The difference between being viewed as possessing dogged persistence and being an outright pest is hard to define. Like beauty or obscenity, I guess we know it when we see it.
I have had many jobs over the course of my career, some paid, some volunteer that have involved collection work.
When I was Treasurer of my congregation for 4 years, one of my jobs was to collect outstanding dues owed by members. It was delicate work. In the urban legend in this world, those who didn’t pay on time or not at all were suspected of trying to get away with something. The truth was enough to break your heart some nights when I made phone calls.
Very few people owe money to religious organizations when they have it to spend. (Of course, there are a few of these folks, but far fewer than urban legend would suggest.) I learned during this tour of duty to ask politely, and in fact by being “politely doggedly persistent” I was able to generate more funding than previous Treasurers. I guess I was so good at it that after I was no longer Treasurer, 2 members I had been talking to the entire time suddenly became flush with cash and paid off all they owed. They made a point of asking that I be informed.
As Chief Financial Officer of an Advertising Agency in the 1980’s, I was again challenged to collect money, but this time for my firm. In this case it was from clients. Clients represent long term relationships and I would not have been able to keep my job if I didn’t collect from them or if they fired our firm because I pushed them too hard or inappropriately.
Similar rules apply in job search.
If you don’t follow up with a potential employer at all, they will assume disinterest. If you follow up hourly, they are going to assume you have a screw loose.
One question you have to ask yourself is if you are just trying to confirm the obvious, or if in fact you are a serious candidate. If you blew the interview, I wouldn’t push too hard. On the other hand, if you blew them away, not following up might cause you to lose an otherwise viable opportunity.
The way you follow up, as indicated above, is the key to your success. If you are in the initial stages, representing to the person on the other end of the phone that you are a “perfect fit” is a sure way to kill your candidacy. When the search professional has 300 resumes in response to a posting, what are the odds that there aren’t more than a few “perfect fits?” Also, trying to have a discussion with someone before they call you is also often a non-starter.
At this point in the discussion, we have to distinguish between jobs posted by members of the search community and those posted by the human resource department. Let me be clear that members of The FENG never run around recruiters. What I am going to suggest is only for jobs posted by companies.
Always follow the rules first. If you are asked to submit a resume to a P.O. Box, do it. If you know the name of the company, your next step is to try to network in. How? I believe you all have a resource tool called The FENG membership directory. It is there for your use. USE IT!
The hardest decisions to make about the appropriate level of follow up is when you have interviewed with several people at the firm and they never get back to you. Alas, time seems to slip away at corporations these days. Folks are over worked and under paid, or so it would seem.
The excuses I have heard are all very amusing, but all fill me with dismay, as I am sure they do you. Common courtesy, where has it gone? Well, the truth is that it probably never was, except in our imaginations.
Before your beat too hard on someone’s door, give it your very own smell test. Most importantly, don’t let yourself do something out of anger, as justified as it may be. The story goes that someone who should have called me back didn’t. For days! I was ticked! Why didn’t he call? The reason: His son was in the hospital. As they say, you can’t make this stuff up.
Remember, there could be a good reason. You have nothing to lose by assuming there is.