Many candidates worry about the pauses in a search – between when the resume is dropped off and an interview is scheduled, between interviews, between the last interview and an offer decision. How do you know when to check in? It all depends on what you agreed upon at the outset. This is why you want to ask what the employer’s timetable is and with whom exactly you should follow up. That said, if you need to check in more times than you expected to move the search along, by all means check in but focus on deepening your relationship with the other person, not just the job at hand.
Don’t make every communication a check-in about your job search. Turn the tables, and focus on helping your contacts. Give freely. It takes the pressure off of making the perfect pitch (you’re no longer pitching!). Yet, it yields enormous benefits of keeping yourself out there and building a reputation as someone who is helpful and motivated.
Say thank you. Thank them for working on the search;
Give a results update. Tell them what is happening in other areas of your life;
Send an article. You should be reading about their industry and company anyway;
Congratulate. If you hear good news about them or their company, point it out;
Make a referral. You should be checking their open positions to ensure that you stay on top of their needs. If you know someone good, pass that on;
Make a match. If you read a good book, try a good restaurant, etc, pass that on;
Wish holiday greetings or ask about summer vacation plans;
Solve a business problem. As you read about the company or industry, offer an intelligent or creative idea.
When it comes to interviewing and networking, people tend to focus (and fear) the first meeting. But the real benefits (and decisions made) are in the follow-up. A lot of people can get one meeting. Not everyone can build lasting relationships. Take the focus off yourself and you actually improve the odds in your favor.
This post originally appeared in my Executive Careers column on CNBC.com.