(Last Updated On: 01/06/2011)

Why You Should Write Follow-Up Letters

Have you ever been to a basketball game where your team blew a wide-open layup that could have won the game?

If you have, then you understand the frustration that comes from seeing someone mishandle a simple play with the possibility of far-reaching consequences.

This exasperating experience is exactly the way that I feel about job seekers who overlook one simple step that has the potential to impact their futures: following up with employers.

Whether the situation is an interview, a career fair, or a networking event, following up with an employer is an incredibly simple step that conveys professionalism and enthusiasm for the opportunity. Furthermore, it is a process that only takes a few short moments of your time, but it may help to keep your name at the forefront of the recruiter’s mind – something that is crucial in today’s competitive job market.

I have a great quote from an employer that I share with students during class presentations. This recruiter met a student at a large career fair and shared her exceptional follow-up note with our staff members later, saying:

“I met over 75 students at this event, and she is the only one who followed up in this fashion..What amazes me is that this should be standard practice for anyone interested in a job, yet only a few students actually do it. I keep looking for reasons why so many students don’t give this kind of effort in this process, and I think it is simply that many are not motivated to actually find a job. The ones who REALLY want to work stand out like a thumb on a hand!”

Wow, what a lasting impact!

With one simple stroke, this candidate not only made herself stand out, but she left the employer with the impression that all of the OTHER candidates were less interested in the position (since they failed to take similar steps).

I highly recommend you take some time to incorporate this habit into your job search. Here are some tips to get you started:

Set Deadlines for Yourself

After an interview or networking event, set yourself a deadline or reminder to follow up with the individual(s) that you met. You can also give yourself follow-up deadlines to check back with companies to which you have already applied. Of course, you must be sure to collect the appropriate contact information during the meeting in order to accomplish this goal!

Jog Their Memory

It is a good idea to include the date and place where you met with the person, as well as some of the key points of the conversation. For example, you might begin by saying:

Dear Mr. Smith,

We met two weeks ago at the annual Young Professionals of New York networking event, and I recall speaking to you about the marketing position that will soon become available with your company, ACME Enterprises

This note could go on to also reiterate your key selling points and your enthusiasm for the opportunity, whether that is a specific job opening or merely the establishment of a professional relationship. Refreshing the person’s memory is particularly important if it has been some time since you last spoke.

Be Professional

For crying out loud, please make sure that your message is free of any spelling or grammatical errors, and use a professional format for your note. If your note starts off by saying

hey john – nice to meet u last friday at the falcons game

then you have accomplished exactly the OPPOSITE of your goal, which is to leave a lasting, positive impression that encourages the other person to continue the relationship.

Take the time to do it right – you want to show the other person that you are a good communicator, you value the relationship, and that you take both them and yourself seriously as professionals!

Just Do It

The most important thing about following up? Just do it!

Don’t put it off until you forget or it becomes too late. Within 24-48 hours, send the person you met a pleasant note (1-2 paragraphs at most) thanking them for their time and incorporating the steps discussed above.

As I mentioned earlier, a quick follow-up is like making the wide-open layup – it demonstrates focused, professional execution, and it might make just enough of a difference to keep you in the game!

To see the sample follow up note mentioned above, check out page 35 of The University of Georgia’s Career Guide.

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Andrew Crain
Andrew Crain is a career development consultant at The University of Georgia. He works with business students and conducts trainings on LinkedIn, Personal Branding, Prezi, and Job Search Strategies. Contact Andrew at andrewcr85 at gmail.com, connect on LinkedIn or visit his Prezi portfolio to learn more. The views represented here belong to Andrew Crain and do not represent The University of Georgia or the UGA Career Center. He wrote career advice articles for CareerThoughts.com. Check his profile here.