One thing about job seekers and freelancers—they need to follow-up (with employers or editors) and never give up. But after being persistent—making three, four or even five points of contact—and getting no response, perhaps it is time to throw in the towel? Or maybe not?
Tino Chitiga is the founder of Tino Chitiga Coaching. The leadership coach says that during the job search journey, it is imperative for prospective employees to “read the room.” If you’re not able to intuitively assess a situation, Chitiga says to be forthright. “Ask a recruiter what they’re comfortable with.”
While Chitiga has been professionally coaching for about four years (previously working in business development with clients in Fortune 500 companies and later in career development for executive MBA students), she has informally “coached” for most of her career. This casual counsel took the form of asking “deep level questions” as well as “being brought into backroom conversations” with trusted friends and colleagues regarding matters of professional advancement. And Chitiga took these discourses a step further.
“As a Black woman, it was imperative for me to formalize this role [coaching] because I felt like it would bring so much value,” says Chitiga. “I think it’s just been the gift I’ve always had.”
Now, Chitiga is sharing her ‘gift’ with ESSENCE. The leadership coach discusses persistence vs. pestering while job searching, and all of the nuances involved in this conversation: Following up (specifically, when and how often), assessing if you’ve been professionally ghosted and gauging when enough is enough.
What are the biggest pitfalls that you’ve seen with job seekers reaching out to potential employers?
One thing that I feel is a pitfall is not asking the right questions of that employer. For example, ask the hiring manager or recruiter what they’re comfortable with. What is their communication style? What is the communication process? Ask recruiters if they’re open to keeping in touch. And then most importantly ask, when you should expect a response. Should I expect a response in one week, two weeks?
And then most importantly, from a job search perspective, ask if you’ll be notified if the position has been given to another candidate. So that allows you to be able to free yourself from that opportunity and move on to another one.
I think a lot of the time people say, “Should I send two follow-ups, should I send three?” I think the point is to trust your intuition and read the room.
So how would you suggest that one goes about reading the room, considering that oftentimes the communication is one-sided?
I think it’s really hard. I think we can leave a lot to assumptions. I think being forthright and asking about what you need throughout the process is what I would advise. Because I do think that to your point, you have pitched so many times, you’ve worked with a lot of different people, you may have developed a better gut response. So I think it’s really best to position yourself in the best light and ask what the person prefers.
You’ve gone through a first-round interview and sent a thank you note. What is a good number of contacts to make with an employer (receiving no response), before moving on?
I don’t think that there is a distinct number. I think I would anchor it on respecting the boundaries of the employer. The way that you do this is getting information and you are able to ask after that first interview, “How would you like to be contacted and how often?”
That sets up a more neutral and comfortable playing ground for both you, the hiring manager or the recruiter. And I think once you’ve had that first interview and you’ve had the week pass, let’s say they’ve committed to getting back to you after a week, I think it’s very acceptable for you to email after that time has elapsed and ask, “Hey, I would just love to follow up around my candidacy.”
So really, I think the answer would be no more than one or two. So you’ve sent that thank you note after that first conversation, you’ve waited, that week, week and a half that they allotted, now I can follow up. Unfortunately there are tons of candidates in the pipeline depending on the job role and the function. So understand that there are some other conversations that need to be had before they’re getting back to all of the candidates that they’ve talked to at the beginning.
As a job seeker, how do you know if you’re being persistent, or being a pest?
When we talk about being persistent vs being a pest, I would want people to ask themselves, “Where is this urgency coming from?” If the answer is, “I really want this job, I love the company,” then there’s so much more that you can do outside of just following up. So one of the pieces is networking internally.
As yourself, “Who else can I be introduced to who’s outside of this in the interview panel.” So now you have another person you can have conversations with, not only about the role, but about the company at that moment.
I work with clients who are asking companies for feedback, who are asking companies to let them know if their candidacy is still viable there. Sometimes the companies don’t respond. I think that once a company has communicated their communication patterns, you have to respect that and figure out what you need in order to open up your job search, If that’s not the opportunity that’s for you.
How do we go about reaching out and following-up with a friend who is an employer?
I feel throughout your career you should be amassing these coworkers, turned friends.You will have people in your circle who are in the same industry or who can help you get another opportunity. So how do you balance it? I think respecting people’s boundaries and communicating what those boundaries are in that friendship or that relationship, generally.
I do leadership coaching and then I am also a friend, a sister, an auntie. And sometimes those roles can get a little blurry. So I think what I have asked of people is being very intentional about what we’re communicating about and what they need me for at that moment.
Do you think that we are beyond the days of personal notes and sending small tokens of thanks to employers, or is that kind of creepy at this point?
If you were corresponding with a person on a social platform like LinkedIn, then that’s perfectly fine to send a personal note there. I think the sending of gifts or sending handwritten cards, I don’t see that as much. I’m not saying that those are gone, I mean I’m here for all the hand-writers, but I think an email—just a very quick way to get in touch with a person to let them know that you’re grateful for their time—is definitely still appreciated in this climate or industry.
Interview was edited for brevity and clarity.