Is Mandated Job Search Advice Hurting You?

Ideas for articles can come from anywhere at any time. I was in the middle of writing another post when a comment came in that made me decide to do this one instead. 

Kim wrote to tell us about her post-interview waiting game stress:

“I’m currently a week and a few days into major post interview OCD and after reading here I feel a bit better. My interview did go really well and I REALLY want the job, but my interviewer pretty much told me they couldn’t hire anyone until October (fiscal year and all), so I’m trying to stay patient.”

As we all know, this is one of the hardest parts of the entire job search process. Unfortunately, not all the stress Kim is feeling is coming from waiting to hear back:

“In the meantime, I’ve had a mandatory Unemployment Office job-finding seminar, where the instructor made me super nervous — he was telling us about how we needed to call every company after submitting a resume and even gave us tips on how to get past the receptionist and call other people in the company that might transfer us! It was a bit bizarre, but he was in sales beforehand so I wonder if that was part of his thinking.”

Could be. Coincidentally, I had been listening to a well-known career guru earlier in the day, and although she has a lot of good advice, I was taken aback by how relentlessly aggressive she was telling candidates to be.  She too comes from a sales background. True that in some cases and for some job types, being aggressive will pay off. But unfortunately, in many many other cases, it can annoy and even turn off a potential employer. 

So should I just wait and do nothing?

I am not suggesting you do nothing. Follow-up calls and e-mails are a fine thing. Just not too often or too aggressively. And here as Kim continues, we see one possible reason why:

“So between that talk (BE AGGRESSIVE or they’ll think you don’t really want the job) and my aforementioned OCD, I’ve really been pulling my hair out over whether to contact them or not. But after reading some things here (and remembering that a big question in the interview was whether I am patient), I’ve elected to wait until at least closer to the end of the week.”

Despite the advice from her mandated job search advisor, Kim is choosing an alternate approach that feels right to her. Good going, Kim! All advice – even mine – should be given the “does it feel right for me” test.

Can I assure you that her choice is the right one in every single case? No, of course not. But I think it’s a good choice for her. Kim did something that I wish every job seeker would do…she really listened to what the interviewer said and used her analytic ability to help her decide how to handle things. Connecting the job skill of patience with patience in the post-interview waiting period is a sharp move on her part.  Believe me…employers make that connection too.

No matter what anyone tells you, there is no one-size-fits-all rule about how often you should contact an employer after an interview. As with all other parts of the interview process, you have to assess the employer, company culture, and the job itself before deciding how to proceed. In general, after the initial thank-you note, I recommend waiting about two weeks to give them time to finish the round of interviews and then juggle their schedules to meet and discuss who gets called back. All this takes time, especially since work still needs to get done in between.

Just remember that if it feels wrong – no matter how absolutely sure the person giving you the advice seems – trust your gut. And when it comes to interview follow-ups, more is not always more.


About the author…

Ronnie Ann, founder of Work Coach Cafe, bases her real-world advice on her many years as an organizational consultant where she helped interview and hire people, added to a certificate from NYU in Career Planning & Development and her own adventures as a serial job seeker. She can also be found on her new blog, and on Google+.


  1. Wow. This is extremely upsetting, because there’s no doubt that some people who follow that guy’s advice are going to be pushed out of the running because of it. It’s an absolute travesty that state governments are actually requiring job seekers to take this sort of class in order to receive benefits. I’m horrified.

    • Alison–to be (somewhat) fair to my state, I’m pretty sure the direction of the class tips were at the sole discretion of the individual instructor. I’m certainly hoping other classes under different instructors get better advice. I just had to take this guy with a grain of salt when he mentioned he had been in sales and his wife was currently in marketing. Aggression and competitiveness probably serve you well in that kind of environment, but there were many people there geared more toward administrative and other positions where that sort of behavior would just not be appropriate. It only took me a few conversations with (non-sales) friends to realize that I could safely discount most of what he said. And after I spoke with my mother, who is actually a receptionist and would take a VERY dim view of those kind of shenanigans, I was pretty sure I could just breathe deeply and shrug it off. It’s hard, though, when you’re already vulnerable and these kinds of “insider tips” are given out with such seeming authority. It’s lucky I had smart friends and relatives to talk to and that I found this site with such excellent advice.

      • Still though — if they’re going to require you to take those classes (or actually, even if they’re not), they have a responsibility to ensure they’re not pointing job seekers in the exact wrong direction! Infuriating.

      • Very true. And yes, it was very much required if we’d like to continue receiving a check. And not everyone there was lucky enough to have my resources and background. It is really frustrating. I almost wanted to raise my hand in class and ask, “Um, wouldn’t that kind of behavior make me a giant pest with obvious boundary issues?” But I reserve my snark for private. 😉 I’m not even remotely a natural salesperson, so advice of that nature tends to be anathema to me anyway. It’s so against the way I naturally conduct myself that even if I DID get a job using those tactics, it would probably not be for me. But sometimes it’s hard to tell what’s the anxiety talking and what’s sense.

  2. WOW! Thanks so much! I never thought I’d merit a whole post! Such good advice, too. I’m really glad I stumbled over here (while Googling “How long should I wait to call after an interview”, no less). I’ll take this as a good sign! I’ve shared this website with several of my former co-workers–we were all rather suddenly unemployed when our former company went bankrupt and a lot of us are going through the same things right now. This is a really great, positive, non-scare tactic resource and I’m so pleased I found it.

    • Chris Walker says:

      One of the most important things candidates must do at the end of an interview is to determine and agree on the acceptable method and time frame for follow up. Many interviewers will give you all you need to know, but many others will not. Then it’s up to the candidate to ask. If they say ‘We hope to have a decision by next Wednesday’, you say ‘If I haven’t heard from you by Thursday, may I give you a call or would you prefer an e-mail?’ Never, ever leave an interview without knowing what’s next.

  3. Thanks for a great conversation everyone.

    Alison: Your thoughts and outrage are most welcome. This is a ridiculous Catch 22 for the job seeker. Wish we could send all these state unemployment departments a list of things to stop telling the very people they are supposed to be helping. And of course I’m sure there are good job counselors working there – but no one should be mandated to listen to advice that hasn’t been vetted by someone who knows what they are talking about.

    Kim: I remain a big fan of yours. I wish you much luck!

    Thanks Chris: Great reminder. I kept telling myself to mention something about this while writing the post, but clearly I forgot. Much appreciated.

  4. This is a great post & I enjoyed the responses. II had to attend one of these and just like Kim I left confused and horrified. I was equally horrified when I was told to apply at McDonalds and Rue 22 despite me bringing in jobs that I was more qualified for (even at that office)! I told them I was going to take the State Civil Service Exam that week and I was told “that test is very difficult and right now the state positions are being filled internally so its a waste of time. Just show up to the McDonald’s hiring fare and I will make sure you get a job.” I creid. I actually cried. The whole visit was just that frustrating. I had to shake it off and realize that these people are NOT qualified and I stayed on my course. I passed my state exam and I have an interview this week (via my networking).
    Kim I am rooting for you!!!

  5. Thanks for the kind words, Nikkip! And also thanks for the great comment.

    What a stupid destructive thing that person told you. I am so glad you knew enough to shake it off – after you let out some well-deserved frustration. What gets me so mad is so many people don’t know enough or don’t have the inner resilience any more to ignore crap advice. I wish we could do a post-mandatory advice debriefing fro each and every one of them.

    Good luck on your interview, NikkiP. I wish you all the best finding a great job. You deserve it. Kim too!

  6. Thanks Ronnie! I am so excited and I hope that this is an opportunity to turn things around. I would love to do a job I love that also helps people. I want to be able to give people REAL and USEFUL information 🙂

  7. My fingers are crossed for you and for the people you hopefully will get to help. I look forward to hearing how this all turns out.

  8. Just an update, things actually got bad before they got better because people were angry that I told my networking source about the bad advice I was given (people in that office were called to the carpet on it). Then they tried to block my interview process but all of a sudden I got a call back and lead and reference for a federal job. My source told me about a well paying entry level gig as well as a federal position that he feels I am perfect for. So next week I am hoping that something happens.
    It is sad that people give you this horrible advice and that impacts your life and then have the nerve to be angry at you when they are called out. SMH

    • Thanks for the update, NikkiP. I’m so proud of you for standing up for what’s right. I wish more people would do that. But I know it’s hard. Sadly, what happened to you is why most people stay silent. I love how determined you are. Whoever gets you will be very lucky.

      Good luck on the interview. PLEASE let us know!

      • Thanks Ronnie! I just feel like at this point I have lost too much. When you get in that mental space of “I can’t keep taking a lose because of another person’s ignorance” you start kicking butt and taking names…while keeping it professional of course 🙂

      • I get that, Nikki. There comes a point where standing up for ourselves is the only way through the rabbit hole. You know I’m keeping my fingers crossed for you.

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