should I really follow up on my job applications a week after applying?

A reader writes:

I’m currently in the super fun (not) process of job hunting after university. I’m in the UK and am using a number of different hiring websites. I’ve applied to a lot of different jobs on those sites.

On one site, I got an email from one of those websites telling me it was time to “follow up” and contact all the people I’d applied to (either by phone or by email) asking them about the status of my application. According to the website, this “should not affect the outcome.” I’ve attached a picture of the email I got, too, so you can see what it says exactly.

an email from a jobs site giving out bad advice about following up on an applicationI suppose I’m wondering, is this actually good advice or not? It seems odd that they’d suggest doing something that doesn’t affect the outcome in any way, as in that case what’s the point? Especially as, if phrased especially badly, it presumably could negatively affect the outcome. Why risk it?

My instinct is to just let it be and move on, and if they want to offer me an interview they will. They have my application so there’s no need to bother them. But then if everyone else follows that advice and I don’t, I don’t want my application to be dismissed or discounted because it looks like I’m putting in less effort than everyone else. If this is something I should do, what do I say? I can’t think of anything that doesn’t potentially come off as needy or demanding. I had to write a similar email last month for a volunteer position, which specifically said that if I didn’t hear back I should contact them, and even though it all worked out great in the end, writing that email was really difficult.

First, a caveat that I’m giving advice from a U.S. perspective and can’t speak to how things might be different in the UK. But as far as things go here…

No, this is terrible advice!

The vast, vast majority of employers don’t want to receive follow-up phone calls and emails from applicants. If they’re interested in interviewing you, they’ll contact you. They know you’re interested, because you applied.

There are some employers who are so disorganized that following up with them can get them to look at your application when they otherwise wouldn’t have. But they’re very much the exception to the rule. They’re also not the employers you should want to work for — you don’t want to work somewhere so disorganized and chaotic that they make interviewing selections based on who nudges them and who doesn’t.

And after three to five days (as seems to be the recommendation in the screenshot you sent)? Good lord, no. You could mayyyyybbee follow up if it had been four to six weeks and you hadn’t heard anything. But three to five days? That’s astonishingly pushy. Most employers are still collecting applications at that point, and checking in will come across as impatient and pushy. That’s just absurd.

Now, if you had already interviewed, a few weeks had passed, and you hadn’t heard anything, it would be fine to follow up to check in then. But when you’ve just sent in an application and not had any other contact? It’s going to be annoying and pushy.

The website that sent you this email probably thinks it’s a way for them to “add value” to your job search, making you more likely to continue using them. They want you to think, “Ah, this site is organizing my whole search for me. They’re not just for finding ads.” And they want you to continue interacting with their site, and to solidify their name in your mind. They’re putting their marketing interests above the job seekers they’re purporting to serve, which is crappy.

Read an update to this letter here.

{ 113 comments… read them below }

  1. Triumphant Fox*

    This is definitely the case of wanting another marketing “touch” with you vs. carefully considered career advice. There are only so many times they can tell you about cover letters, so they find other ways to “advise.” Pop up 4 is probably “Display GUMPTION” and that third email is going to be “How to create a form cover letter that succeeds every time.”

    1. Never Been There, Never Done That*

      You know sometimes I question why I am so jaded with the world we live in. Then I come across jerks like the owners of this website pretending to help when really it’s all just for their own benefit. Yep, I’m staying jaded.

  2. Maladyvaccine*

    As a UK hiring manager I can confirm this is a terrible idea for all the reasons Alison gives. It’s totally unnecessary to do this and I’d find it rather annoying. I might not even look at the Cvs until after the closing deadline or when I get back from some leave ir whatever so a few days without contact during the initial application stage is irrelevant.

    1. Annisele*

      I’m also in the UK, and I also confirm.
      Compared to the US, we do have some cultural differences around hiring – I think the way we handle references is a big one – but Alison’s advice on this reads to me as spot on for a UK context.

      1. SINE*

        If you don’t mind my asking, how does the UK handle references differently than the US? Are they contacted much earlier in the process? Are they taken more seriously? In my experience, reference checking has mostly been a formality to make sure I’m not a just crazy person who interviews well. (Which seems to be a waste of an opportunity to genuinely learn more about a candidate.)

        1. Annisele*

          I might be misunderstanding the US process, but in the UK it’s very common for a reference to say (only) “We confirm that Annisele was employed between 1 January 2010 and 1 January 2019 as a teapot maker.” I get the impression that would raise red flags for some US employers – surely my reference could have found *something* nice to say about me! But we often don’t say anything beyond the mere fact of the employment.

          If there was some sort of very serious problem, a UK reference might have the addition “Annisele was dismissed”. But my employer’s policy – which is fairly common here – means there won’t be any difference at all between the reference of a terrible employee who just about managed to leave before they were fired and the reference of an absolutely stellar employee.

          My employer also doesn’t allow me to give references for my colleagues. The only people allowed to give references work in HR. Again, that’s a fairly common policy. (It doesn’t prevent ex-colleagues from ringing me up to ask what I think about people I’ve worked with – networking is a thing here as well – but it works pretty well to limit the production of actual references.)

          This is also an industry specific issue. In financial services there’s a thing called a “regulatory reference regime”; what I’ve said above does not apply to those guys!

          1. IL JimP*

            that’s typically the policy at a lot of US companies too, but it’s ignored as much as it is followed

            plus for us references aren’t just managers but other people we’ve worked with who can speak about our work to avoid that type of situation

          2. Krakatoa*

            That’s not uncommon in the US. It’s not the only thing you’ll find, but especially at big companies, they’ll only confirm dates of employment.

          3. A tester, not a developer*

            I’m with a large company in Canada, and our rules are pretty much the same as yours – employees are allowed to give ‘personal references’, but nothing related to the performance of their actual job. So I can “Annisele is very warm and personable”, but I can’t say “Annisele is great at making clients feel that she genuinely cares about their problems”.

          4. Ben Marcus Consulting*

            In the U.S. we also perform those reference checks, usually as part of employment verification.

            However, we also have personal and professional reference checks that go much broader to get a better sense on how this person would fit within the organization’s culture, and how well they could meet the job requirements.

          5. Gymmie*

            It’s our policy to only confirm dates of work (in the US). Although, if I had a great employee I would totally say great things about them to the reference checker.

          6. The Man, Becky Lynch*

            Many companies in the US follow this structure as well, as noted.

            It’s usually due to the fact it lessens their likelihood of exposure to lawsuits. It also keeps things fair so that people cannot cover for some and sandbag others, since we’re humans after all and even the trusted ones can have lapse in judgement along the way.

            They also do try to limit references to just HR. My former employer told all my colleagues that right after I left. Zero people listened to that rule, we were all each others references, nobody trusted HR which was conveniently covered by the ownership, rme.

          7. Media Monkey*

            my feeling is that in the UK if someone only confirms the person was employed, that is tantamount to a bad reference.

            1. Tuppence*

              Nah, it’s not tantamount to a bad reference. As an HR professional frequently involved in hiring, I’m more surprised if a referee actually completes the reference template than if I just get a form letter confirming dates of employment.

            2. BekaAnne*

              No, it’s standard. It’s more about fact-checking their CV. Is it accurate, are the dates accurate, did they really work there? You don’t give personal or professional references in general and you can face disciplinary if you are caught doing it. This is just the same as calling up to find out if you actually went to the college that you stated for the years you stated. There’s no associated good or bad, just verification.

          8. EKinHE*

            I’m not sure I agree it’s common for a reference in the UK to only confirm dates of employment – in my particular field (higher education) we only provide a reference like that if the departure was something contentious, i.e. I provide references like that where someone has taken the option to jump rather than be pushed.
            References I’ve asked for and been asked to give often ask the referee to rank the applicant’s qualities such as punctuality, teamwork, communication on a scale and provide some narrative with it.
            There’s also a standard end question of ‘would you hire this person again?’ – if no, that’s when the standard confirmation of employment dates reference comes into play!

            1. MisDirected(UK)*

              I think it is probably industry specific. In my industry we simply don’t give professional references at all – HR will confirm employment dates only as other commentators have said. However I have some friends in other industries – generally service type ones, who have used me as a personal reference and I have had similar types of forms/questions for them as you describe above.

        2. Marzipan*

          We don’t typically have what I see described here, where there might be a phone call with a referee to go into what the applicant is like more generally. We more often have a request for a written reference or to complete a form.

          There is a widely-held (but wrong) perception that it’s illegal or otherwise impossible to give someone a bad reference – actually, so long as any negatives are true, it should be fine. But many organisations do insist on only writing a standard, dates-of-employment reference.

          The one I’ve done that was most eyebrow-raising was for someone who would have to sign the Official Secrets Act for whatever job it was – I had to basically affirm that they weren’t going to be susceptible to blackmail for any reason.

          1. Krista*

            I had a former intern use me as a reference for a job with the CIA in tech. I had to do a 45 minute in-person interview that delved deeply into whether he was shady or overly secretive OR overly free with information. Baffling experience.

        3. londonedit*

          SINE – my experience of reference checking in the UK is also that it’s just a case of an employer contacting two references as a formality, but I’ve read several comments here from US readers that talk about ‘background checks’ and ’employment verification’ as things that sound very serious and formal. I don’t know if those are just outliers, but it’s given me the impression that US reference checks are a lot more thorough. I’ve never heard of anyone failing to get a job because of a reference check. Also, unless you’re going for a job with security clearance etc, in the UK it’s normal for people not to contact your references until you have accepted a job offer – the offer will be made ‘subject to references’ and then the employer will contact your references, just to confirm that the information you gave on your CV was correct. I get the impression that in the US, references are often sought before an offer is made.

          1. Jemima Bond*

            Indeed, a few comments here sound more like security vetting than employment references. Here at least they call the people they want to ask questions of regarding an applicant “referees” as well.

      2. Jemima Bond*

        Another cultural difference here re references is that, because blah blah employment laws meaning you have to have a good reason to fire someone, you don’t have to keep a job search secret and your current employer can be contacted for a reference because they can’t fire you for looking.

        Anyway; putting my two penn’orth in in case LW has applied for any civil service jobs; I don’t work in HR/recruitment but like many colleagues I sift applications and sit on interview panels. An applicant will only have contact details for HR/recruitment who do not make the decisions. The applicant doesn’t know the name of the sifting people or have any way to email us so can’t be in touch with me, who will score their application, moderate that score with at least one other, and decide on that basis whether they are put forward for interview. I even get anonymised versions of the application at sift stage to avoid any bias about gender, age or (perceived) ethnicity.

        1. Jemima Bond*

          PS and after 3-5 days even if you could contact someone with decision making capabilities, there’s no way (in civil service at least) they’ll have seen the application. It’ll be a few weeks, easily.

    2. Marzipan*

      Also UK and joining the chorus of ‘please, please don’t do this, we beg you’. I have time set aside to shortlist, after the closing date. I will not be doing anything about your application before that and honestly, I’ll be gritting my teeth a bit if I have to reply to a pointless email before that.

      And, while we’re on the general subject – if there’s a contact person listed who you can get in touch with regarding any questions about the job, and if at any time you are tempted to reach out to that person with a made-up question just so you’ll stick in their mind when they later come to review applications… also don’t do this.

    3. Bonky*

      I’m another employer in the UK, and Alison is dead on the money. Horrible suggestion; good on OP for picking up on it.

  3. Kaz*

    I think maybe it’s different if you’ve had an interview. I don’t think there’s any harm if they say ‘you’ll hear from us in 7-10 days’ and two weeks later you email in and ask if they’ve got any feedback. Getting at them within days makes you sound all “DID YOU READ MY APPLICATION YET? HOW ABOUT NOW? NOW?” and is just gonna piss people off.

    1. Princess of Pure Reason*

      This makes me think of the Siri/Cookie Monster commercial outtakes.

      Siri, is it ready yet?

      How ’bout now?

      How ’bout now?

      How ’bout now?

    2. ThatGirl*

      Yes, if you’ve had an interview that’s different – although you should still allow a decent amount of time to pass. But if you’ve only submitted an application, no, do not call, do not pass go, do not collect $200.

    3. ugh*

      We keep a list of the callers – especially the ones who call multiple times- and put them in the DO NOT HIRE spreadsheet.

  4. A Simple Narwhal*

    Ugh what bad advice! The fact that it comes from a site specifically meant to help you get a job makes this particularly egregious.

    I’m also not surprised though.

  5. Manon*

    I had this exact question! This is the one piece of job searching advice my parents always give and it’s always seemed wrong to me. Glad to have confirmation.

    1. CupcakeCounter*

      The thing is “back in their day” it was probably good advise since everything was paper and snail mail. Mail it out and then check in a week later to make sure they received it.
      Applying through a job portal on their website…nope. You know they got it because you most likely got an automatic email confirmation that they received your application and will contact you if blah blah blah.

    2. CMart*

      It’s still good advice for a lot of service-sector jobs. It’s been 15 years since I’ve done retail, but in the restaurant industry a “hi! Just wondering if you’ve seen my application” phone call to a manager (during off-peak hours) a few days after applying is still the best way to actually get them to pay attention to you. That’s the only way I got interviews as recently as three years ago, even in the age of online portal applications.

      But for more “professional” jobs, definitely not.

      1. Manon*

        Oh yeah I absolutely had to pester management to get hired at retail/fast food jobs. But for a professional career job, I assume they’ll call me if they want to talk.

      2. Sally*

        Yeah, that’s how I got my first job at 16. Actually called a few times I think, haha. Finally got a big sigh from the manager and, “Fine, Sally, we’ll give you a try.” I stayed there all through high school.

  6. Quill*

    Yeah, the job search site did this because they want you going back to their site often, not because it will help.
    Nearly everything a job search site will send you as prompts or advice is questionable advice at best, because in the end, they’re not in the business of getting you a job, they’re in the business of having places pay them to list jobs on their site!

  7. restingbutchface*

    UK here and I think I recognise the site… it’s not one I had much success with, recruiting or searching.

    They’re wrong. Please don’t call and check in on your application, if you’ve had an interview that’s slightly different but, no. Just, no.

  8. Alex*

    “They want you to continue interacting with their site” = ding ding ding! Eyeballs on their site = revenue for them. This isn’t actually a good idea for you, the job searcher.

  9. SierraSkiing*

    The one time I followed up, it was 3 weeks after the application deadline. I had another offer that needed a decision that week, so I e-mailed the hiring manager politely asking where they were at in their process. I told him my situation and told him I was more interested in his position than the other one. He e-mailed me back saying, “I just read your application, and I would be happy to interview you tomorrow. Are you free at 2 pm?” I was, and I got the job the next day!

    Some caveats- he was someone I had met professionally before, so he had more reason to respond than a random employer would. And I was only following up well after the deadline, and when I had good reason to need his decision.

    1. EPLawyer*

      If I got an email like this, I would be all “okay they have a legitimate reason for asking.” Now my response might be “Sorry we are still evaluating applications.” But its not wrong in this one particular instance to follow up.

      But a general follow up. Would get deleted immediate, I have enough real emails to deal with. And I would seriously wonder about the applicant’s judgment. Don’t start already down a few points in the interviewer’s estimation.

  10. Snarkus Aurelius*

    Manager here. Two thoughts.

    1) yes, it will affect the outcome if I’m the recipient of such an email. Do you know how much email I get normally??! Don’t add to that.

    2) only 3-5 days?! After a calendar week, I’ll scan resumes briefly. Only after the close date will I review anything with care.

    Most people have so much other stuff going on at work. A lot of the bad job search advice assumes that hiring is *all* we do. Not true at all.

    1. But for the Grace of Dog*

      This! As an HR Manager, I am BEGGING you not to call! We receive many dozens of applications for each position, and we often have multiple positions in the recruitment cycle at the same time. If everyone who applied called or emailed us, how would we get anything else done? PLEASE trust us to manage the process. We know you’re interested, because you said so. We’ll take it from here.

    2. Dagny*

      Exactly. It can be actively harmful because it makes it look like the applicant does not have much of an understanding of the actual work demands of the industry. It’s not like people are sitting around all day, goofing off, deciding to get to the resumes when they stop playing Candy Crush; they are swamped and will get to the resumes in a systematic and professional manner when time allows.

  11. In the middle of my own search*

    My boy friend and I dispute this all the time. He swears it works and I have disagreed because of the reasons above. I’ve taken Alison’s advice to apply and move on. Only once recently did I follow up after about 2 weeks and that was only because I already had two presumably good interviews. I heard nothing back after leaving a voicemail and I felt so cringy even doing so.

  12. beepboppin*

    Ok so I actually have a success story from following up for my first job out of grad school. I am a millenial so this isn’t from 20+ years ago. I applied for a job that was recommended to me by my grad school advisor (at the same university). I applied and didn’t hear back within a few weeks. When I mentioned this to my advisor, she encouraged me to follow up with the hiring manager. I reached out and the hiring manager found out that my application had been kicked out by the HR system due to a technicality. The job posting required Bachelors AND 5 years experience but I was coming in with 2 Masters and 2 years experience but also some extremely relevant experience to the position. The hiring manager initially brought me in for an informational interview (as a courtesy to my advisor) but long story short, ended up rewriting the job posting so I could qualify for the position and I got the job. I know this is a very specific scenario. And following up a week afterwards is pretty pushy. But I do think there are circumstances that warrant a follow-up. Especially if there’s a personal contact at the organization.

    1. banzo_bean*

      I’m a millenial too, and I’ve seen some success from sending email follow ups to recruiters/staff at organizations. I knwo a lot of advice out there learns towards “don’t do it!” but personally for me it’s increased my interviews.

      Everytime I start my job search anew I swear I’m just going to stick to cover letter, resume, application, and existing network, but then I don’t get interviews. I start sending some cold emails, and I start getting interviews. So I guess, I’m that candidate everyone despises but at least I’m getting interviews (and offers).

      For what it’s worth, I’ve been on the other side of hiring and I don’t mind getting follow up emails at all from applicants. If they’re being aggresive/over the top thats one thing but one email doesn’t bother me. So I guess to each their own.

      1. Public Sector Manager*

        But for every time it does work, there are 99 times when it doesn’t. I’m at a public agency and there will be one or two prospective candidates each year who approach our employees at university job fairs, or email managers and others in the organization for an “in,” etc.. And it doesn’t work for them. They become memorable for all the wrong reasons.

        1. banzo_bean*

          I’m sure there are places where it doesn’t work, but I really don’t think its a 99:1 ratio. Again, I know a lot of people here have opinions otherwise, but personally this just works for me. Maybe it’s industry specific.

        2. banzo_bean*

          Also in my personal experience university career fair recruiters often always explicitly ask me to follow up with them because career fairs are hectic. So I’m suprised to hear that part.

        3. pentamom*

          I feel like I’m missing something here — isn’t the purpose of a university job fair to have prospective candidates approach employees?

          1. Public Sector Manager*

            They’ve already applied for the job and use the job fair to get a status report on their application.

        4. Baseball nut*

          >But for every time it does work, there are 99 times when it doesn’t

          1. 99% of statistics are made up. I don’t think the above statement is the outlier.

          2. Even if your point is that “it doesn’t work most of the time,” when it does, it can work spectacularly well. So, as with most things in life, high reward entails high risk. Most highly successful people didn’t get where they are by playing it safe. Babe Ruth is known for hitting home runs, not the fact he struck out much more often.

      2. MissDisplaced*

        I’m not sure I’d say never ever do it, but you’d have to have a pretty good reason and/or understanding of that industry.
        My sense is that smaller organizations and niche industries might respond more favorably to the personal touch, maybe.

    2. AnotherAlison*

      The personal connection is always the differentiator. The follow up probably would have been ignored without an inside track. Which is frustrating to job seekers everywhere who can’t get past the online app.

    3. Olive Hornby*

      I also had success with this (and am a millennial) for an internship out of college. I’d gotten a polite response from the hiring manager, who was the department assistant and (I would learn later) clearly overwhelmed with the amount of work that was on her plate, and checked in with her two weeks later. She had put my application aside because my resume listed an out-of-state address, even though my cover letter noted that I was planning to relocate before the internship start date. This was an internship at a tiny organization, so definitely not something I would do with a company that has a larger/more professionalized process–but I wouldn’t say it never works.

      1. corporate engineering layoff woo*

        Sounds like that validates my convention of including an Objective section at the top. Last time around I mentioned relocation both in the objective and in the cover letter.

    4. AnotherLibrarian*

      There’s always the exception, but as someone who hires (students, interns, professionals), I would say that this is super duper industry/situation specific. Yes, if I knew someone who knew someone who recommended you, that would be a totally different situation than if there was no networking. The last entry level job I oversaw- we had 97 applicants who met our minimum qualifications. We did have a few people who followed up- they were inevitably weaker candidates than the ones who didn’t. So, I maybe biased, but I would be very careful to apply this experience to the broader world of hiring.

  13. (Former) HR Expat*

    Former UK HR here. Please don’t do this. If we want to interview you, we’ll contact you. Please don’t follow up about an application because it will make it seem like you’re out of touch with business norms.

  14. Goldfinch*

    If it won’t affect the outcome, why would you do it?

    I mean, I see what they’re going for, but the wording is so terrible that it further undermines their authority.

    1. PollyQ*

      Right? Imagine if other how-tos were worded the similarly:

      “Sand & wipe with a tag rag between coats, but it probably won’t make any difference”

      “Add 1tsp baking powder, or maybe baking soda, no big either way”

  15. 'Tis Me*

    In the UK. Way back in 2006 when I was in your shoes, I emailed several applications to an agency mailbox as per the job ads and never heard anything back. About a month or 6 weeks after the first time I did this, I called them just to check they were getting my emails.

    Turns out they were putting up ads using a mailbox address that wasn’t actually being monitored by anybody…

    (a) That was a bit over 13 years ago now. I worked technical support for a small Internet service provider in 2005 for my placement year. People in many offices were scarily shaky on email use, setting up mailboxes, accessing their mailboxes… As in I’d create another email address server-end and ask the person over the phone if they were happy setting up Outlook to access it, or if they wanted me to talk them through doing it – having guided them through doing this 3 times in the past fortnight – and would hear their voice shaking as they took me up on the offer to talk them through it again because TECHNOLOGY IS TERRIFYING. I would hope the situation is much better these days.
    (b) You do have to wonder why they thought they weren’t getting any applications…

  16. Cyberspace Hamster*

    Same goes in NZ too – I remember having someone doing exactly that and it earned them some serious side-eye.

    Though the real nail in the coffin was when they visited the office asking if anyone could talk to them about what it takes to get into the industry (it’s an industry where that curiosity isn’t unexpected and we’re usually happy to chat). We set him up with one of our people to go through some of the ins and outs of working in the industry and he proceeded to pull out his CV and try and sell them on giving him the job. The person in charge of hiring was out at the time that he visited, so it wasn’t until after that it came out that he had already applied and in fact was that very same applicant that had called in to “follow up”.

  17. MissDisplaced*

    Ha! Timely topic for me. I rarely follow up on jobs where I haven’t heard anything back, but I did so recently because the opportunity was so interesting.

    I only followed up because I had a phone screen a few weeks ago, and never received either a formal rejection or an interview, but noticed the job reposted. So I did reach out to the person I spoke with asking if they were still in the search process and reiterating my interest. I received a pretty odd, rather unprofessional response: “Same position we discussed and you were submitted for…”

    Hm. OK then. I guess I’m not moving forward because that’s what the ellipsis means. This came from corporate HR too, not a recruiter.

      1. MissDisplaced*

        I suppose they were assuming I got a rejection letter and was being clueless and not taking no for an answer—but I didn’t receive anything!

    1. AnotherLibrarian*

      I find it appalling the number of places that don’t follow up after a phone screen or an in-person. It’s really frustrating, especially when you think- I took time off my job for this.

  18. IrishEm*

    Oh god that’s just like the crap advice Seetec used to give me, up to and including lying in interview about why I was let go of my last job. ughhhhhhh

  19. Hiring Mgr*

    I wouldn’t do this myself for all the reasons suggested. But I’ll also say that as a hirer, if a candidate did this it wouldn’t bother me. I cut job seekers a ton of slack since we know how tough and draining it can be.

  20. That Girl from Quinn's House*

    When I worked in a field that was disorganized, and hired continuously, a polite follow-up after a few weeks would be appreciated. We’d had a lot of problems with emailed in resumes getting blocked by spam filters, or the applicant tracking system acting up and we wouldn’t want to miss out on an interested candidate due to our organization’s general level of disorder.

    Someone who checked in politely, and had a sentence-long summary of their qualifications, ex: “I’m a certified llama trainer with six years’ experience and I applied for the Llama Trainer I position on November 5,” would be fine. We’d look to figure out where the ball got dropped, and then work to fix it.

    1. That Girl from Quinn's House*

      That said, as a candidate, I would not do it for more professional positions. You have to know your field to determine if this is inappropriate.

  21. Happy Pineapple*

    To add to the chorus: I’ve lived and worked in both the U.S. and the U.K., and this is bad advice for both sides of the pond. You’re apply for a job, not checking in on your nan. Silence (especially 3-5 days?!) is no reason to panic; they’ll get back to you if they’re interested.

  22. Lucky black cat*

    UK person here. My reaction is: please tell me what site this is so I can make sure we aren’t using it. Yikes.

  23. Mary*

    U.K. careers adviser—the only time I recommend following up is if you’ve made a speculative application or contacted someone for an informal chat, informational interview, something like that, rather than an application for a posted job. Since there’s no necessity on the organisation’s part, it’s easy for someone to think, “oh yeah, I could do that” but not get around to it, and a single quick, respectful follow-up can be useful.

    1. Mary*

      Oh! The other time I would recommend it is if the application has gone to a recruiter or an agency rather than directly to the organisation. I would feel 0 compunction about following up with recruiters because many of them are trying to improve their own numbers by getting as many applicants as possible and the only way you find out if they’re actually serious about your candidacy is by following up.

      However, I’d also discourage you from applying to jobs through agencies if you can find any posting which links you directly to the organisation. There are lots of agencies which scrape job ads from other setting and post them to Indeed and TotalJobs, and they’ll come up higher in the google search than the actual ad. So if you search, say, “mental health receptionist Leeds”, you’ll get lots of scraped ad on Total and Indeed with the organisation name hidden. If you can take a chunk of the ad text and search again, you can often turn up the employer directly and it’s always better to apply to them directly if they are advertising directly.

      Also, use your university’s careers team!

  24. Radio Girl*

    I suspect most of the people managing these sites know nothing about the fine art of job hunting. They are either technical or sales people. Listen to Alison. She knows!

  25. Michelle*

    At my company if someone calls inquiring about their application it only results in them not getting hired. A few people were calling daily!

    Do not call about your application, do not call to schedule an interview. If the company is interested they will get a hold of you. A companies job isn’t to hire people (most of the time!) they have other much more important things to do. Disturbing them absolutely hurts your chances!!!

    1. Mrs. HR*



      An actual phone conversation I had with an applicant for an entry-level position:

      Me: “This is Me. How can I help you?”
      Candidate: “You don’t know me, but I found your number on the company website and wanted to follow up on the status of my application for X position?”
      “I see. This is my personal cell phone number. It is not posted – are you sure that’s where you got it?”
      “Well, I saw you manage Human Resources, so I looked you up on X website and found your information there!”
      “Okay… How can I help you?”
      “Have you seen my application? I wanted to schedule an interview.”
      “No, please do not call this phone number again.”

      !!!!!!???? WHY do candidates think this will get them a job?

  26. Elizabeth West*

    I just got this advice today (from a recruiter!) and I was like, nodding and ‘uh-huh’-ing and inside I thought, she has some good stuff to say, but Alison would Nooooooooo all over that!

  27. Raven*

    When I was semi-involved with the hiring process at a former place of work, one guy — who was already unqualified to begin with — took the terrible advice of contacting us *every day for a week* to, IDK, restate his qualifications/get our attention/badger us. He did not get the job, obviously, and left a bad impression. And this guy was like 35, so definitely not right out of college! I’m glad you have the wherewithal to check with Alison, because you’ve definitely done the right thing by not following up yet.

    1. RUKiddingMe*

      I see you’ve met my nephew. The nephew who against all advice to the contrary did exactly what you described.

      The manager/owner/whoever finally told him he wasn’t getting hired because he was “annoying the fuck” out of them.

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Oh, I’ve met “this guy” before.

      One time I gave “this guy” a job because okay, you want it, you can have it but you have to come in and fill out an application, thems the rules.

      Finally he came in and filled out the application and even brought a friend. Cool, yeah we’re always hiring, you know.

      2.5 days, that’s how long they lasted. After all the needling and selling himself. He was desperate for that job and the Hardest Worker Ever until he realized no, he wasn’t and just no-called, no showed with his buddy.

  28. Buzz*

    Last time we advertised for an entry level job, we had over 300 applications in the first few days. If even a fraction of those people had called or emailed to follow up it would have been a nightmare.

    1. Close Bracket*

      That’s exactly what I was thinking. When I apply to jobs with LinkedIn, it tells me how many people have applied (which really just means clicked through the link to apply), and it’s generally a lot. These are senior positions that I apply to, not entry level. I can’t imagine a hiring manager fielding all those phone calls.

  29. pally*

    I can understand not wanting to be bothered with a bunch of follow-up contacts for job postings. That must be insane if there’s a lot of jobs posted.

    I got hired for my first job out of school by being one of the first to call back after the interview.

    HR interviewed a bunch of people- all in one day. She told each person to “call back after 5 pm today and I’ll let you know if you’ve been hired”. So I did – on the dot of 5 pm. She picked up the phone, asked my name, and then thanked me and said she’d call back in a few minutes. About 10 minutes later, my phone rang. It was the HR lady telling me I was hired.
    After I started the job, I learned that she’d hired 3 others who started the same day I did. Apparently she hired the first four who called back. That was how she conducted all hiring operations. Later on, she told me that her thought was that only those who really want the job will call back.

    1. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

      This strikes me as a pretty crappy system. There could be many reasons why you might not be one of the first four people to call. Was this person just unable to make a decision?

  30. Mediamaven*

    I may be in the minority but I don’t mind a follow-up email. Sometimes I miss a good resumes because I get so many. No phone calls but there is nothing wrong with an email. I don’t think it will turn anyone off – especially when so much of hiring these days is automated.

    1. banzo_bean*

      I don’t think there is anything wrong a polite follow up email but it does appear we’re in the minority. Although when I search following up after application on googel most hits say it’s effective, so I’m truly lost on how the actual population truly feels about this.
      There is also a huge difference between a pushy “hire me! hire me!” and a polite, well written follow up.

    2. MissDisplaced*

      I have often wondered if sometimes resumes are dropped or missed or overlooked by mistake—especially between phone screen by HR and interview scheduling.
      It’s like, they were interested enough to call you to verify preliminary information, and agree about salary ranges, but then you’re lost in the shuffle. IDK?

  31. Mrs. HR*

    As a hiring manager in the U.S., I try to diversify my applicant pool by posting the same job on a number of different websites. The downside to this is that I have to sift through a lot of riff-raff and applicant screening is very labor- and time-intensive. (Read: I don’t have time for monkey business!)

    Typically I collect applications and phone screen in the first 2-3 weeks, then I start setting up interviews. There have been occasions where someone on the “Maybe” phone screen list ended up in the “No” pile because they sent me a pushy follow up email within a couple days of applying. To me, it signals that this person is out of touch with professional norms and is not someone who would fit in well with our culture (which is not always highly communicative for lots of valid reasons).

    It makes me really sad to see that some people are getting this terrible, terrible advice which undoubtedly DOES affect the outcome! Anything you do in the application / interview process matters. Some things matter more than others, and this is one of those things that ‘matters.’

    1. Baseball nut*

      >To me, it signals that this person is out of touch with professional norms and
      >is not someone who would fit in well with our culture (which is not always highly
      >communicative for lots of valid reasons).

      Maybe if you stopped excluding people who are proactive about chasing, your corporate culture might become more communicative?

  32. Fake Old Converse Shoes (not in the US)*

    This is why I hate job searching portals so much. “Your CV will look better if you add a photo!” Nope. “Take this quiz that costs a lot and means nothing!” Nope. “Apply to these retail/barista positions near your area!”, “Retail companies will love your CV!” But – I’m in Systems Engineering!

  33. Team of One*

    For my current job, I had mailed in my resume and cover letter, and called the HR office the day of the deadline to ask if they had received it. Good thing I did, because they hadn’t. I was able to email a copy before the deadline, and fortunately I was interviewed and then got the job! Two weeks after the posting’s application deadline, I received my application “return to sender” because I was a few millimeters over size (and lacked TWO CENTS in postage).

    Although that was postal mail, I have actually also had this happen when applying by email – the recipient’s server held on to my application for FIVE DAYS before sending me the rejection – and by that time the deadline for applying had passed. I was super bummed, because I had been really excited about that job.

  34. ReluctantManager*

    UK manager here. Agree with nearly all the previous commenters – don’t do it.

    I recently recruited and even before the deadline one or two people got in touch at my personal work email (not the one to which they were told to direct applications) saying ‘just wanted to confirm you received my application.’ If they think we’re so inefficient that we don’t monitor our recruitment inbox, why would they want to work here?! It’s not difficult to find my email address so doesn’t show initiative or anything like that.

    We did interview one of these people (because we have a formal system that is in no way impacted by such annoying emails, and their CV was good.) The candidate was unexpectedly dire, totally out of touch with what we wanted and didn’t read the room at all. It did leave me wondering if there was a lesson there…

  35. limbonic*

    I have to say that I’m currently in a situation where I have had to CONSTANTLY follow up on HR during the hiring process. I don’t know what’s wrong here, if it’s just one bad egg in their HR department or it’s the whole HR team, but I don’t think my experience should be thought of as normal.

    First off I want to say that the actual people I interviewed with were (and have been) nothing but professional and pleasant. It’s the actual HR person (who they call a “recruiter”) who has been exasperating.

    The person who interviewed me and verbally offered me the job, told me that the HR recruiter informed him that my references had to be checked via online survey, and that the link would be sent to me (so said the recruiter). OK, seems normal, I thought. It took a week for me to get that link. Naturally, I patiently waited, wondering if there was a problem (since I had done a salary negotiation with the department head who I would be working with). At 5 pm after almost a week of waiting, I got a message on my phone from the recruiter, who I’ll call “Harold.” Harold told me to give him a call and gave no details except he’d be back in the office at 9 am. I took the morning off work so I could call him back, but I had to leave 2 messages before I finally got him at the end of the day. It was just him telling me what I already knew, which was that I needed to have my references do a survey, and that he’d send me the link right away.
    The link didn’t show up for hours. OK, I thought, they’re just really busy. Understandable.

    So I scrambled to get my references to respond (after they’d already spoken to the department supervisor), which they did, within 24 hours. Yay! Then I waited. And waited. Nervously, wondering again if something was wrong. My prospective new boss (the dept head) e-mailed me to reassure me that everything was OK with the hiring process and that I’d hear from them soon. It took almost another week, and more 5 pm messages which resulted in phone tag where Harold would never return them, to be extended an official verbal offer from HR. Yay! Harold told me when I should come in for a pre-employment physical and orientation, which would be my official start date. “You don’t have to write this all down,” he said, “I’ll be emailing you the information in a few minutes.”

    So I waited and waited for the official online offer which I would then accept. It didn’t come. Now I was getting nervous because I needed to give my 2-week notice, yet there was no official letter. I waited 3 days and then I called Harold (after more phone tag) and asked if I would be getting this e-letter, since I hadn’t gotten it yet. “Oh, you didn’t get it?” Harold said, sounding for all the world like “Oh crap I forgot” — “I’ll look into that.” So, after another hour, I finally got the offer that I could formally accept.

    Yay! I was in! The e-letter led to an online onboarding portal and a checklist of things to do. All of the dates of the to-do list were out of whack. They didn’t reflect anything we’d talked about on the phone. Now I had to call HR *again* and ask them about this. More phone tag. Harold sounded quizzical again and said he would look into the wrong dates. After a few days, nothing has happened so I called the HR general number and tried to clear up when I was actually expected to get these onboarding tasks done.

    It isn’t over yet: there are some unique wrinkles to my situation involving benefits and my physical, which I made sure to inform Harold about as soon as I could, which he said he would look into, which I am absolutely not sure he will.

    I hope people get my point here, which is not that HR departments often are very slow and busy… which is true. I’ve been in the workforce long enough to know that. It’s the pattern of “I’ll send you that shortly/I’ll look into it” and then NOTHING HAPPENING that is very unnerving. I actually have high confidence in the actual department I’ll be working at (my new boss has reached out to me a couple times and seems just as frustrated at the delays), but dealing with this HR office has been absolute torture and I’m still nervous about what lies ahead.

    So in short, this is my opinion, that in some cases, it does pay to check up on things that HR is supposedly doing.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      This sounds like Harold sucks. Perhaps it’s an internal thing on HR’s side but it sounds like really boils down to that bad egg.

      I have to wonder what the hiring team thinks of Harold and if they hate him as much as I hate him reading about all he’s put you though. Argh. I’ve dropped the ball plenty and have brain farts like everyone else but yeah, nobody should have to chase down someone like this.

      1. limbonic*

        I’m so frustrated because the department I will be working with seems absolutely lovely and professional and I can’t wait to join them. It is a large company, so that’s why I didn’t feel terribly alarmed at first by all the waiting. I feel like I have done everything correctly, that I have been as proactive as possible, as polite as possible, yet this guy is just so uncommunicative and unresponsive. I feel like someone needs to know how bad this hiring experience has been (I mean, someone up top at their HR division), but of course, I’m not about to “make a scene” on a new job by trying to complain to HR about it.

  36. Don’t get salty*

    I think that website is just preying on people‘s desire to want to control the outcome of their job search. I know people who want so badly to know what the future holds (and I’ve been that person recently). It’s agonizing waiting for someone to contact you for an interview, knowing absolutely nothing while your life seems to hang in the balance.

    But, like most everyone has been saying, it’s much better to let the process happen and to give people space to do their jobs and to get back to you if you are someone they are considering to pursue. So, kudos to you for not believing that crap!

  37. Midge*

    This is the kind of junk they taught us at the compulsory classes we had to take when I was on unemployment. To some extent badgering companies we had applied to work for became a requirement to continue collecting unemployment. They also strongly suggested we cold call / walk in to find job openings and/or to ask about our application status. It was dreadful. (They also forced us to use our SSN as a login ID on their ancient website. It was appalling.)

  38. Amy Veg*

    I’m also in the UK and agree this is completely unnecessary. The only exception would be if it was clear from the advert that it was a recruitment agency (rather than an application direct to the employer) and it’s a job you’re really keen on. In that case they might have had loads of applications and the job could have already been filled, but an email or call might mean that they’re more likely to think of you when they have a similar role to fill.

  39. Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers*

    This “feature” was included by someone who is being measured on “user engagement” or some such metric but hasn’t done the research to find out whether this a useful way to engage. It’s silly and should be ignored.

  40. JacqueOfAllTrades*

    As others have pointed out…no, just no. I am an HR Director. If you are going to be scheduled for an interview, or are selected for a position after an interview, I’m not sitting and waiting for you to call me and I’m not going to leave the position unfilled until you call me. I will do MY job, when I have all the information needed to do so. You, as a candidate, cannot speed that up, only slow it down. It *will* get me to look at your submission – and not in a good way.

  41. Former Retail Lifer*

    The only time this might be a good idea is if there’s a huge hiring spree for entry-level positions that don’t require much experience. I was a hiring manager in retail for years, and when I was looking for part-time, seasonal help (Christmas, back-to-school) almost all of the applications and resumes I received were basically the same. In that case, the one guy who worked part-time at a mall chain store for a year and contacted me to ask about his application actually did stand out from the rest of the people who worked at chain stores at the mall for a year. But any time I’ve done hiring outside of this very narrow area, checking on the status of your application didn’t help. Most of the time it just leads to awkward conversations about me not moving forward with your application at this time.

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