There is a saying that is applied to sales, but is equally applicable to job candidates, “Stop selling when the customer says Yes.” Some candidates, like sales reps, make the mistake of missing the company’s “buying signals” and continue to sell themselves after the company has made a hiring decision in their favor. Persistence may be mistaken for pushiness or pressure. The hiring manager or decision maker may begin to develop second thoughts about their decision. Often companies have to follow time-consuming internal processes after the decision is made to hire someone before the offer letter can be issued. Without understanding the delay, a candidate may interpret this period of silence as an indication that they are in trouble and they begin to apply undue pressure. For a candidate, the hiring decision is probably the first and foremost thought on their mind. For the company, with many activities requiring simultaneous attention, “turning the offer letter crank” may be just one of many tasks that need to be performed and require a number of people to become involved in serial order.
It is easy to avoid this issue. The candidate simply needs to humbly ask. Referring back to a sales analogy, successful sales reps learn how to detect buying signs and how to ask for the order, but only when the timing is right. Timing is everything. Candidates should do the same thing. A very large and successful company had a policy of never extending an offer to a sales rep candidate that did not specifically ask for the job. Their logic was that if a potential sales rep was reluctant to ask for their own job, they would probably be reluctant asking a prospect for an order. The policy was tempered with the fact that if the candidate asked for the job too early in the process and did not know enough details about the position and expectations, they were probably desperate and willing to jump at anything – hardly the type of person that would be successful over the long-term.
Many people feel awkward in asking for the job (or order). Frame your question as a request. Make it personal. For example, “I am very interested in joining your company, is there anything I can do to help you make the decision?” or “What are the next steps in your hiring process and how and when do you think a decision will be made?” or “I know that you have other candidates that you are considering, how to do stack up and what can I do to address any potential misgivings that you might have?” are all reasonable questions to ask. Note that these questions are addressed to the individual that you are interacting with – not the company. Build personal relationships whenever you can.
So, the bottom line is to know how to ask and when to ask for the job and then ask, but then stop asking! Another classic sales technique that is equally applicable to the interview/job seeking process is to never lose control of the next step in the process. Avoid the dreaded “We will get back in touch with you.” Once that statement is made, you are obligated to patiently wait for their response. The far better approach is to preemptively suggest that you will touch base with them in x days but, of course, they should feel free to contact you before that time. Independent of who has the next step in the process, develop a “heartbeat” strategy to keep your name top-of-mind with as many individuals involved in the process as possible. Simple emails, handwritten notes, or off-hours voicemails covering issues that may be of interest to the individual’s work can be very effective. The goal is to provide useful information about their business (not you) and strengthen your bond with them. Always personalize the heartbeat messages. It is highly likely that individuals will compare notes regarding your response. Never fall into the trap in which you are perceived as reaching out with some generic message. Even if you are attaching an article that may be of interest to several individuals, take the time to customize a brief introductory note. Everyone wants to feel special; treat each person as if they are.
Whatever you do, never threaten a company by attempting to transfer your urgency to them. Comments such as I have other offers or I need to know by x, may result in a quick “no” decision on their part. Always show interest but never appear to be desperate. Remember, your timing may simply not be their timing.