enthusiasm vs. desperation

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A reader writes:

I had an interview last week for a writing and editing job in English and Spanish with a state department. During the interview, it had been a couple months since I spoke Spanish, so out of my insecurity, I downplayed my ability. My resume should speak for itself. I have a strong history of jobs in both English and Spanish. They said they would make their decision this week, and I already sent a thank you letter. Would it be inappropriate to send a follow-up email today or tomorrow?

Also, the interview ran long, and there was another Spanish test afterwards. I did fine on the test, but because I felt pressured that I was keeping everyone late, I didn’t take the time or concentrate as I needed to and could have done better. I remember the test verbatim. Can I send my corrected version of the test along with an explanation? Or would that look desperate? I want this job, I feel I am probably the best candidate, I just did not have the best day that day. Would sending these carefully crafted follow-up emails be okay?

Okay, first I have one quibble with your letter (because I’m doing a lot of quibbling lately). It can be dangerous to think that your resume will “speak for itself.” Your resume gets you in the door to the interview — but then it’s on you to make the case for yourself from that point forward. Never assume your resume will do the talking for you, and don’t downplay your skills! I know this is of no help to you for the interview you already had, but keep it mind for the future.

Now, on to your question: Yes, do that follow-up! Enthusiasm and follow-up is never a bad thing, as long as you don’t become stalkerish about it. I love, love, love it when a candidate is really enthusiastic about the position and isn’t afraid to let me see how much he or she wants it. I want to know that the candidate wants this particular job and isn’t going to walk in a few months if something else comes along. Plus, enthusiasm usually carries through to after the candidate is hired, and this is a good thing; I don’t think I’ve ever seen a candidate bubbling with enthusiasm during the hiring process who suddenly became disinterested or apathetic once on the job (of course, enthusiasm alone isn’t enough, but that’s a different topic). Also, when a candidate is enthusiastic, it makes me think he or she “gets” us, that they’re spotting and responding to the things that make us attractive to the right people. (And as a side note, it’s flattering; hiring managers are human, and it’s nice to feel like people want what we’re offering.)

It’s interesting to me how many job seekers worry about looking desperate when they’re really just expressing enthusiasm. It does not look desperate to do any of the following: Send a thank-you note each time you interview (even if there are multiple interviews), follow up with an email or phone call a week after the interview to express your continued interest in the job, follow up if you haven’t heard from the employer by the time they said you would, and/or simply tell the interviewer how much you’d like the job.

So when does enthusiasm cross the line? Calling more than once a week, sending more than one or two unsolicited writing samples or other types of samples of your work, sounding like you’re eager to take any job as opposed to this one in particular, or appearing as if this is the only option you have. (And if you do truly feel desperate, in order to hide it, ask yourself what a candidate who felt confident about having sufficient options but was particularly interested in this position would do.)

{ 2 comments… read them below }

  1. Lisa

    Very well said! I would like to add that applicants calling up the chain and throughout the organization can be a bit frustrating too. Yes, “no” really does mean “no.”

  2. Anonymous

    I understand that HR managers are busy and strapped. However, again, customer service is key. If no means no, say it and you won’t have people calling you to follow up. Most HR people string candidates along and then don’t get it when candidates are sending emails, letters, calling, etc for an answer. Egos are a bad thing people!!!

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