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5 Ways Job Seekers Can Keep In Touch With Employers Who Rejected Them

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I’m going to a networking event hosted by an organization I applied to about 1.5 months ago (haven’t heard back, assuming I didn’t get the job, ha!) . Do I mention this if / when I meet people who work with the organization? Not sure the best way to navigate this. I want to ensure that they know I’m open to other opportunities and am generally interested in staying in touch. – Christina

Kudos to Christina for doing several things right that other job seekers overlook. First of all, she’s networking, which is the number one source for timely job openings (a lot of job postings aren’t current or accurate). Secondly, she’s thinking about how she’ll talk about herself as she meets people – we’re all multifaceted, so be selective about what you talk about, to whom and when. Finally, she’s thinking even more specifically about how she’ll talk about her job search – people aren’t mind-readers, and you need to be explicit about the help you need.

The holidays are a great time to network, and chances are you’ll be in Christina’s situation — running into people you previously connected with on your job search. Some people may not be responsive or have even rejected you outright for a job. Here are five best practices for following up specifically with target employers in your job search pipeline:

1 – Continue to follow-up regularly

Attend that networking event. Follow and comment on social media. Stay connected to individuals you met during your research or even from meetings that didn’t lead anywhere specific. A rejection for one opportunity doesn’t necessarily mean rejection for the next opportunity (see three reasons why a well-qualified candidate still doesn’t get the job). The best follow-up keeps you top of mind for the next opportunity (and the next) because circumstances change, and the better fit for you might be another role, another time or another market environment.

2 — Don’t make every point of follow-up about any one job

While Christina did lots of things right, one adjustment to make is to stop assuming she didn’t get the job because she didn’t hear back. No decision is not enough information to presume a No or a Yes. If she’s still interested in that job from six weeks ago, she should continue to try and get an interview for it – until she hears that No.

That doesn’t mean that this particular networking event should be all about that specific job. If there are people you meet at an event that are clearly connected to the very job you want, it makes sense to mention your interest in it since it’s a prime opportunity to get more accurate and updated information about the job. A relevant person may be able to direct you – “oh, that job was filled weeks ago but we haven’t announced it yet”. Or, “we decided not to hire for the one, but there’s another similar one you should look at.” Or, “gee, you would be perfect for that one – let me make sure I get your stuff in front of the right person.”

Don’t harbor any assumptions – positive or negative – about the decision on your current application. Continue to network, and discuss a particular job with people connected to it. Otherwise, keep the conversation open-ended – about your job search overall if people already know you’re looking, or just about getting to know each other as people if you’re meeting for the first time.

3 – Mix up your topics

There is so much to talk about that isn’t about your job search, but still moves the conversation forward. Send holiday wishes – this deepens your rapport. Send congratulations if the person or their company has announced a recent win – this shows you’re thinking about them and that you’re staying on top of the news in your field. Send a status update about something, other thank your job search, that you’re working on – this shows that you’re staying busy and keeping your skills and expertise up-to-date without making the other person feel like you’re only reaching out because you need something.

At a networking event, get the other person talking. It’s a great opportunity to learn more about the company and what the company needs. You may uncover enough information that you can pitch a job for yourself, or at least, know exactly what skills and expertise you have that meet an urgent need for that employer.

4 – Mix up your media

Showing up at a networking event is just one way to keep in touch. You can also email, post on social (yes, you can build genuine relationships on LinkedIn) or mail a holiday card. If you know someone well and they like to text, then text. People have different habits when it comes to keeping in touch, and what’s important for follow-up that works is that you meet other people’s preferences and not your own. You might prefer 1:1 meetings, but other people just don’t have time. You might not be active on LinkedIn, but if you’re trying to develop a relationship with someone who is active on that platform, it could be more expedient to take your communication there – at least with that person.

5 – Aim for clarity – which could be a decision, or something else

In all of your follow-up, look for signs that the relationship is going somewhere or that the person wants you to back off. For an open job, this means getting a decision about whether the role is still available, whether your status has been decided, or if not, what is the next step and schedule you can expect. Until you get that clarity, keep working on that job and other relationships within that company. Keep trying for new leads all this time, since you can’t control when you’ll get that clarity.

If there isn’t a specific job that’s open, look for the quantity and quality of response from people you’re networking with. Do the responses take a long time and are cursory with little or no opening to continue the back and forth? That could be a sign that the person would rather back off – or, it could be a busy time overall and not you specifically. Slow down the communication (every other month instead of week, for example). Focus on other contacts until you’re clearer about the viability of this one.


Employers should stay in your network as long as you are still interested in them

Whether or not you get a job there is not 100% in your control, but the pace, quality and consistency of your follow-up is. Put in the work to stay top of mind and to develop a relationship built on something more than any one job. This keeps you in consideration when potential opportunities do arise, while also fostering a genuine connection that’s sustainable rather than transactional.

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