A fine line between polite persistence and being a pest

October 27, 2009 at 11:05 am Leave a comment

When to contact a hiring manager and how often is one of those “elephants in the room” that job hunters think a great deal about but no one really discusses. For job-seeking journalists, it can be a vexing problem, especially if in your
former position at a well-respected news organization your calls and emails were returned pronto.

Now it’s hurry up and wait — having to be ready to spring into interview mode when the organization calls, but often waiting days or weeks between the initial expression of interest and follow-up. And once the interview occurs, you can wait again for another set of interviews or an offer. And some hiring managers, obviously, are better at staying in touch and acting like human beings than others…

Here are a few tips from recruiters and career experts to help you from becoming that job-candidate pest that everyone wants to avoid but still allow you to remain assertive and proactive in your search:

*Adopt a pleasant, friendly and polite phone and email manner. Tone is everything. Practice with friends and family if necessary. The more conversational and professionally pleasant your tone in leaving messages and asking what could be potentially awkward questions, the more likely that hiring managers and recruiters will return your calls and respond to emails. Most hiring managers have a stack of messages to return at the end of the day, and the more unpleasant ones will rank lower on the list.

*Don’t get ahead of yourself. When making an initial contact, introduce yourself, send along a resume and ask a few open-ended questions that may solicit a good response. Don’t presume you will be granted an interview and never presume you are a “shoe-in” for a job — even if someone well-respected there has recommended you. When you are asked about an interview, schedule it as soon as possible but again, don’t start asking about vacation time or start dates. The hiring process often moves in small, incremental steps. Learn to respect the process (even when it doesn’t seem to be respecting you).

*Follow up each significant step in the process with a thank you. Within a day of an interview, respond to all of those who you met with for any substantial period with a brief note thanking them for their time and consideration, and again expressing your interest in the job. Be brief and don’t gush. If you have good handwriting, it’s a nice gesture to send a handwritten thank-you note after an interview. But if you’re like me (though no one has handwriting quite like mine!) and it would take a team of FBI handwriting specialists to decipher your note, stick with an email thank you. Remember to thank those who referred you and those who passed along your resume as well.

*Listen to what you’re being told and take it as information, not as an insult.  If a hiring manager says not to expect to hear from the organization for a week or two, don’t start bugging them after a few days. If the recruiter says they are at the beginning of the hiring process, you may have been one of the first people they interviewed. Just because you haven’t heard doesn’t necessarily mean you’re out of the running, especially if you were interviewed early in the process. Don’t despair.

*Stay in touch with those on the “inside” — friends at the organization, especially those who recommended you (and if there is a referral bonus at the company, they have added incentive for you to be hired!) — but don’t bug them too much either. You want them on your side, not to become a thorn in their side.

*Adopt good waiting strategies. Patience is a virtue not shared by all of us — especially those of us used to living on deadlines. But you need to come up with some strategies to avoid making yourself crazy. Find other things to do while waiting to hear back. That’s why it’s good to have a number of “irons in the fire” so that you’re not centering your hopes on one particular opportunity. Accept some free-lance work, take an online course and do some volunteer work — especially if you can connect it with your job hopes. This will appropriately distract you from why a certain hiring manager seems to have forgotten you exist. And the way fate works, the callback will come when you’re busy with something else. (Who hasn’t had the experience of getting an important call — one that you thought might never come — while on a flight when you were forcibly incommunicado? One strategy might be to turn off your mobile phone for a few hours and see what happens!)

*Avoid going over the hiring manager’s head to their boss or their boss’s boss. Out of frustration, job applicants sometimes start emailing up the masthead — “I can’t seem to get my phone calls returned by so-and-so” — hoping the boss will get you back on track with the hiring manager. It often has the opposite effect — the hiring manager resents being told what to do by the applicant, and it usually hurts rather than helps your chances.

*Find trusted contacts with whom you can discuss the process — and decisions you may have to make. A former boss who knows you well or a colleague who has seen you work under pressure are often good advisers. Run hiring situations by them and see how they react. But remember to give them the straight facts and not to embellish. Ask what they would do in a similar situation.

*I have a few job leads to post! The first set is from a former helpful CQ’er at Altarum, which focuses on health care. The openings are media management and Web positions. Those interested should contact Lara Hearnburg, either by email at lchearnburg@yahoo.com or by phone at 703-629-4516. Like many businesses, Altarum would rather hire a “known quantity,” and do a little extra training. And they are family friendly, offering flexible hours, telecommuting, etc.

Right now, the openings include:

Web developer:  http://jobs-altarum.icims.com/jobs/1795/job

a Web/digital meeting production specialist:  http://jobs-altarum.icims.com/jobs/1781/job

and a federal program and communications consulant:

All of Altarum’s openings can be viewed at http://jobs-altarum.icims.com/jobs/intro.

*The hat tip on these next two items is The Pulse, http://www.businessjournalism.org/thepulse, a compendium of business news and tips at businessjournalism.org.

*For a Washington area business journalist willing to relocate to pretty Richmond, it’s worth noting that the business section at the Richmond T-D is actually expanding!

As others downsized, Richmond blossomed

As the financial meltdown unfolded, the business desk of the Richmond Times-Dispatch did something unique: it grew. In today’s (10/26) paper, business editor John Hoke writes about commitment to economic coverage.In the last year, the biz staff has grown to 10. Key changes include assigning Peter Bacqué to cover transportation and energy issues, including electric utilities. Also, the paper moved veteran investigative reporter David Ress into the role of lead economy reporter.


The team is breaking news and producing in-depth packages. And they have no plans to slow down.

From Hoke’s column:

“In the face of the biggest economic crisis of most of our lifetimes, many newspapers, including some of the largest, responded to the financial pressures by reducing and sometimes eliminating their dedicated business sections. Many reduced — and in a few instances, eliminated — their business news staffs.

Not The Times-Dispatch. Leading the charge chanting “economy, economy, economy” was Executive Editor Glenn Proctor, a former business editor and business reporter. Instead of reducing coverage, Proctor has expanded The T-D’s business news desk.”

*And this last item would require a move to New York, but for those with experience covering pensions and investments, this reporting position with Crain Communications — which has been expanding its coverage in some business areas — may be worth checking out:

The beat includes coverage of contribution plans like 401(k)s and their service providers. You must have solid reporting skills, experience in business reporting and the ability to break news. The job could involve travel.Here’s a little information about Crain Communications


Every other Monday, P&I delivers critical financial news to executives responsible for the investment of large institutional assets such as pension funds, endowments and foundations. It reaches top corporate executives and government leaders, pension fund managers, investment advisers, consultants, and financial institutions. It is the world’s leading newspaper for institutional investing.

For more information check out the job post.

Happy hunting on this rainy day!



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