What's the line between networking and stalking?

Logging off and taking time to live in the real world doesn't hurt, and may even help you
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(MoneyWatch) Ever gone through multiple interview rounds, only to have the position pulled altogether? Talk about a waste of time and effort. It's one thing to be beaten by someone better than you are -- at least you had a chance. It's another to have the company just jerk the position out from under everyone's feet.

But, what if you really want this job, or a job with this company and you think you had a pretty good rapport with the hiring manager? Plus, the hiring manager said she'd really like to have you on board -- but only for the "right" position. Can you continue to pursue it? I received the following email from a career coach who had a client in this situation. It's been one month since he was turned down. She writes:

He wants to plan a trip to their office and just do a "I was in the neighborhood visit " during his holiday break. It is actually about 3,000 miles from his current location. I have tried to discourage him from this, but he is sure it is a good idea. My concern is there is a fine line in today's world between looking interested and being a stalker. I also know companies sometimes say things that let candidates down gently instead of just being honest. He did follow-up after the interview process was over. He called the hiring manager, too. Considering it is the 4th quarter I told him to just sit tight for now. He is not currently unemployed. What are you words of wisdom in this matter?

She's right to be concerned about her client looking stalkerish. People don't happen to just be "in the area" 3,000 miles away. They may be in the area, but they need to have good reasons to be there. For instance, it's okay to try to arrange a lunch or a morning coffee meeting when you're in town for specified business, but it's not okay to fly cross country just to see a hiring manager.

Good: "I'm going to the National Dragon Trainers Convention in Podunkville in December. I'll have a bit of free time in the mornings, as the meetings don't officially start until 10:30. I'd love to meet for coffee and pick your brain about the new Dragon Scale Products your company is making. Is there a morning the second week in December when we could meet for 20-30 minutes?"

Bad: "I'll be in town the whole second week in December. Can I come meet with you? I see you've posted a couple of new positions on your website and I think I'll be perfect for them!"

Even worse: "I'm really interested in working for you and I'd like to come out and talk to you about it again. I'm sure your company can benefit from my skills. What time is better? The second or third week of December?"

In the first situation, you truly are in the neighborhood and you have a real reason for being there. In the second and third, you're either just blatantly pursuing a position or you're obviously coming just to see that hiring manager. That's where "stalker" comes into play.

It's absolutely critical that your reason for being there is a real one. Otherwise, you're likely to fall into a trap, "Oh so you're here visiting your mother? Where does she live?" and then if you don't thoroughly know the neighborhood that you've assigned to your fictitious mother, you may get busted. And, well, that's embarrassing.

The other thing you need to keep in mind when attempting to contact someone you interviewed with, is precisely as the career coach said -- sometimes people try to let you down easy by saying what you "want" to hear, rather than the truth. "I'd love to bring you on board if we had the right position," may be the absolute truth, but it is also highly likely that the hiring manager has no intention of ever hiring you.

Does this mean you cannot continue to connect with someone you've interviewed with? Of course not. You can send an invitation to connect with them on LinkedIn, or follow a Twitter feed. You cannot friend them on Facebook, however. That goes into the stalker category. 

You can send a follow-up email from time to time. You can, on occasion, ask a question or share a link to a news article that is relevant to your shared profession. If you truly will be in the area, you can invite the person to coffee or lunch (you pay!) or you can send a quick note if you're going to a professional conference and check to see if that person will also be attending.

You communication needs to always remain professional. And there needs to be plenty of time between contacts if the person isn't super responsive. So, if you send a fabulous article you found on MoneyWatch today, you cannot send another one tomorrow, or next week, or maybe even not next month. 

Remember, you can't annoy someone into giving you a job. Annoying people makes them want to never see you again, which is the opposite of hiring you.

Have a workplace dilemma? Send your questions to EvilHRLady@gmail.com.