The Art of the Follow-up

I was doing some reading about new technologies today, as you do, and discovered that there is a new start-up app called Rebump that sends repeated follow-up emails if your initial email was not responded to, until you get a response (more information here). Now, if your inbox looks anything like mine does, the very thought of additional emails pouring in because you didn’t answer an email, for whatever reason, just about makes you want to toss your laptop and smartphone off the Broadway Bridge and never look back. What a horrible idea. (Not to mention, there could be any number of very legitimate reasons an email has not been responded to that isn’t just someone ignoring you and being rude. Perhaps it wasn’t relevant, there isn’t an open position, there is some policy in place that prevents personal responses to job inquiries, the person in question is on medical leave, you sent the email to the wrong address… none of these really matter in the long run, but there is always more to the story.)

But this new horror of technology does bring up a good point. How do you follow-up correctly? We are asked this question often, from all types of job seekers. While there is no 100% right all the time answer, there are a few best practices you can abide by to make sure your messages are being seen and hopefully responded to, without attracting the ire of the person you’re trying to contact.

The first thing you need to do is organize your entire job search communications. Come up with a filing system in your inbox and your sent emails for individuals you’ve contacted, which will help you track who you’ve reached out to and, most importantly, when. Different methods work for different people, so play around with folders, color coding, labels, or other apps until you find the organizational method that works best for you. Once you’re organized and can keep better track of your emails, it gets easier to follow up without being a nuisance. Also, think about the types of messages you’re crafting. In order to not be buried underneath a pile of other messages, your email needs to be engaging, succinct, and not automated. Having a good message to begin with will help trigger responses.

It’s best to only send one type of electronic communication to an individual, especially in the same day. Meaning, don’t email, message them on LinkedIn, and tweet them all at the same time. This can be overwhelming and cause someone to decide not to respond who might have done so otherwise. Once you have sent your email, wait for a response. If one is not received, send your first follow up in 2-3 weeks, in the same thread as your original email with original documents re-attached. If you do not receive a response to this second attempt, send a third, and final, attempt in 90 days. That’s it. Very simple, no “rebumping”, no annoying anyone. Unlike Rebump, following these best practices does not guarantee a response, but you will not be considered a pest, which will be more valuable to you in the long run.