The squeaky wheel gets the job

By Anne Fisher, contributor

FORTUNE -- If you're looking for a job, it's not exactly news that the time between an interview -- even one that goes swimmingly -- and an offer seems like an eternity these days.

"After six weeks or so of hearing nothing, most finalists for a given position will just assume the company must have hired someone else," observes Tim Schoonover, chairman of Nashville-based talent management firm OI Partners.

But that's not necessarily so. Hiring decisions take longer than they used to, Schoonover says, because many employers are seeing a bigger-than-usual pool of available talent and "seem to be waiting for the ideal person to walk through the door, a 'home run'. Other hiring managers may be holding off on a decision because they're expecting new business that hasn't materialized yet."

Believe it or not, all this hemming and hawing can work in a candidate's favor, but only if he or she is willing to keep plugging away at influencing the powers that be.

"People who are the most persistent are demonstrating leadership," Schoonover says. "That's one reason why they finally get offers."

A few of the items on his checklist of to-do's:

  • Follow up within 24 hours, with a note, a letter, or an email, to each person who has a say in whether you get hired. Make each one different: Anything resembling a form letter is a kiss of death.
  • Keep contacting the people who interviewed you "every 7 to 12 days," Schoonover says.
  • "Find reasons to reach out to the hiring person", he adds, perhaps by sending a link to an article that touches on a topic you discussed: "The idea is to reinforce your potential value as part of the team."
  • Follow up by phone. "A well-placed follow-up phone call is vital," says Schoonover. "If they say they're still interviewing, ask when it would be appropriate to call back."
  • Set yourself apart by writing something for a trade pub or speaking at a conference. Then make sure the hiring manager knows about it, and how it's relevant to the job you want.

Once you've done all of the above, "you can ask if they're still considering you as a candidate," Schoonover says. After so much, um, leadership on your part, the least that they can do is give you a straight answer. After all, even a "no" beats another six weeks of silence. To top of page