how long should I wait for a company to contact me for an interview?

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. 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.

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{ 142 comments… read them below }

      1. Anonymous*

        They’re not going to call of them, so this means that lots of candidates who are indeed qualified aren’t going to be contacted.

        That’s the only one I noticed…

        1. devrie*

          I know we think anyone who writes on the web should be a perfect editor, but even the most highly experienced writer has occasional typos. That’s why normal publications hire editors. That said, there is no editor, so if you’re asking why the writer wasn’t flawless, it’s because she’s probably human.

    1. Wilton Businessman*

      That’s what I immediately thought. Maybe your resume isn’t as good as you think it is.

      1. annyomous*

        You know whats funny, there is suppose to fair and equal opportunity meaning that everyone who applies has a fair chance at the job opportunity, meaning that if they really followed this law, in theory they would call all 600 candidates and interview each one, then decided who really would be the best fit for the job… As “ask a manager” stated there is only so much you call say about a person through a cover letter and resume and these days you can even pay someone to write them for you….which was does that say about work ethic? In addition, Because so many people flood the market at this time, we are treated like a commodity and when a employer does get a good employee they are treated poorly and standards are set so high for raises or benefits that finding a good job and the right fit seemly more like a joke than what was promised in college and high school.

        1. The Real Anonymous*

          annyomous (sic)
          You’re an idiot.
          Fair and equal opportunity?
          Yes, there are laws requiring that discrimination cannot be based on race, creed, gender or any other protected class.
          That doesn’t mean that anyone is required to give a fair chance to someone who’s written their resume in crayon on the back of a Denny’s placemat, is otherwise not qualified for the position, or is even remarkably weak compared to the competition.

  1. Tara*

    Man…If I had a nickel for every job that based on my experience I “fit perfectly” and had no response on…..well I would have way too many nickels. As much as you want to hear back, keep applying, eventually you will hear something from someone and then you can obsess over response from the interview…..

  2. KayDay*

    For following up–if (and only if) you did not receive some sort of a confirmation of some sort, go ahead and email (email, not a phone call) them to double check the status of your applications. At smaller companies, especially without an online resume submission program, resumes can and do get lost and in-boxes fill up. (This happened to me!) On the other end of the spectrum, large companies with many dedicated recruiters, may be more open to having you follow up as well. (I did this once and at least was able to learn that they had already started interviewing, and I wasn’t on the list. At least I got closure).

    1. Karl*

      Agreed — a friend referred a candidate but the email got caught in the spam filter. If I hadn’t followed up with our office manager and IT director, we’d never have known he’d applied.

    2. annyomous*

      I disagree about following up and even have been advised not to follow up because from my work experience if they are interested in you they will call you… I’ve even had managers purpose avoid those calls and get annoyed by those calls.

  3. Katie*

    I’ve had a couple of friends submit resumes electronically, not to hear anything back for several months (one was over a year), before the employer randomly stumbled across their resume in their database and contacted them to see if they were interested in a completely different position from what they originally applied for. Particularly if you’ve applied online with no other connection to the company, you may never hear back or you may hear back several months from now about something else entirely. Submitting your resume–no matter how strong it is–these days seems to be a total crap shoot.

    1. April B*

      This is how I ended up with my current job. After submitting my resume, and 3 scheduled phone screens were missed by the recruiter, I was contacted out of the blue. A different recruiter found my resume.

      I was hired for the same job I applied to in the beginning. My boss was not happy to learn she could have skipped the 3 months and hired me earlier.

  4. Anonymous*

    I’m all about waiting. I hate bothering prospective employers. They know you’re interested, if you’re qualified in their eyes, you’ll get a call…job searching is such a crap shoot. If you have the credentials, you’ll probably get called for an interview. It took an employer over 1 month to get back to me and I got the job. Although, that job didn’t work out so be wary…I also had an employer call me after TWO months of applying. I already had a job at that point! I know people who have been contacted the day they applied as well, so it really just depends!

  5. anth*

    I have always been frustrated with orgs that SEEM like they are going to be really good about communication to applicants (we’ve received your resume and will begin the process xx-xx), but then you never hear from them again. Yes, I realize I was rejected, but could I get a thanks but no thanks email?

    I also never know if it’s annoying if I write back to that first email (Hi guys, thanks for keeping me updated, I’m super interested and wicked awesome!) or if they expect me to. So I don’t…

  6. Curious*

    Keep applying OP, wait for no one. Expect nothing. I don’t even think about an application any more after it is out of the door. To stop me dwelling too long on my interview performance, I immediately go home and seek out 3 more jobs to apply for and apply for at least one. But I am unemployed so maybe I have a different perspective.

    1. Jamie*

      Excellent advice – I’m the same way. Apply, follow the steps, and then put it out of your mind until/if you hear back.

      Don’t dwell or it will make you crazy. Yet another way job hunting parallels dating.

    2. Josh S*

      I like that–use the energy from a great interview to go seek out 3 more places to apply and apply for at least one of them. I like it a lot!

  7. Anonymous*

    I used to get obsessive every time I applied for a job. It was all I could think about. I’d count the days, hours, minutes that went by without a call or an email, checking my phone constantly and making sure it was within arm’s reach. I’d get so emotionally invested in something I had absolutely no control over. Of course I thought I’d be perfect for any of the jobs that I applied for. “Well, they’re the ones losing out for not choosing me! Hmph!”

    One day I decided to stop being so obsessive. I adopted the attitude of, “if it happens, it happens. If not, just move on.” And it’s helped tremendously.

    Besides, like AaM said, there is no one universal “standard” when it comes to recruiting practices. Every organization is different. Some organizations are kind enough to include information on what their recruiting cycle looks like (ie. they clearly spell out that they do not look at resumes until AFTER the posting closes, and give approximate timelines for how long each stage in the process will take). Granted, they may not follow those timelines exactly, but at least you know what you’re getting into.

  8. Scott Woode*

    To stop myself from obsessing I went out and got myself a job temping (because companies, for some reason unbeknownst to me, would rather pay an agency to fill an opening indefinitely than to go through the hiring process). I would go to work in the morning, come back and write 2 cover letters for one of the many jobs I would receive via countless mailing lists. Then I would throw on my PJs and watch some Buffy reruns. What I learned through this process is that good things really do come to those that wait. The temp opportunity I was working unexpectedly turned into full-time employment, no job application/cover letter required.

    That experience won’t happen to everyone, but I will say that having a routine made it a lot easier to cope with the uncertainty of the job market right now. Even when the agency didn’t have work for me, I kept myself on a schedule so I’d have something to take my mind off the whole process.

    Keep on truckin’, OP! With every application you send out, you cast a wider net and it’s one more chance you have to get yourself a job. We’re rooting for you!

    1. Jamie*

      “(because companies, for some reason unbeknownst to me, would rather pay an agency to fill an opening indefinitely than to go through the hiring process).”

      It’s actually more cost effective in the long run a lot of times.

      Even when a company does their own hiring process, having everyone start their first couple of weeks through a temp agency makes a lot of sense. You’re paying the overhead for a little bit, but you save a ton of time and money if it’s immediately apparent that the hire isn’t a good fit. Some people interview a whole lot better than they perform.

      Some states allow people to file for unemployment immediately – which makes the whole trial by temp agency worth the cost.

      If it’s communicated upfront that it’s a permanent position, and the paperwork will be done after an evaluation upon completion of the two week trial, it’s great for both parties.

      I went through this myself, and I liked knowing that after those two weeks if it wasn’t a good fit for me I could decline and there would be no bridge burning – evaluation for bad fit worked both ways.

      1. Long Time Admin*

        I temped for a long time, and there was always that carrot “this could lead to a permanent position”. Never happened. The largest employer in our city hires temp workers by the hundreds, and when the people get close to the stated deadline for permanent hire, the company changes the job description ever-so-slightly, making it a “new” job, and their time starts over.

        And this company is considered ethical. Bah, humbug!

        1. Jamie*

          I agree! I temped for a long time, too – and learned quickly that if it was a temp to perm through the agency to get a firm date for the decision to be made. If this date passed and they were waffling, I considered that I had fulfilled my contract and no guilt about moving on.

          I did end up getting a “permanent” position through this – and had other offers which I declined – so it does happen. But the bait and switch happens a lot more – I don’t know why they can’t just request a long term temp rather than messing with people’s minds like that.

          I put permanent in quotes because there’s no such thing as a permanent job except parenthood :). It’s just short had for working directly for the company and not an agency.

          But that’s totally different than a company doing the hiring process directly – the screening, the interviews, etc. and hiring you for a full time direct position, but asking you to do the first couple of weeks on a temp agencies payroll as a trial. As long as everyone understands upfront and agreements are kept it’s a good way to go.

  9. Eric*

    Can I ask you to take a year long moratorium on questions about how long should I wait for a company to call me back?

    Also, 12 days is nothing. NOTHING. That’s a freaking short amount of time.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I’m going to have shirts printed up that say “it’s probably legal, and don’t make that follow-up call.” And then we can all wear them and recognize each other when in public!

        1. Bob G*

          I would suggest a “WWAAM DO?”(what would ask a manager do?) bracelet as well…wear it to interviews like a superhero cape… :)

  10. NDR*

    I have waited so long to hear back, that I actually have forgotten what position I was being contacted about. That is actually true about the position I currently hold. They called to ask if I was “still interested” in X position, and I had to reflect before I could answer.

    My biggest lesson from this, aside from almighty patience, is that you really need to print out a copy of the job ad/description when you apply, because sometimes it isn’t still up by the time you are contacted about it.

    1. Anonymous*

      Keep a spreadsheet, or e-mail. Something searchable. Because who wants to flip thru all that paper. Print to pdf, save. Next! Really wonderful because I’ve had the same thing. Months and then ok we are finally starting on the process now.

    2. littlemoose*

      Agreed on keeping a spreadsheet. It took me a year and a half to find a job in my field, and I applied for well over 100 jobs. Organizing the details in a searchable format was really helpful.

      1. JustanIdea*

        Better yet – use OneNote. You can copy/paste the job description, and copy/paste your reply email. You can also attach a copy of the resume you sent them (if you use different ones for each opportunity).

        When you hear back in six months (and the job posting is no longer available) you have an exact copy, and what you replied with. Very helpful when they ask for salary requirements, specific questions, etc.

        Lastly – create a new Notebook and you can copy/paste all the research you do before the interview (salary, company info, news clippings, etc). This way if you interview with the same company six months down the road, the heavy lifting you did for the first interview, can be used for the second interview.

  11. Suzanne*

    This one is hard for me as a mid-50s aged person. When I was first entering the work world, it was drummed into me by my parents and every career counselor I spoke with that follow up was critical to finding a position. Never, never, never send a resume which is not followed by a phone call a week or so later. Never, ever. I know the world has changed, but it’s really hard for me to send off an application and then do nothing.
    I know the online application systems are here to stay, but I think they are not really working well for anyone in their current form, and I sincerely hope some “think outside the box” technogenius somewhere comes up with a better way.

  12. Berte*

    If you do an email follow-up make sure that you give all the pertinent info about the position: title, date posted, position #, etc.

    1. Diane*

      And if you’re really eager social security #, bank routing number, social media passwords . . .

      Disclaimer: Don’t do that.

  13. Anonymous*

    I’ve come to the conclusion that 75% of the time, unless you have an “in” with the company, you aren’t going to get an interview, period. Is it pessimistic? Yes. Is it true? Maybe. Therefore, if your friend from elementary school submitted your resume for you, do call him or her. Otherwise, move on.
    Also, I’m beginning to gather some of those job postings placed by recruiters and temp agencies on job boards are complete fabrications.

  14. YALM*

    There’s no universal answer to this. So much depends on how the organization handles hiring. Do all of the resumes go to HR/recruiting where they’re screened, and then some get to the hiring manager? Do they come in chunks or as they arrive? If the resume is stuck in HR, go ahead, bug HR. (Just kidding, and of course, you have no way of knowing.) If the resume is sitting on my desk, please don’t bug me. Please. I beg you. I know you’re getting impatient. So am I. I have a headcount to fill, and until I do, the work is piling up. I want to fill this slot and move on to other tasks.

    Yep, the ones who bug me go to the bottom of the pile. I keep every resume I review. For forever. And I keep all of my notes about every resume I review and every candidate I talk with. Including whether or not you annoyed me.

    True story. Had an opening several years ago. Had one candidate who drove me nuts with constant mails about her status. Had two good candidates. Hired one. When he left for personal reasons, we re-advertised the position. The candidate who drove me nuts popped back up. I told HR no. Emphatically. We hired my #2 from the first round. She’s working out just fine.

    I read the stories from people who landed jobs by being persistent with a potential employer, so I can’t say it doesn’t work sometimes. But for me and for most of the managers I know, it’s not helpful. A couple of weeks is not a long time to go without hearing.

  15. Anon*

    For what it’s worth, I wouldn’t have gotten my current job if I hadn’t called to follow up (months later, to ask if a particular situation that had just cropped up was something that precluded me from being considered, so I could let my job-searching SO know that this employer and therefore city were off the table). As it happened, they had “lost”/never seen my resume (sent via email, to an individual person), were interested once I re-sent it and they saw it, and subsequently invited me for an interview. I thought I was being smart and polite by not calling and harassing them and just applying to other jobs, but I would have saved myself a lot of stress if I had called in the first place. That’s why I’m reticent to advise that people not call–I know sometimes it’s the only thing that works.

      1. Anon*

        For what it’s worth, this experience came after I got an internship offer (in a tight market) after calling to confirm receipt of my application (this and the situation described above happened within a span of around 3 years or so). The receptionist couldn’t confirm it directly so she just connected me to the head honcho; we talked for around 5 minutes and he offered me the internship. My own anecdotal experience doesn’t suggest a 100:1 ratio at all. Maybe it varies by field? This is also a field where email is not reliably answered–very analog.

  16. Tara*

    Ohhhhh brilliance on my part…..instead of spending time thinking about the position and the response, take your time to creat an excel spreadsheet. Include in it the date you applied, the position, any other pertinent information, then put a follow up date column so you know when to follow, and then an interview date column, then a thank you note column, and a contact info column, and and when to follow up from the interview column……………errrr, maybe you could just forget it. If they call, they call…..

  17. Joey*

    As an employer I hate unsolicited follow ups. What can you tell me that I don’t already know? The only place I know where persistence is welcome is staffing companies. Contact them at the right time and you might get that temp job theyre trying to fill today or tomorrow.

  18. Emily*

    Seconding Joey. My org is very small. I’m one of four employees. Aside from internships, we rarely have an open position, so we don’t have a dedicated hiring staffer. Hiring is something I do on the side, on top of my actual position. I post a job ad, sort them into a separate folder as they arrive (with a confirmation of receipt to the applicant), and maybe once a week I set aside time to go through them and sort them into yes/no/maybe. I print out the “yes” resumes and give them to my boss, who tells me to set up interviews with the ones she likes from that pile, which could be some, all, or none. (“Maybes” are typically revisited weeks later, if none of the “yes” applicants have worked out and we aren’t getting any new applications.) Getting phone calls all day long when I’m trying to do my “real” job not only annoys me, but it doesn’t demonstrate that you understand how a small non-profit works, how heavy individual workloads tend to be, how many hats each employee typically wears, etc. It also makes me think you might end up being a pushy coworker who will nag me to prioritize your projects when I need to be focusing on my own, because as Joey said: you’re not calling to tell me anything you haven’t already told me in your resume and cover letter (and if you are, then this rant doesn’t apply, but there better be a good reason for the information not being originally included, as opposed to it being an obvious ploy to gain an excuse to call). You’re essentially calling to say, “Pay attention to me right now because I want you to!” which is not the attitude of an employee who would thrive here. Good way to get yourself in the Maybe or No pile when you might have previously been a Yes.

      1. KayDay*

        I should also add: see my caveat above. My application was missed for my current job, so I politely followed up via an email to the original address after about three weeks.

  19. Anonymous*

    At my company applicants are contacted for interviews (or rejections) 4 to 6 weeks after the closing date of the job position. That seems like forever in I-need-a-job land, I know. But that’s as fast as the system works here.

  20. AG*

    The answer to a question like this is “it depends.” I had a job where the manager *only* interviewed people who called to follow up because to him it showed commitment to getting the job.

    As far as how long it takes to hear back, we’ve got an administrative support position in our office where the resume submission deadline was 2 months ago and we’re just now calling people. Between the holiday and the two project deadlines sandwiching it, our hiring manager just didn’t have time to screen and conduct the interviews. It didn’t help that HR designated the position as lower priority than other open positions in our department (and the fact that it was a unionized job they had filled with a temp who made half as much for over 6 months.)

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I had a job where the manager *only* interviewed people who called to follow up because to him it showed commitment to getting the job.

      And what about his own commitment to finding the best qualified candidate for the job? This guy was an ass. And I bet he was an ass in ways other than this one. Admit it!

      1. AG*

        Oh, you better believe it! Of course we’re talking about a movie theater I worked at in High School!

  21. Anonymous*

    Here in NYC, I’ve received 200 resumes in 1 day for a position I put an ad up for. It’s been up for about 1 week, and I have about 600 total. I currently have about over 100 resumes in my inbox that are currently unread. and 3/4 of the read ones were just a quick scan – no more than 5 seconds.

    due to my other daily duties, I don’t have time to spend all day reading resumes. So, for those who send resumes to me, it’s more a chance of luck that I’d read them. They have to come in at the at right time. If the subject line or the email address doesn’t appeal to me, I skip it over. If there’s a link I have to click, most likely I’ll skip it too. If it’s a cookie cutter resume/ Cover letter, skipped.

    If you follow up without reattaching your resume, I’ll have no idea who you are and chances are I didn’t read your resume either.

    Btw – AAM – maybe you can comment on this, how do you deal with overwhelming number of responses to a job ad. do you handle it the same way as I?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I actually take at least a quick look at every single application (meaning possibly as little as 20-30 seconds in some cases) — I don’t want to risk not seeing the perfect candidate. But you can certainly do quick no’s for anyone without a cover letter or with a super generic cover letter.

      1. Anonymous*

        only slightly on topic (and only because I’m too lazy to email you), in a future blog update, can you post your favorite sites to post job ads? – for examples: which jobsites do you find the most successful in reaching a good candidate pool etc..

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I think it really varies based on what you’re hiring for. For instance, I hire for a lot of nonprofit jobs, so I’m a big fan of and Bridgestar. But if I’m hiring for, say, a communications job, I’ll also go to niche communications sites. If it’s a campaign job, I’ll go to Roll Call and other political sites. For mid or senior level jobs, I highly recommend finding the niche sites that those industries congregate at.

          1. Anonymous*

            What about entry level administrative assistant type
            roles? Craigslist provided me with crappy resumes

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Craigslist will flood you with unqualified applicants — stay far away!

              For admin jobs, think about the profile of who you’re looking for. Would you ideally hire a career admin who has a ton of experience, or would a really organized recent grad be well-suited to what you want? For the former, advertise in your local paper. If the latter might work well, send your listing to local college career and alumni offices. Basically, think about where your ideal candidate might be looking, and advertise there.

    2. JT*

      I don’t have hiring experience like that, but it seems to me you’re doing a huge disservice to your organization if you don’t at least look at every resume, to say nothing of the ethics of asking people to spend time applying and not actually looking at what they send.

      With a process like that, make it as easy as possible for yourself. Let’s say it’s 600 resumes. Spend half a minute each one. That’s one solid day, sure. But hiring is a huge investment in your company.

      Some things you could do to make sure the process is fast are:

      Setting up a dedicated email box for them and ignoring them till you’re ready. Then print them all (or have a lower-level staff person print the), and look at them on paper, sorting them into two piles. Fast.

      Another thing would be to get an intern interested in HR and have them pre-vet the resume so you “only” have 100 to look at. Or a paid temp who could handle it all – logging applicants into a spreadsheet, ranking them by a few criteria you have, giving you 20 or 50 or 100 to actually read, and contacting all the rest to say “no.” That’s a few days of work that is very easily time-bounded so easy to hire for.

      Write more explicit job descriptions or requirements stating if someone does not have X do not apply (some still will).

      One last thing: if it’s really a job anyone can do, then reduce applications in another way – perhaps by reducing the time window in which they can apply.

        1. Joey*

          I’ve taken a chance on some people who weren’t quite ideal. Sometimes because i think I’m being too picky and sometimes because the person was so impressive I felt they could easily overcome their deficiencies. I just think no matter how diligent you are you’re never going to bat .1000 so why not take a calculated chance here and there. Getting the ideal person may be the goal, but sometimes ideal isn’t realisitic or getting that person in a reasonable amount of time isn’t realistic.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Yeah, you’re never going to bat .1000 — I totally agree with that! But that’s no reason not to review all candidates and try to get the best match (which I suspect you do), as opposed to only looking at the first 20 candidates or other nonsense.

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                Uh oh. I don’t know anything about sports or how baseball stats work, so I just quotes Joey and assumed it made sense :) I thought that meant a perfect record.

        1. Jamie*

          Speaking of bad emails – when I was culling through resumes I didn’t like when the senders email address was clearly not the applicant.

          If John Smith applies but it’s sent from Linda.smith@… – that was off putting to me. I also got some where John Smith would apply but the email address was BJackson@…

          Email accounts are free – if you are using someone else’s email because you don’t have access to a computer, then set up your own email just for this and have them check that.

          It just red flags communication issues and lack of basic protocol. That said, I’d still read the resume – but the bar was higher to hit the call pile than if you had a normal email address.

          I don’t know why people put obstacles in their own paths.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Yes! What is up with this? It comes across as so un-self-sufficient and odd. And then if I hit reply, who’s going to get the email? This always irks me. I should do a separate post about this.

            1. Jamie*

              Sometimes I would wonder if John Smith even knew I had his resume.

              There’s helping an SO with a job hunt, and there’s mass mailing resumes for someone who isn’t looking for work as hard as the SO would like.

                1. Tiff*

                  The email address I currently use is my maiden name, but I did change my name when I got married. I just didn’t see the reason to change my email address. Is this going to cause me problems?

  22. Harry*

    This baffles me. Why spend time on a lengthy cover letter if there are going to be hundreds of resume for HR to go through? Wouldn’t that mean they won’t even bother to read it.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Because you need a way to differentiate yourself from those hundreds of candidates (and so does the employer). But not lengthy — no longer than a page.

    2. Karl*

      Cover letter quality is a proxy for the candidate’s level of interest in the company. I’d rather hire someone who cares about finding a good match; a generic cover letter (or no cover letter) telegraphs “I don’t care enough to customize.”

      After seeing enough cover letters in a row, I can glance at one and tell whether it’s generic vs. custom. If you want to get hired, don’t be generic. But definitely no more than one page.

  23. Long Time Admin*

    At my company, HR looks at the first 20 applications they receive, and try to hire someone from that group. If you’re the best candidate in the entire world, but your resume is the 21st, you’re out of luck (and so are we).

    While I think (and hope!) that this is an extreme example of ineptitude, it might not be. It is pretty horrifying to think there are other employers out there who are this clueless.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Wow. That’s ridiculous. Especially because the first 20 applicants, in my experience, are usually not especially qualified overall — they’re the people who are resume-bombing and applying to everything they see.

      Hiring isn’t some chore to get through; it’s one of the most crucial things managers do and has a huge impact on what kind of results they get in their work.

      1. Courtney*

        I get how resume bombing can seem impersonal and that may be why it’s so terrible. However I think employers make the process impersonal by using automatic systems to
        Sift through applicants. It is extremely hard to find a job as a new college graduate. What would be the acceptable amount of Jon applications? There are quite a few postings that I feel qualified for and to not apply for everyone seems like a waste of a great resource to me. At this point I don’t have a perfectly clear view of what I want to do and I would take any position I could get considering a job is the livelihood of my family.As an employer I would think the point of online job postings would be to draw as much attention as possible to expand the applicant base. I have been in university since I graduated high school and have no job experience, I will complete my masters in 1 week and I have no job experience. So is it unreasonable to apply for any position that I would take? Another thing I have a problem with is having to change terms in my resume and cover letter for each position that I apply for so that an automatic system won’t throw it out. Before online postings applicants took their same resume to every employer they went to. I am obviously frustrated with the career search process but I feel online postings are majorly flawed.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          The point of job postings actually isn’t to expand the applicant pool as much as possible; it’s to get the right applicants, which is a different thing.

          It’s not that resume-bombing is “terrible”; it’s that it’s ineffective. You’re going to get better results by writing customized cover letters that truly show why you’re interested in this particular job, not just any old job.

  24. Kerry*

    Once I had someone tell me she didn’t have time to read all of the resumes that came in. I fired her.

    If your job is to read the resumes, you read them. You don’t spend an hour on each one, but if you can’t review hundreds of resumes in a reasonable timeframe, you should not be in a position that involves reading resumes.

    (This is making my blood boil. Reviewing 600 resumes should take about four hours. Those whopping four hours would be spread over over week or two. If that’s truly too much investment, then this job does not need to be filled.)

  25. N*

    I’m currently going through the application process and have a second interview coming up in two weeks. I applied for the position at the beginning of November, didn’t hear anything for a month, had my first interview mid-December, and will have a second interview on the 1st of February. By the time they make a decision and I potentially start, it will probably be March – four months after I first applied! That’s like a federal government level hiring time line. Do I wish the process was faster? Of course. But I’m rolling with it (and taking in all the AMA advice I can) and I feel like that’s the best thing I can do.

  26. Greg*

    AAM, I think your advice is half right. Yes, don’t blindly pester HR or the hiring manager with a follow-up phone call. But also don’t sit on your hands and assume they will eventually get back to you. Instead, work your network and find as many other avenues as possible to get your resume in front of the right person. I once interviewed for a job where I wasn’t even sure how the hiring manager had gotten my resume (I only found out because I started talking about a recent internship, only to discover she had an old version of my resume my friend had inadvertently passed on to her).

    As a hiring manager myself, I tend to take a dim view of someone who leaves me a voicemail telling me they applied for a job. But I am far more inclined to give a second look to someone whose resume gets forwarded to me by a coworker, even if I know that person has already applied through the system.

  27. Steve Berg*

    An example of how long it takes some companies to go through the hiring process: I just received a rejection email for a job I applied for four months ago. I had already assumed two months ago that I would never hear anything.

    1. Anon*

      I got a rejection letter ten months after I applied. Like, at that point, people, I can read the writing on the wall.

  28. JLLopez1006*

    I am glad to hear a professional say what I have long said.

    I feel that phone calls (in general) should be reserved for emergency or urgent situations. They are time consuming and disruptive to an individual, much less to a hiring professional.

    I have always felt like an email is so much more respectful of the recipient’s time, allowing them the freedom to open and respond to the email according to their time and on their terms.

    It also allows them adequate prep time to do any necessary follow-up, research, or checking with others before they get back to you (why should demand an answer on the spot?!).

    I wish more people understood this concept in general. I go around and around about this with my family, who just do not get how “in-your-face” that calling someone can be. I blame a lot of this thinking on so-called communication experts that insist on spreading the idea that written communication is cold, impersonal, and only conducted by those who want to “hide behind the computer screen.” As a culture, we need to be reprogrammed. Online communication is today’s written letter, and most people do not consider a letter to be impersonal (unless automatically generated, of course). Personally, I appreciate when people respect my time by emailing me instead of making something an emergency by calling, so I apply that same concept when following up on job applications or any other situation, for that matter.

    Thanks for another informative post!

  29. Emily*

    Thank you so much for this advice! My instinct has always told me that following up on an application will just be annoying, and if they like my credentials then they’ll contact me. But nearly everyone I’ve talked to has told me FOLLOW UP FOLLOW UP FOLLOW UP. It’s nice to hear that I’m not totally wrong for being opposed to it.

    The comments have also been insightful and strangely reassuring for someone anxiously searching for a job. Thanks everyone!

  30. Sandra*


    I have recently been contacted for an internal job interview, at the end of which, I was told that they will let candidates know of their decision within 3 weeks time. I hadn’t heard back after 3 weeks so I sent them an e-mail expressing my strong interest for the job and requested a follow-up. It has been a week since I sent the e-mail and have not heard back from them yet. How much longer do you suggest I wait before re-contacting them? Is this a bad sign?

      1. Sandra*

        Thanks so much for the prompt reply! Should I call or follow-up with another e-mail when asking about the timeline? I have been checking the directory and know that they haven’t filled the positions yet.

  31. Sandra*

    Yes, I realized that as I reading more of your blog. New reader, you see :). I did just get a call from them a couple minutes ago where she told me that I was over-qualified for the position and with my skill set would be bored within 2 months. I’m a little happy and sad at the same time, but it’s back to the drawing board for me and I’m not giving up! I am very, very thankful for your blog and guidance.

  32. Anonymous*

    You really never know what is going on with a company. I applied to a high-end retail store and didn’t hear from for a year. Once I finally got an interview the gentleman told me that they only keep about five sales associates at a time. So, since someone was leaving and the performance of the store was excellent, they were being allowed to hire one more person.

  33. Jobhunter*

    Hi All,

    I stumbled on this blog a couple of days ago and now I’m addicted to the postings. Very interesting to see other people advicing one another so much.

    Right now I am in an anxious situation. I applied for a position on June 18th (in the same industry) but different company. The position I applied for is what I currently do but I have even more functions in my current role than what is listed by the company I applied so I knwo I can bring even more to the table than they are asking for. Anyway, to make a long story short, one of the HR managers contacted me on June 26th via email to schedule a phone conversation (she didnt say interview even though I prepared for it as if it were a formal phone interview). She basically just asked me to briefly go over what I do in my current position (which is similar to the position I applied for). Then she asked when I could start. I told her I only need to give two weeks to my current employer.

    Then she proceeded by telling me that the hiring manager already saw my resume and is interested in doing a panel interview and that I would ehar from her ot one of her HR coordinators (since she is an HR Manager) within the next week or two as they have to get the people who would be interviewing me’s schedule to work. She then continued by explaining the hiring process and what happens after the interview (which I thought was nice since not many HR people I have spoken to have done this before). She then said that the hiring manager wants to act quickly so once the interview is done then everything will happen fast.

    Today is July 10th and I still havent heard from her or any of the HR reps (although I sent her an Thank you letter and mentioned that I will be waiting for the in person Interview date). I know it has only been 12 days since I spoke to her but it seems forever especially since my company also just announced (after I had applied for this position) on the day that she initially communicated with me that they were closing and laying off massive number within the next few months! All I am waiting for is my end date. I am getting very nervous. I was going to send a follow-up email to her today but after reading all these comments here, I am scared to be an “annoying applicant” even though I havent yet corresponded with her besides sending the Thank you letter for the intial call. I will wait another week or so and if I get a call or email from them or not I would definately keep you all posted.

    On a brighter note though, I did call an HR recruiter today (who had emailed me two weeks ago and told em to call her if interested in a direct hire position). I had called her twice and left messages and sent her an email and then todaty I said “F” it! She told me to call her and guess what…she picked up and set a phoen interview for tomorrow morning (although this is also another smaller company in my industry) but its a start. She was very apologetic and was happy when I told her what position I was calling in refernce to. I will keep you all posted. I really like this blog! SORRY FOR THE VERY LONG MESSAGE and EXCUSE ANY TYPO’S. I’m rushing out!

  34. Jobhunter*

    Btw in my previous email, the first job that I was referring to (the one in which I am waiting for the HR people to get back to em to set an In person interview) is also a direct hire into the company (if that makes any difference.

  35. No name*

    I recently was called by a recruiting agency for a position that they were actually recruiting for out of their office. I was told that I would be submitted for the position once the client contacted them, after they finished interviews for another position. I just found out today that I was submitted for the position, however the client had put the position on hold for a few weeks. Why would a position be put on hold? Before conducting interviews at that?

  36. Alex*

    Based on my experiences following up is never bad, but I’ve noticed a pattern that males are more inclined to appreciate it than females.

    Based on my transition from the school type work setting to the professional, most female workers have a loose understanding of the word “professional” and seem to think their time is more important than other peoples. Sometimes there is simply no logic in their hiring process as the right “fit” is almost as illogical as “chemistry” in the dating game. By no means am I bitter in either as I have a wonderful fiancee’ and the jobs have not been a struggle to obtain — just felt the need to express my observations here.

    In male interviews I’ve had more logical – “here is what we are looking for, you seem to meet what we are looking for and are more competent than other candidates.” Maybe they will even offer advice or whatnot in the process. Its always very pleasant and productive.

    Female secretaries or receptionists have always been helpful in my job endeavors however.

  37. Dee*

    I enjoyed reading all of these comments. I’m going through the whole job process again, but something I didn’t see listed on here was the subject of a letter of recommendation. I’ve been with the same corporation for nearly two years but a few weeks ago we received completely new management. And things aren’t going so well. My former District Manager wrote me a letter of recommendation. I’ve been applying for various jobs, even positions I have no experience in because I don’t want to stay in the field I’m in now. For all of them I’ve attached resumes and some of them cover letters and the ones that weren’t electronically submitted, I attached my letter of recommendation. I want to know, even with limited to no experience for a positions I’ve applied to, if a letter of recommendation is going to increase my chances of getting hired somewhere else? My former GM hired me on the spot during my interview. He said he wanted to see what my personality was like. Obviously hiring managers can’t know that by reading a piece of paper. I’m eager to find a new job. I just want to know if a letter of rec increases my chances.

    1. Greg*

      It can’t hurt, but I don’t think a generic recommendation submitted with your application will make much difference. A far better option is to get an introduction/referral from someone the hiring manager knows and respects. I know, easier said than done. But that’s what makes it so valuable.

      Of course, once you get further along in the application process, you want to have strong references that the hiring manager can reach out to. At that point, if you can give them someone who sings your praises and says, “You’d be an idiot not to hire Dee,” it will definitely help your cause. But at the outset, non-specific praise from a stranger won’t influence them much.

      The one exception to that rule is if the person who wrote the letter is particularly famous or at least well-known to the hiring manager. For example, if you’re applying to work at the Chocolate Teapot Company and you give them a letter from the inventor of chocolate teapots. But it doesn’t sound like that’s the case here. And even there, you’d rather have that person making the introduction rather than just writing a letter.

      Good luck!

  38. dreamweaver*

    Wow, this article and it’s comments have been a wealth of info for me and an eye-opener!! I am fresh-out-of-high-school (June grad) and have put off college till the spring semester so I could work (don’t judge me; I reallyyyyy need to work)

    I’ve probably applied to a 100 jobs on numerous job sites and I’ve literally been checking them nonstop for the past few days. I have an email counter on my UI and I click it even though there’s no mail (paranoid much?!), and stay up all night for this. I don’t know, I guess it’s because I feel excited since I’m finally independent and getting a taste of the world. I really thought no one contacted me because I’m too inexperienced so I’m an automatic ‘no.’ Your site made me realize there are timelines that go on indefinitely!!! Given how things are with me, I can’t afford to wait so I’ll end with a Craigslist temp job.

    Sorry this is such a long post, but I do have questions: do you think I should temp 1 or 2 jobs until it’s time go to college? What if I hear from one of the jobs that pays more, while I’m temping the current job? Or maybe it doesn’t matter ’cause I’m going to college next year anyway? Please don’t tell me to work retail; I need more than a minimum wage right now!

    1. Kerry*

      No judging here. If I hadn’t worked after high school, I wouldn’t have been able to go to college. I worked retail at first, but temping paid better, and it offered the chance to sit town. That’s why I started it in the first place…but boy am I glad I did. The office skills I learned back then served me well for many, many years. That experience gave me a huge head start over other people my age, because by the time I graduated from college, I had a lot of experience with cubicle life, office politics, etc. Temping also exposed me to a wide variety of companies and people, so I had a much better sense of what I was good at (and what sort of environment was good for me). That’s really helpful to know early on.

      So I vote YES on temping. Good luck!

  39. Jennie*

    I disagree with the advice not to call. There have been many (I mean, MANY) occasions where I sent in an application, heard nothing, and the second I called, the person said, “Want to come in for an interview?” Don’t call incessantly but take the time to call once.

    There may be 600 applicants, but most of them won’t call. You can be the one that does. Sometimes calling can be almost like having an inside connection, because you’re the only person who actually spoke to the hiring manager.

      1. Jennie*

        Incompetent or not, hiring managers are human. If they really have hundreds of applications, they will probably only even look at the 10% that get printed out at the top of the pile. And they might also look at yours. If you call. So you may as well call.

        I am very sorry to say this but I also think it is worth mentioning that not all hiring managers are competent or even professional. I have also attended many interviews where the hiring manager wanted me to give them a summary of my work experience (i.e. the same work experience that was on my CV in front of them). Point is, some people need a bit of help and you will stand a better chance at getting the job if you give it to them.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          No good hiring manager is going to look at only 10% of applications. They’re going to look at all of them. I understand you disagree here, but the vast majority of hiring managers don’t want phone calls and won’t respond well to them.

  40. Anonymous*

    God shall decide who will get the job. No one can see the future, only can predict a possibility; not even the employer. So make sure your phone is on, set to loud and sit tight. In addition just don’t hold your breath, keep on applying to other jobs. Bon chance mes amis!

  41. DragonGirl*

    I was trying to looking something to better improve my resume and stumbled across this. I’ve been reading through a bunch of stuff on here for the past two hours. I probably won’t take anything or everything I read on here as if it were the Bible, but this is some of the the most useful info I’ve come across so far on the web. Personally, I don’t like having to have everything done online, but I guess I’ll have to deal with it since it is the online age.

    Any advice on how to improve a resume? I’m not exactly sure what their looking for when their trying to hiring when they’re browsing through resumes and cover letters (if they request them). I’ve worked in grocery, retail, camp counselor, and some military, so I’ve been having some difficulty trying trying to translate skills and making it sound and look better. I’ve done a workshop at the local unemployment office, but I still think it could use a little more improvement. I’ve mostly been applying to customer service jobs (a lot retail and food service) where I can work evenings, since I’ll be starting back up in college in a few few weeks. I wouldn’t mind working in a call center, but the places I’ve come across require 1-2 year experience.

    On last question. What’s the purpose of these assessment questions that some of these employers ask? A lot of them seem like redundant and silly questions and I hate the agree/disagree response thing. It’s not a concise answer for me to give.

  42. Alicia*

    I have to argue with not calling the company you’re applying to. It’s up to the company’s descretion. I just applied at Bath and Body Works on Friday and called yesterday (Wednesday) to check on an application and to see if they wanted to schedule an interview and I got one on the same day.

  43. CW*

    I think employers and the systems they use should be more efficient during the process. For example, they could narrow down the field quickly from the 600 applicants so people get a response sooner than later. Also, the automation of the recruiting process really works against their own objectives. Many jobs I’ve applied for would only allow me to submit a cover letter and resume – which truly limits my creativity in the process. For example I’ve wanted to submit samples of work that I’ve done, video clips and transcripts but their web portals only allow but so much. Still found a way around it but now I find that I am potentially being discriminated against because of my age. I tried to transition into a new career from a corporate job and that didn’t work out. It has been difficult – with all of my qualifications – to get anywhere. But I’m still trying to do everything I can to network, to customize my resume and cover letter, etc. however here’s the real problem I have with the job market in the US. Too many managers are firing people because of personality clashes (real or imagined) instead of working things out with their employees. I think corporations in particular should consider employee rotation systems so that there is a way for individuals to work with more than one manager. I would think by the time a person gets to the third manager, if they are still not working out, then they could be let go… I really believe this should be more closely regulated. And people do discriminate in hiring and firing all the time because the only way some one can prove discrimination IS to prove it. Work places are notorious in how they set folks up for failure so that they can be fired.

  44. JobSearchingfor2Years*

    I applied for a job at a local hospital on 4/24/2014 and haven’t heard anything yet except for the automatic email stating that my application was received and if I am a match then someone will be in contact with me shortly for an interview and that my application would be kept on file for x amount of days. My friend works at this particular hospital and she said that the HR department is horrible and that I should call to follow up and/or print the application and physically hand it to someone in HR. Should I do this or leave it up to chance that I may get called in for an interview? I really need this job.

    1. Greg*

      Your friend with first-hand knowledge of the company says you should follow up, but instead you’re turning to anonymous strangers in the comments section to tell you what to do? OK, fine then. Here’s what this anonymous stranger says: FOLLOW UP!

  45. Gevorg*

    I always reject interview invitations when they call so late that you have already forgot what was the position you had applied or the company; I would advise you to do the same because the processing time longer than 2 weeks tells you a lot about the culture within this company: most probably the managers are not good and working under bad manager is a disaster my career success is 90% my managers and 10% me.

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