The Very Late Follow-Up

I have this issue that’s been nagging at me for a little while. I applied to my dream job in my dream city back in late October, and heard back fairly quickly. The person who would be my superior (PWWBMS) emailed me directly and asked me to complete a (seemingly straightforward, but in reality quite intensive and complex) sample project to test my skills, which I completed and turned in. The PWWBMS wrote back confirming the receipt of the project and said they would be in touch in the next couple of weeks. Spoiler: They didn’t! It has now been over four months and now I am kicking myself for not following up earlier on – maybe a month after PWWBMS’s email. I figured that since they had already acknowledged receiving my work the ball was in their court, and then when one, two, three months went by, that they had already found someone else. But looking back, a part of me wants to follow up with PWWBMS even though it’s been so long because ok yes, I’m a little hurt that I spent a long time (8+ hours!) on the project and would like at least some closure. Is this a good idea? Should I have followed up earlier? Save me from myself, Billfold! — S.

Is four months a long time to wait to do a follow-up? Yes, that is a long time to wait. You should have asked for a timeline on the hiring process when you turned in the sample project so you knew when the hiring decision was going to be made (“Thank you so much for the opportunity—can you give me a timeline on the next steps in the hiring process?”).

That said, there would be no harm in following up now—you worked hard on a project they asked you to do, and the least they could have done was notify you that they went with another candidate (or who knows, maybe they never ended up hiring anyone).

Following up now could also lead to other opportunities. I once applied for an editor job at a print magazine, and as part of the application process, I was asked to put together an entire magazine section, which took me two full days of working non-stop on it. I later learned that I didn’t get the job, but the person in charge of hiring liked many of the ideas I had in the section I put together, and we talked about fleshing out some of them into features. So although I didn’t get the job, I did get some good freelance gigs out of it.

It’s not too late—the worst thing that could happen is that you confirm that you didn’t get the job, or receive no response. Just be brief and to the point in your followup: That you applied for a position four months ago, that the last thing you did was turn in a project, and that you were just interested in knowing the status of the position.


Photo: AForestFrolic


11 Comments / Post A Comment

A part of me feels like they needed that one particular “sample” project done. You did it and they purposefully ended contact cause they no longer needed your services.

Or am I just being to pessimistic?

jquick (#3,730)

@TheDoctorsCompanion That thought occurred to me too.

swankystreet (#6,091)

@TheDoctorsCompanion LW here. You’re not being pessimistic at all! It was a graphic design project, and designers are especially vulnerable to those sort of shady practices. I thought about the possibility of that happening, but the sample projects seemed like past prompts that they were rehashing for the purposes of the test. I also follow their social media presence rather obsessively and haven’t found my work bogarted by them (yet?!?) Who knows though – the projects were still opened ended enough that it definitely isn’t out of the realm of possibility.

“I figured that since they had already acknowledged receiving my work the ball was in their court”

I had this mentality too when I was new to adulthood and the work force. But in the real world you should fight for the job you want and not worry about bothering them. Don’t just assume everything will work itself out. If you’re the person who decides between two close candidates and one of them is respectfully contacting you every now and then to inquire if the position is filled and you haven’t heard from the other candidate in 3 weeks, to whom will you more likely send the job offer? Young Me wouldn’t have believed that your career holds in the balance over something dumb like that but it happens all the time.

swankystreet (#6,091)

@various percentages of sheep I’m the LW, and totally agree with you! I’m actually usually really good about following up with people, and probably would have done the same with these guys, but there was something in the tone of the initial email requesting the sample work (“We recognize this process requires a commitment of time and effort on your part. We do not ask this lightly.”) that made me assume that they would get back swiftly and without wasting time, even if that answer was a no. Also, in my experience, when a potential employer is interested in you, they get back quickly and efficiently, with minimal (if any) prompting. That’s been the case with all of the jobs I’ve held and am holding now. Another slightly more shameful reason I didn’t follow up as soon as I should have was because I was really, really confident in the work I did for them. So I didn’t feel the need to press them immediately for an answer. Does that make sense even? (I’m looking at the files now, and it’s maybe not as jaw droppingly good as I remember it, but it’s still a good representation of my strengths and identity as a designer, considering I only had less than a week to do it, while juggling a full workload at my job). And then the holiday season happened, and I thought maybe I should wait until after people returned to their regular schedules, and by then it seemed too late. None of these are valid excuses, I know! But it is what it is, learned my lesson, c’est la vie, etc etc.

jquick (#3,730)

Wonder what his/her Dream City is.

swankystreet (#6,091)

@jquick LW here, it’s San Francisco (:/) everyone, feel free to use this space to dissuade me against living here!

Susan Tidebeck (#5,691)

@swankystreet Because it’s foggy every day and people never call you back when they say they will?

annev17 (#4,822)

I think it’s too late to follow up about that particular job, but maybe you can reach out to let them know you really enjoyed talking to them and you’d appreciate if they’d keep you in mind when a new vacancy comes up? Can’t hurt to stay in touch.

Panamanda (#2,713)

I’ll throw in my 2-cents here. I had a similar thing happen when I made it several rounds in for a great position. They said they would let me know about the next stage by a certain date. That stage came and went, and I gave them an extra week before a polite follow-up email. It took them over a month to respond to that email, and then it was an email that essentially said “we think you’re a great fit, you’re a finalist, the hiring process is taking longer than we expected, sit tight.” I started back-channeling with some people I knew and discovered that while the hiring process was ongoing the head of the company found out one of their key people was considering a move across the country. So essentially the hiring process was taking longer because I didn’t get the initial position I interviewed for, but they were now considering me for another position. I like @annev17’s suggestion- follow up about the company in general, mentioning the position you applied for, but phrasing it so that you’re open to other positions.

Marge (#4,715)

Here’s what I would do if it were me and it’s definitely too late to follow up: add your contacts at that organization to your ’email list’ and if you don’t have one of those now is a great time to start one! That way they will be privy to more passive forms of communication from you, like the mass bcc’s to let all your friends know about the great infographic you made that was picked up by or to let them know you’ve updated your portfolio page with some schnazzy new freelance projects. If you really missed the boat on the job then at least give them relevant reasons to stay in touch with you and continue to be looped in on how your work is growing.

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