calling to follow up after applying for a job

A reader writes:

Thanks in advance for your help. I have been applying online for jobs with no success. I never hear back although I am sure to be qualified for the positions I am applying for.

My question is: Is it poor etiquette to call the local company and speak to a manager regarding the position or should I wait for a recruiter to call me? I don’t want to jeopardize my chances of an interview by being presumptuous.

It’s fine to call — once. What you don’t want to do is harass them, but one phone call a few days or a week after you submit your application is fine. It might sound something like this: “I submitted my application for your __ position last week, and I just wanted to make sure my materials were received. I also want to reiterate my interest in the position; I think it might be a great match, and I’d love to talk with you about it when you’re ready to begin scheduling interviews.”

Something like that — short and sweet — is fine. What’s not fine is something that some job-hunting guides advise: saying that you’re calling “to schedule an interview.” You don’t get to decide to schedule the interview; they do, and it’s presumptuous, not “good salesmanship” or whatever those books claim, to pretend otherwise. Someone out there is also advising people to say things like that in their cover letter, which is leading to lots of closing lines like, “I will call you in a week to schedule a time to talk.” Ick.

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{ 76 comments… read them below }

  1. TheLabRat*

    Thanks AAM. I now have to reconsider every cover letter I’ve ever written ever. That is just hilariously depressing.

  2. Ask a Manager*

    Oh no! This is no way for me to spread holiday cheer. It’s probably worth remembering that I analyze this stuff neurotically and form opinions on every little aspect of it, whereas most people reviewing resumes probably have something better to do with their time than parse every last word like that.

  3. TheLabRat*

    Oh don’t trip on it. No worries. =)

    I just continue to find it amusing that your wonderful, amazing blog continues to tell me about how a lot of the folks giving advice out there are giving not so great advice, at best.

    In all honesty, I’m not surprised. ANd I’m just procrastinating on winter break homework so take anything I say with a grain of panic and barrel of salt.

  4. Sweet*

    So many students with whom I work are hesitant about following up because they don’t want to sound pushy, but I like your suggestion for how to follow up appropriately.
    I would also suggest that if you say you’re going to follow up in your cover letter, do what you said you would do. I’ve heard a few complaints from our recruiters that applicants say they will call within a week, and only about 2% actually do.
    Happy holidays!!

  5. Rachel - I Hate HR*

    I HATE when they say they’re calling to schedule an interview. Then sometimes they follow it up with “I’m available to come in today if you want.” Nope, no thanks.

  6. Just another HR lady...*

    I can honestly say that I have never interviewed a candidate simply because they called to “follow up”. I interview those candidates who get screened into our recruitment process because their application/resume meets the qualifications posted.

    And from the perspective of an extremely busy HR lady…we receive at least 50-100 resumes per day. I would say that at least 10% or more of these people call to “follow up”. Add that up and that makes a minimum of 25-35 calls per week taking anywhere from 5-30 minutes each, that’s a lot of time for a 1-person HR dept.

    We have an automatic response set up in our system so candidates know that we have received their resume, and the automatic response “nicely says” that we don’t respond to general calls.

  7. TheLabRat*

    Wouldn’t that be a different situation though? I mean your office politely informs job seekers that they do not to to call to follow up and that you have received there materials. In that instance, doesn’t calling basically violate the instructions they have been given by the prospective employer?

  8. Anonymous*

    I must agree with another HR lady. I have never interviewed someone who called to “follow up.” Not because they called to follow up, but because they were screened out for some reason – hence why they never heard back regarding an interview. Let me reiterate what I tell my friends who become frustrated with job searches – my job is to fill a position with the best candidate. Why wouldn’t I want to succeed? If you’re not hearing back, perhaps there’s a reason…a typo in your cover letter? A plagurized cover letter? No cover letter at all? These are the top three mistakes I see job seekers make. If you must insist on calling to follow up, you should call the person you submitted the resume to – HR, and not the hiring manager.

    1. JudgeHolden*

      Anonymous, don’t you think it’s rude that you just flat out ignore a person instead of nicely rejecting them? A simple “Thanks, but no thanks” would do, don’t you think?

      1. J.*

        A simple response makes a big difference to a job hunter’s motivation.

        Employers who ignore applications are not professional and maybe working there would not have been a good idea anyway.

        1. No name*

          I agree with you guys it is un professional and makes the company as a whole look bad alot of buisness down by my place shut down because of that, and so the people who were looking to get a job of course told other people bad things about the buisness and people just refused to shop there anymore granted they were just ma and pa shops anyway.

  9. Just another HR lady...*

    Hi LabRat…our automatic response set-up was our solution to try and cut down on the general calls. But yes, those who call now after hearing/seeing that message are pushing their luck. I also quite enjoy the people who ask if I received their resume when they already received a message that we got their resume. And bonus points to the people that leave a message asking what jobs are available when they have already been directed to check our website for available jobs. Fun! :-)

  10. Anonymous*

    I was actually told that the reason I got my last interview (and current job) was because I had called them. They were hiring for several openings, and when the HR woman went to call for interviews, she had my name written on a piece of paper from a message I had left. Boom… I went to the top of the stack.

  11. Jack*

    My advice is to skip HR altogether and get in touch with a hiring manager. Use LinkedIn or a Company Directory or a contact inside to get the name of the person to talk to.

    HR will NOT help you. Go over their heads.

  12. Kim*

    Thank you for the advice on the simple followup. I tried it this morning, and the agency was really impressed that I had called to see if they had received my application and resume and whether or not they would be scheduling interviews soon. We'll see what happens, but so far so good!

  13. Anonymous*

    We're trying to fill a sales position, and have received a lot of resumes. Only 10% were worth even calling for an interview. We've seen a lot of spelling errors, grammar mistakes, cut-and-paste, etc. The worst is those that are overly wordy for no reason, with lots of catch phrases.

    We're a small company, with no HR department, so we are dealing with the process ourselves. Generally it's going very well, but we have one person who has called 5 times trying to get in for an interview, even telling me on one call that I'd be stupid to not interview him. We had no plans to call him for an interview, and DEFINITELY won't now! How on earth do we handle this guy?!?!

  14. Luke*

    We use to be able to walk into or onto a job site and pick up a job by actually asking the manager or any supervisor around the place?… This Human Resources “holier than thou (and besides my cousin is getting this job)” makes me sick.

    No wonder so many people resort to robbing banks.

    1. Anonymous*

      I am in HR and I can tell you that a well written cover letter doesn’t hurt, but it’s the resume that is looked at carefully. As a decision maker I accept the “set phrases” in a cover letter – realizing that creative writing is not something you want or it is necessary in a cover letter. A simple and cordial cover letter (gramatically correct, no spelling errors) can tell you that the person can string two sentences together. If it is well composed, well formatted, clean, neat (you would be surprised) and has essential details – I understand that the applicant understands business correspondence, and that’s important.

      1. Arthur*

        I realize this is an old thread but if possible could i send my resume to you and see how it looks? I’ve been wanting to get some feedback on it but haven’t had anyone take a look yet. I have experience but am having a tough time getting hired. Thanks.

        1. somebodyelse*

          Ha ha. Comments like this are why I still hold out hope that I can get a job somewhere. Really? I put in 2-3 hours a day sending out resumes and calling companies, and it’s rare that I get an answer, even with all that legwork. Asking a random HR person in a comment to check out your resume? Surefire way to get yourself hired.
          (Protip: leaving comments on LinkedIn articles. Bonus points if it’s on an unrelated subject and you include lots of spelling errors.)

  15. JAnver*

    a am undergraduated of a none related course in the hotel industry in the philiphines i am only a skilled person experience stepped inn into a hotel and a restaurant as a helper cook into a 4star hotel once but, im seeking for a best into a same related job but i realized that i wish didn’t left my former job now im jobless so frustrating at home my application has been submitted awhile a week and the reciever told me that all the resume that be collected must reviews every friday but still i wait and wait until a month the question is my experience enough or fitted for a 5 star hotel or my education or culinary must to fill my head aches if i need to follow up my application
    or not im afraid to fail and reject me, and what is the job awaits me if im rejected…

    1. Anonymous*

      You will not get any jobs with writing like that, sort that out and you may have a better chance…

  16. Maggie*

    Thanks exactly what I was looking for but I have something else to ask I want to call them for my status of the application, but also a quick fix on my phone number. The phone number I put down has turned unavailable. It was a sudden problem that came up and I don’t wish to miss a potential job interview. I do not want to sound like I am scheduling an interview but just to change my contact info. How should I tell them?

  17. to maggie*

    maggie… is that the only source you can be reached? what about email ?

    i suggest you just give them a call and nicely tell them that you can be reached at this number [your new number]..after having a brief important talk with them..

  18. Jen*

    I submitted an application last Wednesday and actually wrote a cover letter (I never did write one before). I was careful not to let them know about the whole scheduling, and I changed the wording around to say if they agree with my credentials they could reach me at ___ home and ___ cell…I don’t know if that was a good idea, but I also don’t know if I should call or email them to ask about the application.

  19. howdoyou...*

    How do you get your first job, everyone wants experience but how do you get experience if no one will hire you because you have no experience?? any HR people want to chime in here?

      1. Anonymous*

        I’ve tried that myself because I’m having that same problem, but most of the reps at my department of labor won’t even accept personal non work related exp. someone fresh out of highschool who can’t afford college really has no better chance than a drop out these days. looking back, that time getting a diploma seeems like a waste now for all the good it does.

  20. Joe*

    I had been doing contract work at a company with the hopes of getting hired on by the company for a little less than a year. I was told that my position had been opened up and was “highly encouraged to apply”. I submitted my application about a week ago but was wondering about follow-up. I know who my direct report would be (and likely to have the most valuable input in getting the job) and the phone number but is it better to contact the HR manager, whose number I don’t have?

  21. Anonymous*

    thanks for your post. Like TheLabRat, I’ve gotta rethink my cover letters because I followed the “I’ll call in a week to discuss scheduling an interview etc” advice. I did think that was a little pushy. thanks again

  22. Erika*

    I have always been told that it is good to keep calling back because when you do, it shows that you are interested in the job, and the harder you work for your job, the more likely you are to to a better job than another applicant. I didn’t get hired one time because someone told me that I never followed up, and they were considering hiring me… Do you agree?
    Also if you get an interview, be sure to follow up with a thank you note to that person. Way better than a phone call.. sounding so nagging..

  23. Grace*

    This is soooo helpful. I’m a high schoo student trying to find a job, so I don’t have a lot of experience in applying. It makes sense though (to follow up after applying but not be so pushy)

  24. Anonymous*

    Thanks. This was very helpful. TheLabRat, you have opened my eyes and I will no longer listen to the advice I received from my undergrad career adviser. Years ago, I actually tried that “when can I schedule an interview with you” line. My friend who worked for the company overheard and nearly spit out her coffee; I never heard back about an interview. I was young and doing as instructed, now looking back…. wow, that really does sound terrible.

  25. Another Job Seeker*

    Thanks, this was extremely helpful. I made my first follow-up call today – always wanted to, but was never quite sure what to say.

    A note to some (in my opinion) overly harsh HR people posting: Please remember that these people are probably desperate for a job, and likely have applications out to thirty different companies. So, try to cut them a little slack when they’re trying their best. After all, you never know if/when your company will fold and you’ll be in their position.

    1. Alfie*


      I hear from a lot of people who do hiring that they discard resumes for reasons that aren’t what I call fair:
      People who have more qualifications than necessary; people who have certain ethnic names; too many females/males in the department already

      There are a lot of reasons to follow up and differentiate yourself. In a lot of entry level jobs, most people have the skill set to DO thet job or at least learn how to; it comes down to making a good impression.

  26. Job Seeker*

    So I applied for a new job two days ago with a cover letter and resume that has been read over and critiqued by my boss (CFO of my current job). He has always been the one who said I need to continue my career in another company because my BA degree in International Business can not help me progress where I am at. I was wondering if I should do a follow up call later next week to the hiring manager – since I know the name – and see if all of my material has been recieved. I really want this new job, because of the greater opportunities I will have, I just don’t want to bug the crap out of them by calling a week after my application has been submitted. Any encouragement would be greatful!!

      1. Adam*

        You’re wrong. It depends entirely on the preference of manager. They may appreciate the follow-up, or they may not. It also depends on the type of position. For instance, with sales-type positions, you are much more likely to find managers seeking aggressive job seekers. If you can’t aggressively sell yourself, how can you sell anything else?

        For the job seeker, “Human Resources” (aka “Personnel”) should be avoided and circumvented whenever possible. They are not there to help you.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Everything in hiring depends on the preferences of the manager. Since a job seeker can’t know from the outside what that particular manager’s preferences are, it’s logical to go with what the majority of managers prefer and don’t find annoying.

        2. Alfie*

          The other question is do you have an in?
          If you know the guy through your current boss, or if your boss knows him, I would say take the risk.

          Enough can never be said about networking. If the hiring manager knows your boss and has a good opinion of him, he or she will more than likely give you the time of day so long as you are direct, polite and get to the point. Use the phone call only to emphasize interest and NOT to push your agenda.
          Gage their responses carefully as well – you’ll figure out pretty quickly if you’re taing too much time.

  27. Anonymous*

    Geez. I am not sure if this is helpful or not. I am so sick of the job application process I could puke. More and more it seems to be who you know and not what you know. Somebody please give some kids a chance! Resumes and cover letters do not necessarily reflect the type of employee you will be, helpful but not the end all.

    1. Sunshine*

      I’ve gotten every job I’ve ever had without knowing anyone at the company. An awesome resume and cover letter go a long way and they’re your best shot at getting an interview.

  28. Tyler L*

    I was working with a manager who was head of a pretty prestigious department (within the field) and I noticed he was reading applications and filing quite a bit into the “No” bin. I asked him why these aren’t meeting his needs. He basically said “Unless they have something impressive on their experience [like 5 years of related experience] and they aren’t ambitious enough to call to follow up on their application, I don’t want to interview them” and pointed out how the job descriptions describes wanting ambitious people.

  29. Jeremy*

    I had to leave my PH.D program unexpected and I had to get a job. Don’t ask, I hate thinking about it. Anyway, I gave my resume to my adviser who said it was pretty good.

    Thinking that I had a pretty decent resume, I sent that out to a lot of technical jobs thinking, I had the skills, the experience and the education! This job hunting thing should be a snap, I’ll get a job in no time.

    2 months later, I never hear a thing back. By chance, I think about a friend of mine who might have a position open. So I go to him and he looks at my resume and says it’s just awful.

    My PH.D adviser who looks at hundreds of resumes, a day/month (I don’t remember anymore) said my resume looked good. This guy said my resume looked terrible.

    I wasn’t getting any calls back so I went with this guy. I changed it up and went to the career center and changed it even more with their help.

    Job Hunting is a difficult task endofitself.

    I do follow-up but I usually just send an email, or fax. I try to call as a last resort … if only to hear “Hey, buddy we’re not interested in you!” It brings me some amount of closure, so I can move on and bring my full attention to the next job.

    Heck, I even send messages out on facebook company pages. Although, I think that’s the most ineffective way to do it but it’s something.

    I finally found a job in Academia but I would love to move into industry or just something different from Academia.

    Can anybody tell me is there a way to research a company beyond the use of internet search engines? And can you send a cold-resume to a director without the job being listed on the company website?

    I hear that’s called an active job search rather then just doing a passive job search is the best thing you can do for a job hunt.

  30. Anonymous*

    hey , i am passed out graduate of 2012 started to search jobs . i have send resume and cover letters for more company for past two months but did not get any call or interview schedules till now .

    is it easy to search a job with basic engineering knowledge ???
    want to improve any skill sets ???
    i totally lost my hope in searching a job …

  31. Mister nice guy*

    What if I went to the job site to follow up on an application, im unsure if I should go or just give them a call

  32. jerry*

    Hi fellow Brothers sisters. I would be gratefull if someone can pass down some knowledge ..and please give me your ear.

    Ok so i been sending out a grip of apps, and i havnt been getting no call backs Not even a “Thank you but no thank you” …My resume is not to fancy and not to shaggy its just right in my eyes since i got tips from so many templates online and from people.
    im guessing its my work history I dont know if employers call your past jobs to see if you were a good worker or whatever,But my last job i got terminated believe it or not because of my character my boss was jealous of the fact all the girls in the store got along iwth me more then him so he was waiting for any little thing to fire me . and yes he did fire me for no reason. he had never wrote me up i was always on time good worker costumers loved me they would call just to get there service through me.So im wondering if the hiring managers do follow up with past recent jobs because i know if they do call my last job my dickhead boss is going to throw salt on my job hunting game. So my question to you how do i approach this ?

    1. Jamie*

      Employers don’t call references before speaking with you, typically not until your in final running as a candidate.

      I would go through this site and read up on cover letters – a good cover letter can make all the difference in the world.

      Also, I’m assuming you’re writing this way because it’s a blog comment and you’re dashing it off – but it’s worth noting that polished and professional sentence structure is critical in a cover letter and resume. Make sure you proof everything, maybe have someone go over it to make sure your communication skills are up to par in your resume/cover letters.

  33. jerry*

    Yes thats good advice … and a note to my grammer yes i was just “DASHING away lol” .. im not the best grammer guy in the buisness but im willing to learn and i commend you on the reply . I will try all you stated and see what magic i can come up with ..

  34. Anonymous*

    I was just wondering how you go about finding a job when you have been out of the working world for almost 10 years. I have handed a butt load of resumes but have not heard back from any of the potential adbocates. I’ve tried calling just to see how the process was going. Everyone just says they are still in the process of looking at the resumes and they would call me if they see fit. I just want the opportunity in working for someone.

  35. Rafael Billings*

    Thank you very much for posting this. It was very helpful for me. Today i landed an interview using your guidelines. You are immensely appreciated.

    To anyone who is job hunting that is reading this: do not be discouraged by negative comments. Try using these guidelines, and see what happens. It worked for me. I almost let those negative HR comments discourage me but I didn’t. =)

  36. Jack*

    I happen to stumble upon this page and it turned to be very informative. Just reading this and it has given me a lot to think about. I am looking for my first job and so far its been discouraging, but after reading some posts i feel more optimistic about my search for a job! (:

  37. jamie*

    Im writting from my phone so excuse the spelling n grammar. I am in a situation where i recently graduated from a tech school and i am applying to mostly hospitals, some doc offices but not many. I live in Philly where the hospitals are these big huge Universitys and such and id like to know how do u follow up in my situation. Like this one position, I am fully qualified and I put an app online and the website tells me the position is still open. So do I call the hospital and ask for the HR dept? Because i no they got my app and resume because their site says so. And I no the position is open still because it also says so. The one thing im not sure of is if their operators will even put me thru to HR or just tell me to go on the website or if they are interested i will hear from them. If anyone can give any advice it would be appretiated. Thanks guys for all of the above posts also!

  38. Mel*

    Is “following” up a good idea for big chain stores that one applies for online. Its so frustrating sitting around and waiting when the phone NEVER rings. Its like the application goes off into some black hole…sorry got side tracked but like I was saying its no skills needed, no resume to worry has some mistake, so should I call or just let them forget to call me?

    1. Mr. P*

      Walk in, meet the hiring manager. Ask for a business card or a good number you can reach them at, and call in once in a while. They’ll take note you called and since you’ve met they’ll remember you easier.

  39. Alex*

    Hi. I applied to a retail job on Monday and I was wondering if calling about it today(Wednesday ) is to pushy. I have two years experience in the job that they want to fill and they even told me that they just lost two people so they are wicked short staffed.

  40. Hugo*

    I actually called a job I sent an online application today. She didn’t seem to happy about me calling. I told her I submitted and application, and she asked when I was interviewed , and I said I hadn’t been interviewed, yet. Then she just said it takes them time to review applications, and hung up on me. Needless to say, I don’t think I will be getting that job :(. Now I am a little wary about calling them, not wanting to upset them.

  41. Tara*

    I just submitted an application for a basically unskilled labor job, something I had done in the past. Unfortunately, it is the kind of job where a resume hardly seems appropriate (residential maid service), so I did not take a resume with me, assuming the application alone would be sufficient.

    However, the application was the most vague one I have ever seen, and nowhere was there a place to mention the experience I had had in the past. It has been approximately 15 years since I had a job like that, through most of which I have been self-employed in the wedding industry. Again, I am not applying for a job in rocket science, but it would have been nice to be able to fill out more than 2 positions on the application so that something cleaning-related would show up.

    Since I have already (apparently) botched the application, should I call and try to make some mention of the former experience I do have? This goes directly to the franchise owner, not through an HR department, by the way.

  42. giving up*

    I have been applying for jobs for the last 2years now. I have yet to receive at least ONE call for an interview. The company sends me these emails saying they’ve found a better candidate. How do they expect anyone to get a job if they say that? Isn’t that why they have training so anyone not qualified for the job can be? I think trying to land these jobs are a crock of **** it’s like you have to keep kissing their ass. I need a job! And also, can anyone help me with writing a resume? I’m really fed up with this and when you call they give you attitude.

  43. Beck*


    I am an attorney and I applied online for a job with the federal government, Dept. of the Interior. Since it’s the federal government there’s not much choice but to submit the application in the form they want. I am highly qualified for this job, really, I just got done litigating a case on the exact same topic that the job description listed. There are no typos in my resume, cover letter or writing sample. I know I’m qualified enough for an interview but I’m worried I’ll get cut based on some random screening software or something. I used key words in both my resume and cover letter but that just seem so arbitrary, this is my dream job and I don’t want to lose it to a technicality. If they interview me but don’t hire me, fine, I can accept that. But I just want to do something to make sure my application doesn’t get tossed in the trash in a bulk screening cut.

    I got in touch with a friend I want to law school with who (I thought) works in a related government agency and asked if she knew anyone where I had applied and if she did, could she maybe make a call on my behalf. It turns out she got laid off a while ago too and she also applied for the position!!! So much for that…

    I’m also worried because the job posting closed on Oct. 1, the same day the government shut down. Needless to say, it was agonizing watching c-span all day just thinking, “please open the government so that someone can review my application.” So finally the government opened up again. I called today and left a short voicemail with the contact person listed on the posting, saying I just wanted to make sure she got all of my information. I’ve read enough articles and blogs to know not to follow up with another phone call, but I’m starting to wonder if that one phone call was too much?

    Or can anyone possibly assure me that my resume and cover letter will get in front of a person and not be tossed out by a machine? Both are clear, concise, and tailored to the job description.

    Anyway, the wait is agonizing, just posting here actually helps, it’s something to do and a good way to vent.

    And to all you HR people, please understand how scary it is to apply for jobs these days where apparently one typo in a cover letter or resume can disqualify even the most highly qualified applicant. We’re all so stressed over these technicalities that it’s very difficult to convey our true personality and skill set when we are focused on buzzwords and such. I’m a stickler for proofreading, formatting, etc., I know that presentation counts, but I’m also human and I can’t help that! It seems that the focus has drifted from applying for a job to applying for an interview, and that’s new territory for most of us, I have no idea how to apply for an interview.

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