Job Interview Challenge No. 1: What to Do When the Trail Goes Cold

The job hunt is full of many frustrating time-delays. Even if you blast through the basic frustrations such as finding the right job, writing a compelling resume and crafting an effective cover letter, you can still get hung up on someone else’s schedule: the busy HR manager.

I experienced this myself in the course of my career. I went through a great set of interviews and received positive feedback from the position’s supervisor and the HR manager. We even discussed salary ranges, which is usually a good sign that an offer is near. Right before contacting my references, the trail went cold. I waited patiently and then sent each contact one email a week apart from each other. Each time I heard nothing back, until my second, polite follow-up email. And since that interaction? It’s still a cold trail.

The time between calls was very educational. I got to reconsider whether or not I wanted the position and pursued another job that might be a better fit. Most importantly, it taught me to always exercise patience, especially when HR managers are involved.

It may not seem like it to those on the job hunt, but HR managers are normal people. They have overflowing inboxes and a mile-long to do list. They have to deal with hurdles and hoops that job seekers can’t imagine. So it’s always better to approach a delay with a polite, formal tone that encourages a response rather than nagging or engaging in destructive behavior that could jeopardize your job offer.

If you’re ever in this position, here are three email templates you can use to follow up at reasonable intervals to stay on the HR manager’s radar:

Follow-Up Template #1: First Contact

Hello HR Manager,

I hope you’ve enjoyed a productive week!

I thought I’d check in to make sure that you have received everything you need from me– please know I would be delighted to answer any questions you have about my references or resume. I look forward to hearing from you!

Sincerely,

Job Candidate

 

Follow-Up Template #2: Follow-Up to the Follow Up

Hello HR Manager,

I hope you’re doing well!

I thought I’d follow up on our conversation from last week and see if you had an update you could share. I’m still very much interested in working with you and your team, and I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Sincerely,

Job Candidate

Follow-Up Template #3: Final, Professional Farewell

 

Hello HR Manager,

I wanted to check in on our conversation from [Last Contact Date] regarding [Company’s Open Position].

I’m in the process of considering other employment opportunities, and it would be very helpful to know if you have decided to go in another direction or are experiencing an internal delay. I very much appreciate your transparency either way and will respectfully stop following up if that is the case.

Sincerely,

Job Candidate

Finally, here are a few tips that could put you on the callback list:

  • Allow at least a full business week to pass between emails to make sure that the HR manager isn’t just backlogged and working through her inbox.
  • Write generic email titles that include the term “Quick Question.” This sends the message that the receiver can read and respond to the email quickly, appealing to her desire to clear her inbox quickly.
  • Never use all-caps or aggressive punctuation that would reveal impatience or unprofessionalism.
  • When in doubt, assume the result is out of your control. Perhaps they cannot reveal that the salary requirements have changed, the position moved across the country or their best employee applied for the job at the last minute. If you assume the best, it will be easier to maintain a professional and positive outlook in emails.
  • If they never respond to any email, ask yourself if that’s really a company that you want to work for. Professionalism is a two-way street.

Have you ever had a job trail go cold? How did you respond?