Follow-up, using references properly can give you an edge

Dear Joan:
I’ve been interviewing for jobs lately and when the interview is over, I’m not sure about how much I should be following up. I want to show I’m interested but I also don’t want to be a pest. I’m also interested in knowing how to handle references. I’ve been including it with my resume when I apply. Do I need to contact them each time I apply for a job or do I just let the employer contact them if they want?

During an interview it’s perfectly appropriate to ask your interviewer what the time frame is for filling the job and where they are in the interviewing process. If the interviewer says that he or she has just begun to interview candidates, it could be weeks before they are ready to make a decision. If this is the case, you’re wise to resist calling. Employers often squeeze interviews into their schedules, so repeated phone calls from an anxious job candidate will be a nuisance.

Instead, write a "hot button" thank you letter to each person with whom you interviewed. Thank them for taking the time to meet with you and express your enthusiasm about the job. Revisit a few of the hot buttons that seemed to interest the interviewer during your meeting. For instance, if he asked you several probing questions about some of your special skills, or spent a fair amount of time describing some of the department’s challenges, these are the points you want to focus on. Even if you have mentioned your qualifications in these areas, it’s okay to highlight these points again.

Here is an example, "During our meeting, you outlined your department’s goal of improving the company’s on-time order rate. As I mentioned, at ACME I led a project team that improved our on-time shipments from 71 percent to 98 percent. After hearing about the job, I am confident that I would be able to make a significant contribution in this area."

If you don’t hear anything, and it’s close to the time the interviewer indicated a decision would be made, it’s appropriate to call. However, instead of just asking if a decision has been made, try this, "This is Pat Smith. I interviewed for the position of Warehouse Manager two weeks ago. I’m calling to see if there is anything else I can provide for you that will help you to evaluate me for the job."

If you have just received an offer from Company B, but you would prefer to work at Company A, it’s appropriate to call Company A and explain the situation. Explain that you aren’t trying to exert pressure on them; you just wanted them to be aware of the situation. Explain that you are very interested in their position and were hoping they were close to making a decision. If you are a finalist, they will likely speed up their decision process.

References are to be treated with great care. I don’t recommend attaching a list of references to every resume you send out. It signals that the applicant is either ignorant of job-hunting protocol, or is careless about the use of his or her references. Most references expect that you will only give out their names and phone numbers in the event that you are about to be made a job offer. They don’t want to receive calls from multiple employers who might want to use your references as part of the screening process.

Chose people who can give first-hand examples about specifics such as your skills, job experience and work style. If you only list character references, or associates who can only make general comments, they won’t help you. It might even look as if you are purposely trying to keep them from contacting former managers. If you don’t have much work experience, use supervisors from part-time jobs or internships. Teachers and professors are fine if you don’t have employers you can list.

Most employers will ask you for your list of references when you are among the final candidates. It’s also appropriate for you to offer your list before you leave the interview, if the employer seems seriously interested in you. List each reference’s company name, title, address, and phone number. It is also helpful to include your relationship with the reference, if it isn’t obvious from your resume.

If it seems likely that they will get a call from an employer, you need to tip-off each reference about the possibility of a call. Describe the position and how you think you fit. You may even want to suggest past work experiences that the reference might want to mention to the employer. Most references are grateful for this head’s up and welcome this information prior to a call.

If you are pursuing very different kinds of jobs, you may need references who fit each job category. This customization is necessary if they are going to be able to provide specifics about your experience related to each kind of position. If that isn’t possible, it will be even more important to educate your references before they receive a call.

What you do after the job interview is just as important as what you do beforehand. A little extra care on your part could make the difference in getting the job you really want.

Joan Lloyd is a Milwaukee based executive coach and organizational & leadership development strategist. She is known for her ability to help leaders and their teams achieve measurable, lasting improvements. Joan Lloyd & Associates, specializes in leadership development, organizational change and teambuilding, providing: executive coaching, CEO coaching & leader team coaching, 360-degree feedback processes, retreat facilitation and presentation skill coaching and small group labs. Contact Joan Lloyd & Associates at (414) 573-1616,, or 
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