The one thing you need to do when applying for a job

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All the preparation in the world can sometimes feel insufficient during the hiring process, particularly if you’ve been out of work for a long time.

On the other hand, some small things can make a big difference between having a resume looked at seriously, or simply overlooked.

Case in point: A survey released by staffing firm Accountemps finds that 100 percent — yes, 100 percent — of human resources managers say job candidates should follow up with them after submitting a resume. So, if you wonder if you’re being a pest by following up, you’re not. And this wasn’t a small sample group; the responses were from more than 300 managers at U.S. firms with 20 or more workers.

Why following up is key

Why is this needed? “There is a risk that you get lost in the tidal wave of resumes and applications that companies get,” says workplace expert John Challenger, CEO of Challenger, Gray and Christmas. “So, you do have to work at differentiating yourself and making yourself stand out.” He also notes that for large firms, computers (or algorithms) are doing much of the initial resume sorting. Here’s where you can get a human to come to the rescue.

HR managers’ preferred method of follow-up contact is email, cited by 64 percent of the hiring managers. After that, 21 percent said a phone call is preferred. Surprisingly, 14 percent said following up in person is the way to go. Just 1 percent said social media is best.

How long should you wait to follow up?

So we’ve established that you should follow up. But when is the ideal time to reach out to them? According to the survey findings:

  • 29 percent said to contact the hiring manager within a week.
  • 36 percent said to follow up between one and two weeks.
  • 25 percent said between two and three weeks.
  • 10 percent said three weeks or longer.

Challenger says it’s a good idea to ask the recruiter for the name of the person that you’d be reporting to (your boss). He says that’s often the person who ultimately makes the hiring decision. That’s also a way to potentially move the process along.

Land that job: Bonus tips on following up

There are some basic things to consider when following up. So, how do you even begin the process? Start online. Look on LinkedIn for contact information for a hiring manager.

When you find them and reach out, be respectful of their time and to be as professional as possible. “Let them know that you are very interested to talk with them. That’s a way to show extra effort,” Challenger says.

If you’re writing an email, be succinct. If making contact over the phone or in person, ask about the process and whether there’s been any movement or progress. Ask whether there are any questions to answer or additional information to provide. If the answer is yes, that’s a signal that you have an opportunity to continue the conversation. If the answer is no, then take a hint and consider politely wrapping it up for now.

Avoid bringing up salary and benefits unless the company rep does first. It should be obvious when the appropriate time does come to discuss money.

Maintaining an upbeat attitude while respecting the process guided by your prospective new employer are key. That requires patience. But if you land the job, it will be worth it. Good luck!

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Written by
Mark Hamrick
Washington Bureau Chief
Mark Hamrick is Washington Bureau Chief for Bankrate. He is a national award-winning business and financial news journalist.