especially true among recruiters and hiring managers who might be trying to fill multiple positions and have hundreds of resumes to review for each one. Your goal as a job seeker is to be sure you follow up with those who don’t respond in a way that is persistent, without becoming a pest.

A frequently studied aspect of sales—and this is a sales‐like process you are engaged in—is the power of multiple impressions. In the consumer world, multiple studies have found that in order to influence someone to buy a new product the average consumer must be exposed to the product as many as seven times before they will make a purchase. The numbers tend to be a little different in the job search world, but the principle is identical: follow‐up is required.

When you make your initial contact with a recruiter or contact at a company, if you don’t hear back from that person in one week you should check back in with them again. If another week goes by after that, check in again. You should repeat this process—a follow‐up attempt to the contact you are trying to reach—once a week for a month.

This doesn’t mean that every contact is the same; just that you need to maintain a steady rhythm of contact with the person you are trying to connect with so that you stay on their radar. People get busy. I might have an open job, and you might be the perfect fit. I might have every intention of replying to your email. Then, my boss comes in and hands me a new project. I forget all about you, even though I still need to fill that job. When I finally get back to reviewing candidates, I go back to the pile of resumes on my desk, or in my online applicant system, because that’s what I’m used to doing, and your email is now buried in my inbox with the other 600 I received last week.

Your odds of getting a reply to your outreach go up by more than 60% when you follow‐up just once; another 40% on the second round of follow‐up. Don’t be shy.

What should your follow‐up look like? Keep it short. Your first contact should always be by email (so you can attach your resume) but if you also have a phone number for your contact you can try to mix in a call as your third or fourth attempt. Stick to email only for the fist two since it enables busy people to react on their own time. If you do call, be prepared with a written script so you can confidently leave avoicemail…but you also need to be totally prepared for a quick phone interview on the spot if they do answer and have time for you.

USE THIS SPREADSHEET TO TRACK YOUR FOLLOW-UP EFFORTS

First Email:
Email subject line: “Quinnipiac student seeking entry–‐level opportunity”

Mr. Jones:

I found your information through Quinnipiac’s QUCC database. I’m graduating in May with a degree in Political Science and I’m very interested in XYZ Corp. I’m especially drawn to your programs that are trying to grow youth participation in national elections. I know you are very busy but would it be possible to set up a time for a quick 10 minute phone call to see if my background might be a good fit for your organization? I’ve attached my resume to give you an overview of my background. Even if there are no current opportunities, I’d love to get your opinion on if I would be a good candidate for XYZ in general—and if not, what I could do to make myself a better candidate in the future. Please let me know a time that might work for you and I look forward to the chance to speak with you briefly.

Sincerely,

Joe Smith

Second email:
You can forward the original email for this, so the subject line will be automatic

Mr. Jones:

I’m just checking in to make sure you received my email last week. I know you are very busy and probably get lots of them. I’m still very interested in speaking with you if you have a few minutes.

Sincerely,

Joe Smith

Third email/or voicemail script:

Mr. Jones:

I know you are busy and realize you may not have any time to talk, but if you do have a few quick minutes I’d love to see if we could set up a time. Please call or email at your convenience and I look forward to speaking with you.

Sincerely,

Joe Smith

Fourth (final) email/voicemail script:

Mr. Jones:

I understand you may not have any opportunities right now and no free time to talk. If you do have a few minutes to spare I’d love to speak with you, but if not I hope we can connect at some point in the future. I’m a big believer in what you are doing at XYZ and I hope to have the opportunity to be a part of it someday.

Sincerely,

Joe Smith

Even with the most well executed outreach and follow‐up this process will always carry with it lots of rejection. Prepare for that and don’t take it personally. A lot goes into the hiring process on the employer’s side of the equation and you can’t control any of it. You can be the perfect candidate and still not be selected, even for an interview, for all sorts of reasons.

Do your best, stay organized and persistent, and when a rejection comes your way cross that company off your target list (at least for a while) and move on to the next target. That’s why you start with a big list! Someone will eventually say “Yes”, and in that way each “No” is a gift. It removes an organization from your list so you no longer have to focus time and energy on them. Every “no” brings you one step closer to an eventual “Yes!”

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