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Sunday, September 21, 2008

following up when you have a friend on the inside

A reader writes:

I have been out of the corporate world for two years. I have been a stay-at-home-mom and have only done some (very) PT work, here and there. But recently I have found myself in a position to where I need to return to work full-time.

One of my best friends works for a large and prestigious hospital in our town, in their marketing department. He needs a partner, as the last person who worked as his partner has just quit. It would be my ideal job. I’m qualified for the position, and the hospital has wonderful benefits. He recommended me to the hiring manager, who really likes him and respects his input. The manager said that I needed to follow protocol and put an application through the company’s website. It took a long time for the job opening to post on the website, but when it did, I applied that very morning. I also sent a very well-written and articulate cover letter. My friend immediately informed the hiring manager that I had applied, who in turn, called down to HR and specifically requested my application and resume. Later he summoned my friend into his office and showed him that my resume was sitting on his desk. It sounded pretty promising, and so I anticipated a phone call to set up a first interview.

That was almost two weeks ago, and I have heard nothing. My friend asked the hiring manager today when he would be getting a new partner, as he is inundated with work. The hiring manager replied that he was sorry, and had “lots of irons in the fire,” but asked him, “Have you talked to your friend?” My friend, not wishing to make me sound desperate, said that we had spoken once about the position and that I was still very interested in it. And that was about the extent of the conversation. Why hasn’t the manager called me, if he is asking my friend about me?

Here’s my dilemma: I have no idea how to effectively follow-up with this. It’s kind of a weird situation. HR makes it to where there is absolutely no way to contact their department. They send you a confirmation e-mail stating that they will be in touch should they require an interview. Would finding a way to contact them sound pushy? I’m thinking so, but I have no idea. And I have never met the hiring manager, so it would be kind of odd to try and get in touch with him, right? Should I just wait and see if he contacts me? I’m unsure because while I feel reasonably confident that I will get an interview, I have no way of knowing what other applicants have applied – who have more marketing experience and who haven’t been staying at home, like I have, for the past two years.

I just don’t know how to proceed. I would like to keep the thought of me fresh in his mind, but I don’t want to appear pushy or high maintenance before I even get an interview. But I really, really, really want this job. And I know many other people are clamoring for it. Can you please advise me on what is the right thing to do – and also, what might be going on to where I’m not being contacted? I would greatly appreciate it!

I think your friend is your best tool here -- he works there, he has recommended you, and he has an understandable personal interest in getting the job filled. Put him to work on your behalf -- he needs to push for hiring to move forward (this is legitimate, since he is stuck doing extra work while the position is vacant) and ideally he'd imply that he's concerned about losing good candidates, particularly you, the longer things take.

However, on top of that, you can absolutely reach out to the people involved in hiring on your own. Trust me, candidates do this all the time. Simply follow up to reiterate your strong interest in the position and ask what their timeline for interviewing is likely to be. It's not pushy.

Also, keep in mind that the hiring process often takes longer than a candidate would like, for all sorts of reasons. Nerve-wracking, yes, but don't read too much into it. Good luck!

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

You have nothing to lose and everything to gain by following up. Worst case is the HR person thinks you are pushy and you don't get the job. You don't have a job now, so that is no worse.

My husband recently got turned down for a job he applied for. The rejection letter said internal restructuring meant they had decided to delay the recruitment, but he was welcome to reapply when the position was readvertised. He was about to be unemployed, so he phoned and said that he would be interested in a short-term contract to fill the gap until the restructuring was complete, if that would help them.

They gave him a six-month contract, which may turn in to a fulltime job at a more senior level than the original job. If he hadn't phoned, he would be unemployed. So phone.

Rachel - I Hate HR said...

Have you friend ask. When the candidates continue to call me I get really annoyed. Having the internal candidate ask is less annoying because I can just put the blame on them.

On a side note: Are you sure you want to work with a friend? Do you realize that working together may mean the end of your friendship?

Ask a Manager said...

Rachel -- SUCH a good point. I wish I had thought to mention it. Working with a friend really can end the friendship, even if you're sure it won't. I've seen people go into that situation with all sorts of convincing-sounding reasons about why it won't affect things, and a year later, the friendship is ruined. So don't tell yourself that it won't happen to you (accept that you can't predict it) and be sure the trade-off is worth it to you.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for all who responded.

I'm really torn right now. Some people say that I should contact the hiring manager, some say that I shouldn't. The thing is that I have never met him and wouldn't be aware of who he was at all if it wasn't for my friend on the inside. I wouldn't have had a hiring manager to contact, because my only dealing with the company would've been through the HR automated response on the website. If they handle their applicants like that, it makes me feel like they don't want to be bothered.

Anyway, I'm really torn. Is there a right answer for this? I just want to do the right thing.

I have zero qualms about working for my friend. Even though we would be partners, we would be working in totally different areas of town and not spending all day together. I realize the worst situation could happen and that working together could be the demise of our friendship, but I guess it's a chance I'm willing to take. Thanks for the input, though...it's something I hadn't thought that much about.