A reader writes:
After applying to a job, how long do companies usually wait before reviewing resumes to set up interviews? Twelve days ago, I applied to a job that fits me perfectly. It’s what I been doing throughout my career. I feel, based on my background, I should be called for an interview. If I don’t hear from them this week, should I call personnel or call the person looking to fill the position?
How long it takes for companies to set up interviews varies dramatically from company to company. Some employers do interviews on a rolling basis, as strong applications come in. Others have a set application period of, say, three to four weeks (sometimes longer) and don’t contact anyone until that period is over. And others are just really slow — they should be contacting people within a few weeks but because of disorganization, inefficiency, and so forth don’t contact candidates for months.
In other words, there’s no real answer.
You also need to keep in mind that this is a very overcrowded job market and most employers are getting 200, 300, even more applications for every position they advertise. I once got 600 applications for one slot. So you want to keep in mind that statements like “based on my background, I should be called for an interview” don’t really work in this context. There might be 50 candidates who have the right qualifications for the position. There might be 100. They’re not going to call all of them, so this means that lots of candidates who are indeed qualified aren’t going to be contacted. They’re going to pick the ones who they judge to be the absolute top tier — relative to the rest of the candidate pool, which is impossible for you to evaluate from the outside. (An awesome cover letter can often help here.)
As for following up … don’t call. They have your application. They know you’re interested. You will annoy them if you call. (Read this.) What you want to do is to stand out by being a highly qualified candidate with a great resume and a compelling cover letter, not by irritating them with an unnecessary phone call. (Now, will you occasionally hear from someone who called to follow up on their application and got an interview out of it? Sure, and if you want to screen for disorganized employers where the squeakiest wheel gets the grease, that’s one way to do it. But this will not work with good employers, and you will far, far more often annoy the employer and go to the bottom of their pile.)
If you absolutely must follow up in some way, send a polite email reiterating your strong interest in the job and saying that you’d love to talk when they’re ready to begin scheduling interviews. But that’s it.
It’s not the most encouraging response, I realize — it’s nicer to be told that there are things that you can do to gain some control in the process. But this is the reality of how it works.