how to follow up on your job application

I probably get more questions about how to follow up on a job application or job interview than any other other topic … well, perhaps second only to “is what my employer doing legal?” questions. So I’ve rounded up the basics on follow-up:  following up after you apply, following up after an interview, and following up if you have another offer.

How to follow up on your job application

Job seekers often struggle to figure out when they should follow up with an employer after applying for a job, or whether they should follow up at all. Here’s some guidance on how you can follow up appropriately at each stage of the hiring process.

After you submit your application

Like it or not, after you submit your application, the ball is in the employer’s court. They might not even be reviewing applications for a few weeks, or they might have hundreds to sift through. So this stage of the game is about being patient.

Job seekers are sometimes advised that they should call at this stage to “check on their application” or to try to schedule an interview. But most employers don’t respond well to this, viewing it as overly aggressive and, yes, annoying. After all, you’re not the only person applying for the job; multiply your phone call by 200-300 applicants, and you’ll see why employers are annoyed.

Realistically, the way to stand out at this stage isn’t by having an overly aggressive, rules-don’t-apply-to-me, pay-attention-to-me-now approach. Instead, you’ll stand out by being a highly qualified candidate, writing a great cover letter, and being responsive, thoughtful, and enthusiastic.

If you absolutely must do some kind of follow-up at this stage (which you really shouldn’t need to do in most cases), you can , send a quick email (not a call) saying 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.” That highlights your interest without interrupting the employer or demanding an immediate response.

After an interview

Once you’ve been interviewed, the rules change. At this point, you’ve passed an initial screening, and you and the employer have both invested time in each other. At this stage, you’re entitled to hear something back from the employer within a reasonable amount of time. But of course, that doesn’t mean that you will, so you might find yourself wanting to check back in.

Ideally, you would have ended the interview by asking the employer what their timeline was for being in touch with next steps. If you do that and that time passes, then you have the perfect excuse to politely follow up. Simply drop them a quick email, explain you’re still very interested but understand that hiring can take time, and ask if they have an updated timeline.

If the company didn’t give you a sense of the timeline in which they would be making a decision, you can follow up within a week or two of your interview to reinforce your interest and politely inquire as to what they expect their timeline for a decision to be.

Notice that you’re not just asking for an update on how things are going. That’s not as likely to produce useful information and it’s easier to ignore, particular if the employer doesn’t have any update yet. Instead, ask for some more specific – a timeline.

At the same time, keep in mind that not hearing back right away doesn’t necessarily mean bad news. It’s not unusual for the hiring process to take longer than a candidate would like, for all sorts of reasons — decision-makers are out of town, scheduling conflicts are delaying a final interview, the company bureaucracy needed to finalize an offer takes weeks to work through (not necessarily a great sign about the work environment, but that’s a different issue).

If you have another offer

There’s one special case where you should act differently than the guidelines above: if you have another offer but Company A is your first choice. In this case, you should reach out to Company A immediately. Let them know you have an offer that you need to respond to by a particular date, and ask if there’s any way they can expedite their timeline.  If a company is very interested in you, this can spur them to move more quickly. (But you should also be prepared to hear that you should take the other company’s offer.)

{ 24 comments… read them below }

  1. Anonymous*

    I wish my father-in-law had seen this before he followed up on an interview he had last week. He had the interview on Friday afternoon (near end of day) and sent a follow-up email on Monday morning asking the HR rep he’d met with if he could have a decision made by Friday. His reasoning was that he didn’t want to get too involved in a current project if he was going to be leaving his team. I have to admit I cringed when I heard about this.

    He mistakenly thought that his previous experience getting hired on, which was turned around very quickly (an offer made within 2 days of interview) was the universal standard (he also didn’t clarify what the timeline looked like at the end of his interview). Unfortunately, he didn’t take into account that the company he interviewed with is significantly larger and that, as you mentioned in your article, “the company bureaucracy needed to finalize an offer takes weeks to work through” – this could very well have been the case.

    The HR Rep was kind enough to send an email on Friday, but stated due to a few circumstances, couldn’t make an offer and would be in touch in the next few weeks. :/

  2. Andy Phil*

    His reasoning was that he didn’t want to get too involved in a current project if he was going to be leaving his team. I have to admit I cringed when I heard about this.

  3. Ben*

    Nice article.
    So lets say i’m in the pre-interview proces and i just sent my application a couple of weeks ago, to whom should i follow up if the only email that i have is an auto-reply address ?
    I guess it should be to the hiring manager, right ? lets say i cant find him on the company webpage, because is a big company, and i’m not getting any information when i call them, should i just try to guess him Googling or in Linkedin ?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Well, first of all, you really don’t need to follow up at this stage, because the ball is in the employer’s court. They know you’re interested. But if you must, try LinkedIn! But if they’re not giving out the info when you call, it’s because they don’t want follow-ups at this stage.

    2. Anonymous*

      I am not trying to be rude when I say this, but the simple fact is that if there is no information on the company web page about who the Hiring Manager is or how to contact him/her, they don’t want you to.

      I work for a large company, and unfortunately I am the one and only person in Personnel. I politely ask people not to call to check on their application (it even says so on the web site). I hate that I have to do that, but I cannot handle all of my work and stay on the telephone all day. I know it sucks, but it’s just not going to happen.

      Like AAM said, they have your application and/or resume so they know you are interested. I don’t always call people back for interviews as quickly as they would like for me to, but I can’t help that. I also make sure to tell them that I appreciate their patience. The ones who call daily or argue to try to get me to commit to a certain time line get put on the bottom of the pile

      Just a little advice from someone on the other side. :)

      1. Anonymous*

        I forgot to add above that my name and contact information are on our company page in case someone has a question that cannot be answered on our page. It happens sometimes and I don’t mind that. But if there’s no name on the company web site, don’t hunt the person down. Not a good idea IMO.

  4. Anonymous*

    I probably get more questions about how to follow up on a job application or job interview than other other topic …

  5. Rixter*

    If my application was sent to an HR person, but I do a bit of research and track down the hiring manager, should I inquire directly with hiring manager or always go through HR?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Nothing wrong with emailing the hiring manager once. (Don’t call though.) She may just forward you to HR, but if you’re a strong candidate, she might tell HR that.

  6. Rob*

    I recently managed to secure a job interview, which is an accomplishment in itself in the flat economy. It is for an entry-level position, but the pay would be pretty good. I actually think it went pretty well. Basically, I had called by phone, and they agreed to set the interview up for me. When I arrived, the person doing the interview was actually a member of the staff, rather than the actual Employee Relations director, so I presume her opinion would definately count for a lot…Anyways, she was very friendly, asked me some standard written questions, then let me ask some of my own. She then asked me for a copy of my references, college transcript (which I was told to bring), and resume. The whole thing lasted about 20 minutes give or take. I asked her politely when I might hear something. She said 2-4 weeks. I thanked her for her time and left, feeling reasonably confident. The next day, I called the Director of Employee Relations (who had set the interview up for me, but who did not conduct it) and thanked her for making it possible. She said your very welcome, and volunteered that they were already checking my references and that I would hear something soon. I felt even more confident then! Friends I have spoken to have told me that the signs seem encouraging. Lastly, I sent in a written Thank You card to the Employee Relations Director, stating again thanks and that I look forward to being a part of their team…Today marks two weeks since my interview. Should I still take the Employee Relations lady at her word that “we will be in touch with you soon”? The place I interviewed for is a large facility and I do not know the specific Hiring Manager’s email, so should I just wait and see now? Or would it be okay to call again and ask the status of my application? Thanks!

    1. Rixter*

      If it was my, I’d wait til the 3rd week mark and then call. Doing it right at the two week mark (given that they said 2-4 weeks) may seem a little pushy. 3 weeks is just in the middle, show’s your keen while still allowing for internal processes to run their course.

  7. Rob*

    So I interviewed for a position two weeks ago, that I really want, and I think the interview went well. The guy doing the interview said the timeline would be 2-4 weeks before I might hear something..The day after my interview, I called and thanked the Employee Relations manager for setting the interview up and making it possible. She volunteered to me that they were checking my references and would be in touch soon. I was optimistic at that! The next week, I sent a thank you note to her, thanking her again. Yesterday marked 2 weeks since my interview. Yesterday, I called two of my three references I had submitted to them, to see if they had heard from the place I interviewed from..They had not heard from them yet, but told me not to give up hope. Today, I couldn’t take the suspense any longer and called and asked the status of my application..The lady said to tell me they were still checking my references. I guess that is a good sign? Does that mean they are interested in me, if they weren’t wouldn’t they have told me so? Do I have cause to remain optimistic based on the phone call today?

  8. Theresa*

    I found the article to be helpful, but unfortunately the company I applied for has made it nigh impossible to find an email address to send such an email to. Before I read this article I did call and got a very annoyed sounding woman telling me that my application was received and that they would call me. I don’t want to further annoy anyone, but I really want this job! There’s a physical address. Do you think sending a little note would help or hinder me?

  9. Tiffany*

    I appreciate you insight into this much asked question. The job I applied to doesn’t have an email anywhere or a phone number and the hiring manager isn’t listed. This is a large corporation, which is a different type of employer than I usually apply to. I know you say not to follow up by phone call so I am trying to avoid this at all costs. I believe I figured out who the corporate recruiter is via LinkedIn because they posted the job in a group I belong to. Would it be appropriate to email that person as a follow up or am I assuming to much? My other option is to email the person that posted the job on a board at an industry event. I believe this person would be a direct report to the position I applied to. Thanks!

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Don’t email the direct report; that person almost definitely isn’t a decision-maker in the hiring. I suppose you could email the recruiter though — but don’t agonize over this too much; follow-ups don’t usually carry that much weight.

  10. Crystal*

    So I received a phone call exactly 1 week ago from somewhere I applied. They were impressed with my resume and asked me questions and really responded well to my answers but then at the end of the conversation they seemed short and said “alright well we will call you when we start the interview process”
    should I send a follow up email or card in the mail? if so what do you say on a follow up for a pre screening phone call.
    Or is what they said at the end of our conversations the nice way to say im not a right fit and i don’t get an interview?

  11. Nat*

    Hi, Apply to this job about 4 weeks ago, so far I had two interviews (phone and in person) The in-person one was about a week and half ago and I have not heard anything since then. After this interview they told me that the HR person whom I had the phone interview was going to contact me to set up the third interview. At this point I’m not sure what to do, since after the phone interview I contacted the HR person to have a timeline of the process (like suggested in the article) but didn’t really get a response from him, instead I got a call to set up the in-person interview. I’m no sure if I should contact the person I did the in-person interview or the HR person? any help I will appreciate

  12. Anonymous*

    The job I applied for only lists a “” type of email address. There’s nothing personal. Should I follow up with this email address, call and ask for the email address of the hiring manager, or is this another case of it being clear they don’t want a follow-up at all?

  13. Carol*

    I followed-up with a hiring manager for a position I was interviewed for before the holidays and was told that they are continuing to interview for this position and that someone from HR will be in touch as they have additional information to share with me. Does this mean I will get a rejection soon?

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