The follow-up email

I have been getting lots of questions lately about following up on job applications via e-mail, and then last night had the very great pleasure of catching up with MLC alumna Kim Shepard, whose story sheds some light, so I thought I would share.

First of all, when you are jobseeking, following up by e-mail is not annoying
Students worry about sending this e-mail in the first place because they worry about being annoying. Now, I don’t think it is the act of sending the e-mail that can be annoying, but that the form the missive often takes that cane get you off on the wrong foot, so you will not be surprised to hear me say that I think that you want to be very careful about how you word this e-mail. This is, after all, what we are all about as linguists, and what I am all about as the “WALK about the Jobsearch” sociolinguist.

What you do NOT want to say: “I am writing to make sure that you received my application materials” This is of course what you want to say, but there are several reasons why this is problematic. First of all, it is likely that the person who you are writing this message to is not actually the person responsible for reviewing the applications, in which case, they cannot really tell you whether it has been received or not. Second, this positioning adopted here is a bit off. There is a way that this feels a bit demanding, and (speech Act Theory can perhaps tell us more about why) but it feels like you are giving orders, which is not the impression that you are going for at this stage in the jobsearch process.

What my advice has typically been
Present yourself as helpful, as someone who understands the realities of the pressures that this person is under, and who wants to make their life easier. This is after all what you will be doing when you get hired, so start showing that you can anticipate needs now. This is why I usually suggest wording along the lines of: “I am writing to make sure that you have all of the information that you need from me, and to let you know how I may be reached should you require any further information”

What Kim’s story taught me:
Kim has been very actively in jobsearch mode since she graduated from the MLC in August 2012. She has been focusing on a few different industries in New York CIty, and one organization in particular: Time Warner, which she came to realize is an ENORMOUS organization. Interview requests that she has received lately have taught her that people who are receiving applications are INNUNDATED, and also that because of the volume of resumes they are receiving, many good resumes are getting weeded out before the person who is actually doing the hiring even sees the stack, (this can often be HR’s function in supporting a jobsearch within an organization to take a first pass at thinning the pile of received resumes).

So, to make sure her resume actually made it to the person who needed to be seeing it, she did a bit of LinkedIn sleuthing and good old fashioned googling, to figure out the names of editors working on the project that she was applying for, in this case, the This Old House Reader Remodel Contest. Then, she sent an e-mail explaining that she had already submitted her resume through the Time Warner system, but also reattaching her resume “for your consideration.”

In keeping with my performance of helpfulness, I might even suggest the wording “convenience” as in “for your convenience,” but Kim was told that sending this e-mail when she did was the reason that she got called in for the interview! They had been trying to have the job advertisement posted for weeks, and it had only just posted the Friday before, but because of time constraints of the staff, they only had Monday available to conduct interviews. Because she sent that mail on Monday morning, and because she was ready to come in whenever, she was able to snag an interview and she started the job the following week.

So, now Kim is very happily employed by This Old House magazine, using her graphic design and web skills to edit and format online content submitted by viewers. She is also remembering to be a linguist and ACTIVELY listening everyday to that which is going on around her, listening to what is being talked about and identifying the NOISY NOTS, creatively brainstorming about what the organization needs and where the skills that she brings to the table might become the most valuable. Congratulations Kim, and please learn from her example to follow up via e-mail!!!

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