How To Follow Up On Your Job Application (Without Acting Like A Stalker)
People often ask me if I think they should follow up on a job application they made two, three, even four weeks ago.
Usually my first instinct is righteous indignation on their behalf: Screw them! If they don’t have the decency to respond, they don’t deserve you!
Which I realise is actually not entirely helpful.
Maybe there was a technological glitch that sent your carefully crafted resume flying off into a recruitment black hole. Maybe the person responsible for screening applicants accidentally hit ‘delete’ instead of ‘shortlist’.
Maybe you just really, really want this job, and you don’t care if you no-one returns any of your calls – you’re willing to sacrifice your dignity in pursuit of it.
Whatever the reason, I will concede that if an application’s worth making, then it’s worth following up on. Only I beg you: please do it right. I’ve been on the receiving end of countless follow-up campaigns, and there is definitely a right way and a wrong way to go about it.
When I was recruiting, I dealt with a few people who took a downright scary approach to following up on their job application – calling 10 times a day, sending increasingly weird emails – this despite having some very frank conversations with them about their chance of success (i.e. zero).
These cases are the exception though. For most of us, it’d just be great to know how to tread the line between being proactive, and being irritating.
Bump your application to the top of the shortlist (without getting a restraining order taken out against you) by following these guidelines:
TIME IT RIGHT
The majority of employers and recruitment agencies will have an automated reply set up for all job applications, so if you don’t get an email within the first 48 hours, it’s reasonable to check whether your application was actually received.
After that, be guided by the recruiter. If they say they’ll be in touch within two weeks, or after a particular closing date, wait a day or two after that date to get in touch again.
If they don’t indicate any timeframe, I’d recommend you leave it for about two weeks. If the ad specifically states you won’t be contacted at all unless you’re shortlisted (a sorry excuse for candidate care, in my opinion, but anyway), then calling or emailing repeatedly is just going to earn you a black mark against your name. Don’t bother.
EMAIL IS YOUR FRIEND
Generally, busy hiring managers and recruiters prefer email to inbound phone calls – it’s easier to keep track of, and it allows them to follow up during a quieter part of their day, rather than being interrupted constantly.
Your email doesn’t need to be too formal, and certainly not a full replica of your cover letter. Just something along the lines of:
I’m following up on my application for the Financial Accountant vacancy, made on 10/05/15.
I just wanted to reiterate my interest in working with Company X. I think my experience setting up financial reporting processes for Company Y and developing a new team at Company Z sounds like what you’re looking for, and I’d love the opportunity to find out more about the job.
Please give me a call any time on 021 111 111 if you need any more information from me.
BUT SOMETIMES, IT PAYS TO PICK UP THE PHONE
There are a few situations where phone is definitely best:
- If the job is entry-level, you’re likely to be up against a slew of people with similar backgrounds, many with sub-par communication skills. In this case a well-executed phone call can help to differentiate you from the pack.
- If there’s a phone number on the job ad, you can assume the hiring manager or recruiter will welcome phone calls.
- Finally, if you’ve not had any contact after a couple of weeks, and you’ve tried sending an email but still haven’t heard back, it’s definitely worth following up with a call.
- Your call should be quick, friendly and to the point. State the reason you’re calling right away, and be prepared for an on-the-spot phone screen.
USE SOCIAL MEDIA TO YOUR ADVANTAGE
Social media can be a great way to keep your application front of mind and perhaps get you on the shortlist, but it’s all in the way you use it.
Hopefully you’re already following the company’s social pages – perhaps this is how you first heard of the vacancy. If you spot an opportunity to engage with staff on Twitter or LinkedIn, say, then by all means start a conversation, share their posts, or write relevant, thoughtful comments on their blogs. Once you have the makings on of an online relationship, you could mention your job application and ask what the company’s like to work for.
The point is that you’re not blatantly asking anyone to put in a good word or check on the status of your job application – you’re demonstrating that you’re genuinely interested in the company and have something of value to add.
In an ideal world, you’d be kept up to date on the progress of every job application you made. In reality, companies are often so swamped with applicants, that mistakes happen and people slip through the cracks. If you really believe the job’s right for you, then it’s worth following up on. Just be careful to do it right.