Tag Archives: following up

Looking for advice on how to follow up on your application or after an interview? Here’s everything you should do — and what you should never do.

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.

how long should you wait to move on when you haven’t heard back from an employer?

I’m on vacation this week, so here’s a reprint of a post from 2012 on a topic that comes up all the time.

A reader writes:

I’ve read your thoughts on candidate time versus employer time, and have found it to be 100% accurate (and understandable — the massive priority that my application is to me is just a tiny part of the picture that the employer on the other end deals with). That being said, given how many employers don’t even acknowledge the receipt of an application, much less reply with a firm rejection, is there any reasonable barometer to interpret when the “employer time” is stretching long?

Certainly there will be some outliers who get back to you in less than a week, and others who might conceivably take months, but if you had to make a ballpark estimate, when would conclude that silence equals time to move on? Two weeks? Two months?

If I could control your brain (and the brain of every other job seeker), I would make you move on the minute after you send your application. There’s nothing to be gained by the agonizing and waiting and wondering — send the application and move on immediately. If they call, great. If they don’t, you’ve already moved on anyway.

But I know that most people won’t find that realistic. You send an application and then you wait for that contact, no matter what I say. So let me give you a alternate answer.

There’s no universal estimate of how long it takes employers to get back to candidates about their initial applications. Some employers take months to contact people. We’ve had stories here of people getting calls six months or more after applying for a job. However, in general, if it’s been 4 weeks — maybe 4-6 weeks — you’re probably not getting a call.

But I can’t stress enough that this varies wildly by employer. Employers who are on the ball will contact candidates within a few weeks (some within a few days). Others are not on the ball.

However, I maintain that the more relevant question is when you should move on because it’s better for your mental health to do so. And if you won’t take my initial piece of advice and move on as soon as you apply, then I’d say to assume that silence means “no” after three weeks or so. It might turn out not to mean that, but there’s no point in letting it take up space in your mind at that point — so move on and let yourself be pleasantly surprised if you get a call.

But really, if you want to treat yourself well, move on right after sending it. You have nothing to gain from waiting and wondering for even an hour, until there’s been an expression of mutual interest.

And obviously, regardless of when you do move on, don’t let up on your job search even a bit meanwhile. You will kick yourself later if you didn’t apply for other jobs while waiting to hear from a company that ends up never contacting you.

when should I follow up after a job interview?

A reader writes:

I’m in education and transferring to a new state, Pennsylvania to Virginia. I’ve had five interviews that I have not heard any response from. One of the interviews was a dud and I knew I was not their candidate. However, the others were great from my view, and I felt like a legitimate candidate for the job. How long should I wait before reaching out to either HR or the interviewer? Is there a policy expectation I can refer to in future interviews?

It’s been years since I’ve done a post about following up after interviews. I did a zillion of them in the first few years of running the site and then took, like, seven years off from them, but it’s probably time for another.

So here’s the deal about following up:

1. There is a ton of advice out there that tells people to follow up after an interview so that you look interested and enthusiastic. This advice is terrible, and hiring managers will almost uniformly tell you to ignore it because it’s annoying and often pushy. Employers know that you’re interested because you took the time to interview and you sent a thank-you note afterward reiterating your interest. (Right? If you didn’t, start doing that.)

2. At the end of every interview, you should ask your interviewer this: “Can you tell me about your timeline for next steps and when you expect to be back in touch?” That way, you have an initial timeframe to work with.

3. You should take that timeframe with a massive grain of salt. Double it or triple it. If they say “by the end of the week,” assume it means “maybe in two weeks.” If they say “two weeks from now,” assume it means “hopefully three or four weeks.” Hiring nearly always takes longer than anyone expects it will, including employers. Delays inevitably come up — a decision maker is out of town, or higher priorities get in the way, or all sorts of other things. If they do contact you within their stated timeline, let that be a delightful surprise. But don’t count on it happening; you will be far happier if you assume from the start that it won’t.

4. Take the timeline they give you, add a week to it, and mark that date on your calendar. (If you didn’t ask for a timeline during the interview, then just mark two weeks from the date of the interview.) That’s the earliest date that you should follow up. Ideally you’d put the job entirely out of your mind until that point so that you’re not wondering and agonizing about it (if you’re the type to agonize). Try to forget about it, assume you didn’t get the job (which is better for your peace of mind), and don’t think about it again until that date pops up on your calendar.

5. When that date rolls around, you can send a follow-up email if you haven’t heard anything. It should say something like this: “I was hoping to check in with you about the llama wrangling job. I know you were hoping to be moving forward around now, and I wondered if you had an updated timeline you could share. I’m really interested in the role and would love to talk further with you about it at any time.”

6. If they’re courteous, they should get back to you. It might not be immediate, but they should respond at some point — say, within a week or so. But if they’re like a lot of employers, they won’t get back to you. That is rude, and it’s also really, really common. If that happens, don’t keep following up. At that point, their silence is their answer. It’s a rude answer, but it’s the answer nonetheless.

At least for now, anyway. It’s possible that they’ll come back to you in the future, but at this point the ball is in their court, and you should assume that if they want to talk to you, they’ll let you know. If they want to interview you again, they’ll tell you. If they want to offer you a job, they’ll tell you. They’re not going to not contact you just because you didn’t keep following up.

5 things you should never do while waiting to hear back about a job

Your job interview went great, and the employer said you’d hear something soon. But it’s been a week, your phone hasn’t rung, and you’re getting antsy to hear something. When you’re waiting to hear back about a job, time often seems like it’s passing incredibly slowly, and each day of silence can be agony.

But as anxious as you are to hear something, make sure that your anxiety doesn’t drive you to actions that will actually harm your chances. Here are five things that you might be tempted to do while waiting to hear something – but which you should never, ever do.

1. Check in aggressively. It can be nerve-wracking to wait to hear back from an employer after an interview. But if you give into those nerves by contacting before you should or too many times, you risk undermining the good impression you hopefully made when you met with the employer. That means that you shouldn’t check in before their timeline for making a decision has elapsed, or email and then email again when you don’t get a response to your first message after a day or two, or call repeatedly and hang up when you get voicemail (which looks pretty stalker-ish on Caller ID).

The reality is, hiring often takes much, much longer than either side expects it to. But if an employer wants to hire you, they’re not going to forget about you. If you’re the strongest candidate, you don’t need to do anything to keep yourself in the forefront of the hiring manager’s mind; you’re already there. Following up once – after the timeline they give you for hearing something has passed – is fine, but beyond that, all you can do is be patient and wait to hear.

2. Bluff and say you have another job offer when you really don’t. If you have another offer that you need to respond to, it makes sense to contact any other employers you’re waiting to hear from and let them know of the offer and any associated time constraints. But sometimes a job candidate, eager to move the process along and get a decision, will make up an offer, hoping that it’ll push the employer to move faster. This is a dangerous move, because there’s a good chance that the employer will tell you, “We can’t expedite things on our end and don’t want to prevent you from taking another offer, so we’ll remove you from consideration on our end.”

3. Stop applying and interviewing for other jobs. No matter how well your interview went, no matter how perfectly suited for the job you are, and no matter how enthusiastic your interviewers appeared to be about your candidacy, never assume that you have the job in the bag. Even if positive signs seem to be raining down upon you, a better candidate could emerge, the company president’s nephew might need a job, they might freeze hiring altogether, or all sort of other things could prevent you from getting an offer. Until you actually have an offer, don’t count on getting any particular job. Keep job-searching just as actively as you would have if you knew you weren’t getting this job – because if you don’t get it, you don’t want to have wasted weeks waiting for it when you could have been talking with other employers.

4. Go on vacation and become inaccessible without giving the employer a heads-up. You don’t need to put your life on hold while you’re waiting to hear about a job (and in fact, you shouldn’t), but if you’re going to be inaccessible for more than a couple of days and you’re at the finalist stage of interviewing, you should let the employer know. Otherwise, you risk them contacting you with an offer or for another conversation, not hearing back, assuming you’re no longer interested, and moving forward with other candidates instead. So if you’re going away and won’t have phone or email access, just send the employer a quick email to let her know that’s the case and when you’ll return.

5. Agonize and obsess. Why haven’t they called yet? Should you have heard something by now? Does the lack of contact indicate they’re not interested? If you can’t find the job ad anymore, does it mean they hired someone else? If the hiring manager looks at your LinkedIn profile, does that mean they’re getting ready to make you an offer? Trying to read into every detail like this is a recipe for a miserable few weeks (or even months). You’re far better off putting the job out of your head and mentally moving on after you interview; obsessing won’t do anything to increase your chances, but it will make you miserable. Instead, mark your calendar to check in with them once at an appropriate point in the future if you haven’t heard back, but otherwise put the job out of your mind and let it be a pleasant surprise if you receive an offer.

I originally published this at U.S. News & World Report.

do I look uninterested if I don’t follow up with companies where I’ve applied for a job?

A reader writes:

I was hoping you could settle an argument I’ve been having with a friend. I’m trying very hard to mentally move on from all jobs that I apply to, so I never contact a company unless it’s in response to them contacting me first. (So I never ask if they received my application, I don’t follow up after interviews if I haven’t heard back from them by when they say I should hear from them, etc.) I figure that if a company is interested in me, they’ll contact me regardless of if I contact them or not. I don’t see any benefit to following up.

My friend says that by not contacting companies, especially after I haven’t heard from them after an interview, I’m making myself seem uninterested, bad at communicating or disorganized, and even if they had been interested in me and perhaps got too busy to contact me when they said they would, my apparent disinterest (or bad communication or disorganization) would make them change their mind.

Your friend is wrong, wrong, wrong.

The vast, vast majority of employers do not want to receive follow-up phone calls and emails from applicants. If they’re interested in interviewing you, they will contact you. After an interview, if they’re interested in hiring you, they will contact you. If you insist on following up and asking for their attention, you will annoy them.

Now, yes, there are some employers who are so disorganized that calling them can be enough to get them to look at your application when they otherwise would not have. But these employers are the minority, and they are also the very ones who you do not want to work for. Employes who are so disorganized and chaotic that they make hiring decisions based on who nudges them are not good places to work.

As for the notion that employers will assume that you’re not interested if you don’t follow up, or that you’re disorganized or bad at communicating … no. If you apply, they know you’re interested. And they aren’t assuming that you’re disorganized if you don’t follow up because they don’t want you to follow up. Why would they?

The only exceptions to this are after an interview, if a few weeks or more have gone by*. The onus really is on the employer to get in touch with you at that point, but if other priorities get in the way and the hiring timeline gets dragged out, there’s nothing wrong with checking in (by email, once) and letting them know that you’re still interested. That’s a situation where some hiring managers really do start to wonder if you’re still interested after so much time has gone by, and it can be helpful to let them know that you are.

But that’s it.

Tell your friend he loses this argument.

* And of course, post-interview thank-you notes, which yes, you should be sending.

what to say when following up on a job interview

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

If you’re like most job seekers, the post-interview stage of the job hunting process can cause a lot of stress: If you follow up, what should you say? How can you be sure that you’re striking the right balance between interested but not desperate? And what exactly should you be asking for, since presumably you’d know if they’d already decided to hire you?

Ideally, you planned ahead for this moment by asking in the interview itself what the employer’s timeline was for next steps. If you did that and the timeline you were given passes, then you have a ready-made reason for politely following up. In this case, you can write a quick email saying something like this:

“Hi Jane, you’d mentioned that you were hoping to be ready to move forward on the Communications Manager position by the end of the month, so I wanted to check in with you. I’m very interested in the role, even more so after our last conversation, and would love to know what your timeline looks like moving forward.”

Now, if you didn’t think to ask for a timeline in your interview, you can still send a similar email. Wait about two weeks from your interview before checking in, and say something like this:

“Hi Jane, I wanted to touch base with you about the Communications Manager position. I’m still very interested in the role. Do you have a timeline you can share for the next steps in the hiring process?”

 Note in both these examples that you’re not simply asking for an update on how the search is going. That because that isn’t as likely to produce the information that you’re really interested in, and it’s also easier to ignore, especially if the hiring manager doesn’t have anything definite to share yet. You’re also not just asking, “Did I get the job?” (After all, if they’ve decided to offer you the job, you’ll know – because you’ll be contacted with a  job offer.) Instead, you’re asking for something quick and easy to provide, and something that will give you a better sense of what to expect next: an updated timeline.

Other things to remember when writing your follow-up note:

  • Keep it short. Hiring managers are generally busy, so don’t send three paragraphs when a few short sentences will do. Be friendly and polite, but get straight to the point – and remember that you’re demonstrating your communication skills here just as much as you were in your cover letter and your interview. Be direct and concise. (Plus, you’re more likely to get a response is the recipient doesn’t have to wade through long paragraphs of text to find out what you want.)
  • Be conversational. You want the hiring manager to be able to picture working with you, so write the way you’d write to a colleague. Your tone should be warm and not overly formal or stiff. (Don’t go overboard in that direction, of course; you still need to be professional. But there’s no need to take on the overly formal tone of an old-fashioned business letter.)
  • Don’t be demanding. You might be frustrated that you haven’t heard anything back, especially if the employer’s own self-imposed timeline for getting back to you has passed. But don’t let it show. Hiring takes time, and other work often gets in the way. Sounding annoyed or pressuring the hiring manager to make a decision before she’s ready to is a good way to have that decision be “no!”

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my mother says I should call employers daily for an interview

A reader writes:

I am at my second semester of graduate school. In order to get an internship for next semester, I’ve been really working 24/7 for the past month. However, I still haven’t heard anything from employers yet and of course feel frustrated, as the deadline for join my school’s internship program is in three weeks.

My mother, who is staying with me now, has strong opinions and thinks I should call employers much more often than I am doing now. (I normally only call them before submitting the application to ask for more details and when the time they promised to come back to me has passed.) However, my mother believes that employers are rather busy and don’t have so much time to go through every resume, and since I have a not-that-outstanding resume, I should call them more often. Maybe if the person has so much to do and doesn’t want to bother with boring recruitment, they will just pick the one who always calls them. Therefore, I should lobby by phone more often (“every day” is what she thinks is a decent frequency).

I don’t think my mother knows so much about the job market, but I do think it makes sense that all applicants are somewhat similarly qualified with promising cover letters, so maybe it is one way to stand out, as it could impress HR more than a plain letter. What do you think? What would be a nice frequency to call up the companies, and what should I say? (Especially if I really am going to call every day, I wonder what to say.) Is it a good idea to be more private and ask the person about their own positions or background on the phone? Or will this backfire on me if the company gets irritated or annoyed?

You are hereby forbidden to take advice from your mother on anything job-related.

  • The correct frequency for calling to check on your application: zero
  • The correct frequency for calling before you submit an application: zero
  • The correct frequency for taking advice to annoy hiring managers with daily (!) phone calls: zero
  • The correct frequently for calling employers and asking about their own backgrounds, when they haven’t even expressed interest in interviewing you: zero

The vast, vast majority of employers do not want to receive phone calls from applicants. If they’re interested in interviewing you, they will contact you. If you call, you will annoy them. If you call more than once, you will really annoy them and risk having your application thrown out or at least marked as “pushy/annoying.” And if you call daily, you will be told to stop and will probably never get a job there, ever.

After all, most employers get hundreds of applications for every open position. Imagine if all those people called them, even just once. (To say nothing of every day.) By demanding their attention, you’re going to come across as naive at best and and rude at worst.

They know you’re interested. The act of applying conveyed that to them. They will get in touch if they want to talk to you. But you can’t force your way in the door, and they are not going to be impressed by you continually knocking on it.

Now, yes, there are some employers who are so disorganized that calling them can be enough to get them to look at your application when they otherwise would not have. But these employers are the minority, so while there’s the chance that you could hit on the random luck to help yourself with one of them, you will harm yourself with everyone else (and everyone else is in the vast majority). So the overwhelming odds are that this behavior will hurt your chances. (Plus, those disorganized employers who respond to random phone calls? You don’t want to work for them. They’re disorganized and chaotic and don’t know how to hire.)

If you want to stand out, you stand by being a highly qualified candidate with a compelling cover letter and a resume that shows a track record of achievement. That’s it.

I know that it’s tempting to want to find some other way of standing out, especially when you feel you have a “not that outstanding resume.” But employers are looking for the most qualified candidate who’s the best fit. They’re not looking for the loudest.

waiting to hear about a job during the holidays

A reader writes:

A while back, I wrote to you about an internship that was going well, and the fact that there was a position open at the institution I was interning at. I applied, and got rejected the first time. I thought nothing of it, and went about applying for other opportunities elsewhere.

The week before last, I got an email saying the applicant pool was being reopened, and they were interested in conducting a phone interview with me. I aced that interview, and went on to the in-person interview. That did not goes as well as I anticipated, but it was a good experience nonetheless.

I am now in the process of waiting to hear back. They told me they were hoping to have a decision made by the end of the week. Do I have to wait through the holidays, then? It’s brutal not knowing at this time of year, especially when you are anticipating not getting it.

I am very tempted to email my mentor, who is on the search committee. However, I do not want to come off as pushy. What do you suggest? Honestly, I would rather know now where they are in the process, so I can mentally prepare to continue my job-searching after the holidays if need be.

I know this sucks to deal with, but honestly, the best thing that you can do is to move on mentally right now. That doesn’t mean that I think you didn’t get the job (I have no idea, obviously), but you’re falling into the trap that so many job-seekers fall into where they agonize and stress about hearing an answer, even when they believe they probably didn’t get the position. Why not just assume you didn’t get it and move on? If you eventually hear from them with an offer, what will you have lost by not continuing to agonize the whole time? You’ll have lost nothing, will have gained a couple of angst-free weeks, and will have the bonus of a surprise job offer as well.

If they have something they’re ready to tell you, you’ll hear from them when they’re ready to tell you. Until then, you can’t control when they get in touch with you, but you can control your own reaction. You write, “It’s brutal not knowing at this time of year.” So change that: Assume you didn’t get it and move on. Again, if you’re wrong it’ll be a pleasant surprise.

(And, by the way, I’m not defending employers who leave candidates waiting without an answer after the timeline they gave them has passed. Employers should be more aware of how agonizing this often is for candidates, and they should update people when their initial timelines change, so that you aren’t wondering what the hell is going on and why you haven’t heard a single word. But at the same time, it’s helpful for job-seekers to know that this is incredibly common, and to automatically assume that when an employer says, “You’ll hear from us by Friday,” it probably means “Friday plus a week or two.” Not because you should have to, but because you do have to.)

Give yourself the Christmas present of letting go of your angst on this one — you truly have nothing to lose by doing so.

do sales jobs follow different hiring rules from other jobs?

This question came up in the comments on a recent post: Is sales really an exception to the “don’t call to follow up” rule?

I’ve written numerous times about how — in most industries — you shouldn’t call to follow up on your job application, because it’s annoying and won’t help your chances … and that more broadly, job seekers need to get rid of the idea that they’re supposed to demonstrate “persistence” or “tenacity” in the job search. Usually, though, I mention that the sales industry is an exception to that rule. (Retail and food service often are too.)

However, a commenter recently asked whether sales really is an exception to this rule, and I realized that I’m skeptical that it truly is. I started adding it because people kept telling me that sales is an exception, but never having worked in sales, I have no first-hand experience to say for sure … and frankly, it sounds implausible to me that sales managers would respond to pushiness any more than any other hiring manager would.

So: People who know, is sales really an exception to the “don’t call to follow up or otherwise be pushy or aggressive in job hunting” rule or is that a myth?

And for everyone else: Here’s your periodic reminder that hiring managers in most industries are not looking for persistence — you cannot make them contact you by repeatedly calling or emailing them, and you’ll annoy them by making repeated overtures without an expression of interest in return.

how much effort is too much when job searching?

A reader writes:

How much effort to connect directly is too much when applying to positions?

I am getting the impression from feedback that supply and demand means employers have to sift through many more applications than they have time to process in any depth. So personal contact / networking and briefer applications may have a better chance of getting through than more detailed applications capable of standing on their own, sent into HR email / online talent management systems’ black holes.

However, I have found results haphazard when doing things like finding/emailing the hiring manager, following up after a week or two, contacting people on LinkedIn to connect, etc. for positions where there is otherwise a strong fit to requirements — in other words, when the application could adequately express my merits.

What are your thoughts on acceptable methods / frequencies and deciding factors to back off or escalate? I have read mixed comments from employers in articles like yours — sustained efforts just annoy some managers, others find the tenacity a selling point.

The extras that you’re talking about make sense when you have connections to the employer, or your connections have connections there. In that case, it makes sense to reach out directly to the person you know there, or to have people you know with connections there reach out directly on your behalf.

But if there’s no personal connection, then you’re generally not going to do yourself much good (and in many cases will just annoy the hiring manager).

Notice that this is a good argument for building those connections before you want to apply for a job somewhere — because if you try to do it after you’ve applied, you will blend into the mass of people who are all trying the same ineffective tactics in order to get their applications noticed.

But assuming you don’t have connections to work with a particular job, then the way you stand out is by being a great candidate:  having a resume that shows a strong track record of getting results in the areas that they’re hiring for, writing a compelling cover letter that doesn’t simply regurgitate information they can find on your resume, and being professional, friendly, and responsive when they contact you.

Honestly, very few hiring managers value “tenacity” in the job application process. More often, “tenacity” reads as pushiness. And the hiring managers who do respond to it — and yes, there are some, although they’re in the minority — are precisely the managers you don’t want to work for: They’re the disorganized ones, the ones who don’t value hiring the right person enough to do their job without prompting from a  candidate, the ones who respond to gimmicks or flashiness over merit when you’re working for them. Guess what your quality of life is going to be like on that job? You really don’t want to screen for them by your behavior in your job search.

Job seekers need to get rid of this idea that they’re supposed to demonstrate “persistence” or “tenacity” in the job search. I know there are self-appointed “experts” out there telling you that, but the reality is that — unless you’re in sales* — that’s not what good employers are looking for.

It’s time to stick that idea in a time capsule and bury it deep in the ground … possibly along with the “experts” pushing that idea.

* Possibly not in sales either, as you’ll see in the comments.