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Fast Pitch: Playing the waiting game with employers

February 21, 2011

So, the hard part’s over, right? You chiseled your resume into a stunning piece de resistance, you got a tip from a buddy’s friend that your dream employer was looking for interns, you wrote a stirring cover letter and applied on – and now, the nail biting begins.

Of course, you know that anything you want this bad won’t come without competition. In all likelihood, there are probably a lot of qualified candidates who have done the same. And the suspense of not knowing if you’ll even be contacted can make hours seem like weeks, and weeks seem like eons.

So what do you do now? Here are a few pointers:

1.,,)    Keep applying. It may seem exhausting to put another spirited effort into an application that just isn’t as exciting as the opportunity you really want. But making other plans isn’t just important for the obvious reasons. It also will help keep your mind from racing and your stomach from doing bellyflops. The more you sit on your hands, the more you’ll be prone to theorizing about why you haven’t heard back yet – and, believe me; most of your theories will be paranoid and entirely wrong.

2.)    Continue to do background research on the employer you applied to. If you can’t keep your mind off the prize for a few days, at least channel that anxiety into something helpful by becoming more familiar with the history of the organization – who founded it, what their background was, what drives its business model and where it has an opportunity to expand. If you already know these things, you can make a list of lingering questions you have about the internship and save them for your interview.

3.)    Plot answers to some of the common tough questions interviewers will ask to determine if a candidate is serious and has clear goals. One way is to switch up roles with a friend. Draft up five “nightmare questions' – ones you think an employer might realistically ask that could expose perceived weaknesses in your background. Then, ask your friend to answer them as if he or she was you. You’ll probably be surprised at what an outside observer can come up with – and even if you can’t find the perfect answer to everything, playing through the role of the interviewer can boost confidence and give you an enhanced sense of control when you go through the real thing.

4.)    DON’T call back in the first week. You’ll hear a lot of advice about how important it is to follow up, and it can be. But if you call too soon, you might scare off a nice baby who’s ready to party. Wait – nevermind, that’s what Trent said in Swingers. But the concept applies here, too. You need to give employers a suitable amount of time to process your information and weigh it against other candidates, bearing in mind that they have jobs to do every day that are probably taking precedent over their intern search. If you don’t give that time, it comes off less like enthusiasm and more like disrespect.

5.) DO contact the employer politely (if they haven’t specified otherwise). If the person reviewing resumes is still actively working on recruiting a candidate and you haven’t been contacted after a couple of weeks, odds aren’t greatly in your favor – unless the employer’s first choice backs out. But it’s also very common for employers to just forget about their internship search when work gets really busy. Instead of asking what happened to YOUR application, send a polite and brief e-mail asking whether the company is still considering intern candidates. The more simple your question, the more likely you’ll receive an answer that can point you toward the next step.

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