Question from A Reader:
My first question for you is regarding follow up. Unfortunately, the majority of applications are sent in through online portals, so how do you recommend following up for these types of positions?
Second, how do you follow up if you don’t have a contact person at the company?
Advice from Dana:
It’s impossible to follow up with an inanimate object, right? And submitting an application through online tools is just that: Putting your credentials into an inbox or automated system. Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) are software that many companies use to receive applications, scan, do keyword searches, and assign a number to your application for a specific position.
So, for a solution, let’s break the application process into two buckets:
Front door – Get into their system. You did that with the online job application. Check!
Back door – Now, your real work begins. It’s important that you are in the system so you can tell people you connect with that you applied on X date. When that is done, it’s time to network with three goals in mind:
- Get an introduction to the internal (or external) recruiter who is handling the position you applied to.
- Get submitted into the company’s internal employee referral program.
- Get your credentials in front of the hiring manager.
How do you work the back door, you ask?
If you don’t know anybody at the company, use LinkedIn to seek introductions.
Become a LinkedIn master by taking the site tutorials and learn how to use the Advanced Search features.
Connect with other employees who work in the same department, division, or group that you applied to. NOTE: Don’t just click on the button “CONNECT” and send that impersonal, boring message that says “I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn.” Open the person’s full profile, read it, then click “CONNECT” right under their picture and tailor a personal message to them.
For example: “John, I found your great background on LinkedIn, and I just applied to a position at your company. I’d like to connect with you, then follow up with an email. Thank you, Patty Smith.”
Once they accept your connection request (you need to check your flag in the top right corner regularly to know), send a second note asking for a phone call: “John, thank you for connecting with me. I would value 15 minutes of your time to share your insights about your company. What number may I use to call you during the next two working days? Thank you, in advance.”
Now, prepare for the conversation or email request:
1. “John, does your company have an internal employee referral program? If so, would you please submit my credentials?”
2. “John, I’d really like some help in getting my credentials in front of the hiring manager. I did submit online, but would you help forward my application to the hiring manager for position #1234, Senior Financial Analyst?”
Ask your current network if they know anybody who knows anybody at the company you applied to.
If someone does, then make the same requests as above.
The only difference is that you start your email to them “John, Carol Major at ABC Company gave me your name as someone who might be able to help me.”
You can do this! Hunt for connections, be super gracious, and be clear as to what kind of help you need.
Most importantly, you are building relationships. Send multiple thank-you notes and commit to staying in touch with the new network you are building. Remember, if you pop in to ask for help then disappear, you are USING, not networking. Building genuine relationships is much more rewarding on every level.