How to Walk the Fine Line Between Persistence and Being a Pest

July 14, 2010 at 11:38 am Leave a comment

Hiring managers say they want job candidates to stay in touch. Yet surveys of recruiters and hiring managers also show that their No. 1 pet peeve — ahead even of job seekers who are late to an interview or misspell words on their cover letter — is “stalker” candidates who just won’t leave them alone. Clearly, there is a fine line between what I advocate as polite persistence and becoming a pest who the manager wants to avoid at all costs.

How do you stay on the good side of that line? First, you need to do some research so that you can put yourself in the manager’s shoes. How do they want you to stay in touch? Most, these days, abhor phone calls and prefer email that they can check when they’re not slammed. Most NEVER even open their snail mail, so don’t bother (except with a thank-you note after an interview). Some don’t mind Facebook or LinkedIn messages from candidates, but for many, that’s a bit weird and some don’t regularly check their social-network messages (though some do, so it’s smart to figure it out). It’s usually best to stick with regular email and not to “friend” or “connect” with hiring managers, unless they specifically suggest you do so or you’re already in their online network. And many won’t respond to an open-ended “Am I still in the running?” type of query but will look much more kindly on a candidate who attaches a recent article or blog post of interest — especially if it’s one they wrote.

Here are some other tips for staying in touch with an organization without becoming a pest:

*Craft all messages with care. Remember that email is atonal and also that it lacks the context of speech. So write and then carefully edit all messages to hiring managers. You want to adopt a friendly, conversational, slightly deferential tone though you don’t want to sound overly familiar. And if you know the manager from another part of your life — say your kids play sports together — you don’t want to chat about non-work matters as it may seem unprofessional in this context. Keep your messages brief as they’re busy. And here’s some email non-starters: nagging, “reminding” them that they promised to get back to you by such-and-such date (which has usually passed), repeatedly invoking the name of their boss or their boss’ boss, and trying to pin them down on a date by which they’ll make a hiring decision.

*Seek to get an initial introduction from someone they know. If your resume is delivered by someone a manager respects (usually in their organization but not always) they will think more highly of you from the start. An initial introduction is akin to an official endorsement of your candidacy. That will make it more likely that they’ll return your emails and will be open to your questions during the hiring process — you’re someone already in the loop. Be careful, though, not to try to trade too often on your connection, and always be honest about how you know the person introducing you; if you don’t know each other well or only in a personal and not a professional context, that’s okay, but make sure it’s clear.

*Figure out how you can help them. Often, there are ways to make life easier for a hiring manager and sometimes even to help them out. If you’re a candidate for a position they’re filling down the road and you know they have a more immediate opening, it’s often useful to suggest people who may be good for that opening. (Though be careful, obviously, only to suggest people who would be a good fit for the position.) Or email a piece in a trade publication they may not have seen that will be of interest. Follow up regarding an idea you discussed in an interview. Also, figure out how they prefer to communicate and when, and keep that in mind. These little things can add up and significantly boost your chances of landing a job with this organization.

*Accept the dynamics of the relationship. The hiring manager does hold most of the cards in this situation. While there’s no excuse for a recruiter or manager to be rude or dismissive, they also don’t owe you explanations or regular contact; until you are hired, the organization has no real obligations to you. If you accept that early on, you’re likely not to get as frustrated in your job search. And you’re also more likely not to nag, pester or annoy a hiring manager. Keep polite persistence in mind and be happy when you hear back. It may seem unfair but that’s the reality — and better to accept it than to fight it.

*Here’s some bad news-good news re salaries (I don’t know about you, but I always prefer to get the bad news out of the way first). Though we all knew that newspaper salaries were not exactly heading skyward, here is the sobering reality, courtesy of (via — at least publishers are sharing in the pain as well! Maybe this is just what some folks need to broaden their search beyond the newsroom:

Newspaper industry wages dropped an average of 1.42% in 2010
Inland Press

*And for the good news, from The Daily Beast via’s The Slatest, D.C. is the highest-earning city in the country (not necessarily for journalism jobs, of course):

Washington D.C. Tops List as Highest Earning American City
Surprisingly, Fairbanks, Alaska, also placed high on the list, while Greater New York only placed 16th on the Index, which measured trends across all of America’s 342 metro regions.

*Now for some good leads to check out today:

*U.S. News & World Report in D.C. has an opening in its Education section for a full-time Web producer:

Employment Opportunities – US News and World Report

*With a hat tip to, the American Enterprise Institute in D.C. has an opening for a video editor/producer:

Video Editor/ Producer

American Enterprise Institute

US – DC – Washington

The American Enterprise Institute is building a robust production environment within their offices in downtown DC. This will include new studio space, HD-capable cameras, and a new edit suite with st…

*Courtesy of (for these next several listings), Politico has a number of reporting and editing openings in its Arlington newsroom (which you can also view on its site, including this one, for a deputy editor for its Click section:

Deputy CLICK editor
Arlington, Virginia
Job Status: Full-time
Salary: Not Specified
Ad Expires:
August 17, 2010
Job ID: 1184691

POLITICO is seeking an editor to work on CLICK. Ideal candidates will have demonstrated ability to edit copy on a short deadline, manage story production (including multimedia elements such as photo and video), generate ideas, coordinate coverage of events and maintain an ever-changing publishing schedule. An understanding of reporting fundamentals, a possession of strong writing skills, a facility with display copy and an abundance of enthusiasm are all required. Above all, candidates should have a deep and abiding interest in the social side of politics and Washington, D.C., a good sense of humor and a desire to work in an intense, fast-paced environment.


Experience editing and/or writing at the professional level; established organizational skills; proven ability to see tasks and projects through from beginning to end.

To apply:

Please send a brief cover letter, résumé, four clips and contact information for three references to, subject line: Deputy CLICK editor.

No phone calls, please.

*Marine Corps Times, part of Army Times Publishing in Springfield, Va., has an opening for a reporter:

Company: Army Times Publsihing Co
cover the world’s hottest stories
Springfield, Virginia
Job Status: Full-time
Salary: Not Specified
Ad Expires:
August 12, 2010
Job ID: 1183286

Are you looking for a beat covering the world’s hottest story? We’re looking for an aggressive, creative and experienced reporter to cover the lives and careers of U.S. service members at home and abroad. Marine Corps Times, a weekly paid newspaper circulated worldwide, needs a writer who will own their beats and is versatile enough to write national-quality cover stories for print AND breaking news for the Web. We tell stories that help our readers navigate their lives and careers — reporting from the Pentagon and the desert in Iraq. If you think you’ve got what it takes to join our team, tell us your story. Minimum 1-3 years professional experience at daily or weekly publications. Familiarity with the military a big plus; college degree preferred. Join a highly motivated team where advancement opportunities are terrific. Send resume with cover letter and clips to: or fax: 703-750-8129. M/F/V/D

*Exchange Monitor Publications in D.C. is looking for a reporter to lead its energy and climate team:

Company: Exchange Monitor Publications, Inc.
Energy and Climate Team Lead
Washington, District of Columbia
Job Status: Full-time
Salary: Not Specified
Ad Expires:
August 17, 2010
Job ID: 1184454

An established, award-winning trade publication is seeking an experienced journalist to lead a team of reporters covering electricity generation, clean coal, nuclear power and climate change. The ideal candidate will have four to six years experience covering these areas and a proven track record of strong beat reporting. Experience covering federal agencies and Congress preferred. If you’re ready to move on to the next challenge and help take our publications to the next level, send a resume, three clips and references to

*And to wrap up today’s leads, Warren Communications in D.C. has an opening for a reporter to cover telecommunications policy:

Company: Warren Communications News
Experienced Reporter
Washington, D.C. (near Dupont Circle), District of Columbia
Job Status: Full-time
Salary: Negotiable
Ad Expires:
August 16, 2010
Job ID: 1184254

Experienced, talented reporter sought to cover telecommunications policy. This involves a lot of reporting about government actions, as well as technology. We’re an award-winning hard news company, doing Wall Street Journal-type reporting that’s read by the highest executives in business and government. Competitive salary and benefits, great working environment and a chance to grow. Send letter, resume, clips to

Happy hunting!



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Tips for Acing Second or Subsequent Interviews Ways to Simplify Your Search

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