Taking a proactive stance and showing interest in the companies you’re applying to during your job search can help you win over employers and get hired — but if you take your enthusiasm too far, you can come across as a pest and ruin your shot at the position. How do you strike a balance between pro-action and annoying desperation?
Here are some things to consider before you take proactive steps and calculated risks, whether it’s placing a follow-up call or sending a cake frosted with “Please hire me.”
Take a targeted approach
Some job candidates take a proactive approach to working for a particular company they love by applying for every open position within the company. While this may seem like enthusiasm to the candidate, the employer will often view it as a sign that you’re not committed to any particular position — which can also suggest you don’t have the right qualifications for any of the jobs you’re going for.
Instead of the scattershot approach, hone your job search down and focus your energies on positions that would be ideal for your particular skill set, experiences, and characteristics. Spend your time making submission packets targeted for a particular job, and go for quality over quantity with your resumes and cover letters.
Consider the unconventional in relation to the position
Sending a beautifully frosted cake with a personalized message is an out-of-the-box strategy, and it could work — if you’re applying for a job as a baker. But if you’re a web designer, SEO specialist, digital marketer, or brand manager, your ability to bake a cake won’t relate to the job you’re going for, which makes this type of move seem desperate.
Unconventional job search strategies can be effective if they’re professional, interesting, and relevant to your application. For example, you can submit a clever resume with non-traditional layout and (subtle) humor if you’re applying to a creative development position, or use social media in an unusual way if you’re applying for a social marketing job. Just make sure you keep it tactful and professional.
Consider your proactive strategies from a hiring manager’s point of view
Before you engage in tactics that are outside the norm, think about how a hiring manager might view your actions or behavior. How would you react to a cover letter that sounds entitled and cocky, a demand for an answer, being “tricked” into saying yes, or any type of emotional or social blackmail — such as sending a sad photo of your kids after the interview, with a note that says you’re still unemployed?
If it would annoy you, it will definitely annoy the employer. You’ll stand out in a bad way, and likely ruin your chances of ever getting hired by that company.
Follow up — but not too much
Hiring managers expect job candidates they’ve interviewed to follow up within a few days and check on the status of the position. Generally, most candidates follow this protocol, but some feel compelled to “stand out” by calling or emailing the employer multiple times a week, until they get a definite answer. This is the very definition of annoying.
The follow-up is the step in the process where most over-enthusiastic candidates drop the ball. Here’s how to handle your follow-up proactively, without crossing the line into desperation territory:
Generally, one email and one phone call is sufficient for a follow-up. If you haven’t heard back, it may be safe to assume you didn’t get the job, for whatever reason. And if you do hear back with a rejection, remain polite and gracious — you don’t want to burn bridges with employers who follow up, even if you aren’t hired. There may be a future opportunity for you at that company.
Meanwhile, shift your focus to the next job possibility, and continue to be proactive without annoying potential employers.
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