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.

when job searching, where is the line between admirable and annoying persistence?

A reader writes:

About two and a half weeks ago, I submitted my application for a customer service position at a company that I really admire. It’s the kind of company that seems altruistic in its business practices, and besides the perks the company describes for this position, I feel as though at the end of the workday I’d feel good just doing the work itself.

A little over a week after I submitted my application (and after hurricane Sandy raged through the area), I noticed that a member of the hiring team visited my Linkedin.com profile. I didn’t receive an email or phone call, so after another week had passed, I reached out to him personally through Linkedin Inmail and formally introduced myself, stated that I was still interested in the position (mentioning that I understood that after Sandy businesses were still trying to get back into their workflow), and offered to meet for a cup of coffee or maybe an interview so that we could discuss why the company and I would be a good fit.

A few days later, that same recruiter visited my page again. It’s been a couple days since he viewed my profile, and I still haven’t heard anything. I’m no stalker or try hard, and the last thing I want to do is give off the impression that I’m desperate. I truly feel as though getting this job would be a career changer for me, and I know based on my experience, skills, and what the company says its looking for that I would be a great asset to the company.

My question is, how persistent should I be in trying to secure an interview with this company? Common sense tells me not to call or email every day (I’d hate it if someone did it to me), so that’s not a concern. Does an email a week sound reasonable? Should I switch up tactics and contact another employee to see if I can secure an interview that way? Or should I just sit on my hands and wait? If so, how long?

I guess I’m trying to find that fine line between admirable and annoying persistence.

For most hiring managers, there’s no such thing as admirable persistence. Unless you’re in sales, we’re not making interviewing or hiring decisions based on who is or isn’t persistent. We’re making those decisions based on who’s most qualified, and one has nothing to do with the other.

That means that an email a week is way too much. After applying for a job, you can reach out by email once … although many hiring managers, myself included, feel that even that is unnecessary and slightly annoying. After your one email follow-up — which I don’t even recommend unless you can’t control yourself from doing something — do not continue to follow up. At that point, you’ll have expressed interest twice (your initial application and your follow-up). They know you’re interested. If they want to talk to you, they’ll contact you.

You cannot make them contact you by repeatedly asking them to, and if you try that, you’ll annoy them — just like you’d annoy anyone by making repeated overtures without an expression of interest in return. (And the hiring rep’s visit to your LinkedIn page wasn’t an overture back. It was simply a “let me see who this guy is.”)

And no, do not start contacting other employees. You’ve contacted their hiring team twice now. If you start contacting others trying to find another way in the door, you risk looking overly aggressive and like you don’t respect their decision-making process (which, uh, you don’t, apparently), and you risk alienating them completely.

Again, employers aren’t looking for candidates who stand out by being persistent (except in the sales field). They’re just not. They’re looking for the strongest candidates, the ones who show the strongest track record of excelling at what they need … and that’s something your resume and cover letter will convey, not your follow-ups.

what to do after your job interview

So you’ve had a job interview and you’re waiting to hear back from the employer. What do you do now? Do you just sit and wait, or should you be doing anything in the interim? The answer is a little bit of both.

These seven steps will help keep your candidacy strong, while also keeping you from going crazy with suspense.

1. Send a follow-up note. Within a few days after your interview, send a follow-up note by email or postal mail. These are often thought of as thank-you notes, but a good one will go well beyond thanking your interviewer for her time. A really effective note will reiterate your interest in the job and build on the conversation from the interview, even referring back to points that were covered there and your thinking on them since then.

2. But don’t follow up excessively. As eager as you might be to hear back from the employer, following up too frequently can turn a good candidate into an annoying one who won’t get hired. Phoning or emailing weekly or checking in before the time when you’ve been told a decision is overly aggressive and may kill your chances for an offer.

3. Review the questions you were asked in the interview and how you did. Were there questions that tripped you up, or where you felt your answers were weak? Write these questions down so that you can practice better answers for next time.

4. Think about whether you want the job. Too many job seekers just accept any job that’s offered to them, without thinking through whether they’re the right fit for the work, the culture, and the people. That, of course, is a recipe for ending up in a job where you’re miserable. So think through what you’ve learned about the job and the company. Is this work you’d like to do every day? Is the manager someone you’d want to work for? Being thoughtful about these factors can help you end up in the right job, not just any job.

5. Realize that hiring often takes longer than anyone involved thinks it will. Don’t be alarmed if you don’t hear back from the employer immediately. The hiring process often takes longer than employer intend, for all sorts of reasons – the decision makers are out of town, scheduling conflicts have delayed a final interview, the bureaucracy required to finalize an offer takes time to work through, and so forth. It’s nerve-wracking, but don’t read too much into it.

6. Keep applying for other jobs. Whatever you do, don’t stop your job search while you wait to hear back. It doesn’t matter how great your interview was, or how much you clicked with your interviewer, or how perfect the job seems for you. It doesn’t even matter if the interviewer told you that you were the top candidate and you should expect an offer soon. Until you actually have a firm job offer, preferably in writing, keep applying for other jobs. Too many people have stopped their job search because one particular job seemed like a sure thing – only to have the offer never come through. Don’t let that happen to you.

Plus, applying for more jobs is a good way to burn off that nervous energy that have while you’re waiting for them to call.

7. Move on mentally, if necessary. If you find yourself agonizing and frantically checking your email every 20 minutes, wondering when you’re going to hear something, do this instead: Move on. There’s nothing to be gained by the agonizing and waiting and wondering; you’re far better off putting it out of your head and moving on. If the employer eventually calls, it will be a pleasant surprise. And if they don’t, you’ll have already moved on anyway.

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

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

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.

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.)

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

A reader writes:

After applying to a job, how long do companies usually wait before reviewing resumes to set up interviews? Twelve days ago, I applied to a job that fits me perfectly. It’s what I been doing throughout my career. I feel, based on my background, I should be called for an interview. If I don’t hear from them this week, should I call personnel or call the person looking to fill the position?

How long it takes for companies to set up interviews varies dramatically from company to company. Some employers do interviews on a rolling basis, as strong applications come in. Others have a set application period of, say, three to four weeks (sometimes longer) and don’t contact anyone until that period is over. And others are just really slow — they should be contacting people within a few weeks but because of disorganization, inefficiency, and so forth don’t contact candidates for months.

In other words, there’s no real answer.

You also need to keep in mind that this is a very overcrowded job market and most employers are getting 200, 300, even more applications for every position they advertise. I once got 600 applications for one slot. So you want to keep in mind that statements like “based on my background, I should be called for an interview” don’t really work in this context.  There might be 50 candidates who have the right qualifications for the position. There might be 100. They’re not going to call all of them, so this means that lots of candidates who are indeed qualified aren’t going to be contacted.  They’re going to pick the ones who they judge to be the absolute top tier — relative to the rest of the candidate pool, which is impossible for you to evaluate from the outside. (An awesome cover letter can often help here.)

As for following up … don’t call. They have your application. They know you’re interested. You will annoy them if you call.  (Read this.) What you want to do is to stand out by being a highly qualified candidate with a great resume and a compelling cover letter, not by irritating them with an unnecessary phone call.  (Now, will you occasionally hear from someone who called to follow up on their application and got an interview out of it? Sure, and if you want to screen for disorganized employers where the squeakiest wheel gets the grease, that’s one way to do it. But this will not work with good employers, and you will far, far more often annoy the employer and go to the bottom of their pile.)

If you absolutely must follow up in some way, send a polite email reiterating your strong interest in the job and saying that you’d love to talk when they’re ready to begin scheduling interviews. But that’s it.

It’s not the most encouraging response, I realize — it’s nicer to be told that there are things that you can do to gain some control in the process. But this is the reality of how it works.

Want more help finding a job?
Get my e-book:  How To Get a Job / Secrets of a Hiring Manager

how to get a job If you’ve ever wished that you could look into the brain of a hiring manager to find out what you need to do to get hired, this e-book is for you. I’ll give you step-by-step help through every stage of your job search, explaining at each step what a hiring manager is thinking and what they want to see from you. Learn more here.

why is it taking so long to hear back after your interview?

I get asked this question all the time, and I don’t know why it’s taken me so long to write a post about it:

Why is it taking so long to hear back after your interview?!  What the hell are they doing? Are they freezing you out? Has your interviewer died? For the love of god, why haven’t you heard anything?

Instead of going crazy waiting for the phone to ring, it helps to understand what might be going on behind the scenes. Here are six common reasons why you might not have heard back from an employer yet, despite having had a great interview:

They’re still interviewing other candidates. This doesn’t necessarily mean anything about the strength of your own candidacy. Job seekers often assume that it’s a bad sign if a company is continuing to interview other people, but often these interviews are set up well in advance, before they even met with you. Depending on all the players’ schedules, these interviews could go on for weeks after yours.

Something came up that they didn’t anticipate. A decision-maker is out of town, higher priority work came up unexpectedly, or a budget question needs to be ironed out before they can make the hire. Job seekers tend to assume that hiring can go smoothly and quickly on the employer’s side, when in reality there are often many moving pieces to juggle and other work clamoring for attention too.

They’re resolving questions about the position itself. For instance, John just announced he’s retiring, which means that Jane will move into his role, so now they’ve got to figure out if they should reconfigure Jane’s position and what that will mean for the job you interviewed for. Or they’ve just realized that they could really use someone with a financial background in addition to all the other qualifications they advertised, and now they’re thinking about reworking the position entirely.

They’ve offered the position to someone else and they’re waiting for an answer from that person before they get back to you. Sometimes this can add several weeks to the process – but if that person turns down the offer, you might be next on their list.

The company or hiring manager has trouble making decisions, or the company bureaucracy takes weeks to finalize the offer paperwork (neither of which are great signs about the work environment, but that’s a different topic).

You are indeed out of the running, and they haven’t bothered to tell you that.This is inexcusably rude and inconsiderate, but also increasingly common..

Now, all this said, a good employer will keep you updated about their timeline, especially if it changes. Not only is this a courteous thing to do, but it’s in the employer’s best interest to make sure they don’t lose great candidates to other offers – and staying in touch about the timeline is one way to know if that’s coming.

At the same time, though, job seekers are often unrealistically quick to jump to the conclusion that they’re being ignored. When you’re job searching, time feels like it moves incredibly slowly. And it moves even more slowly when you’re waiting to hear back after an interview that felt like it went well. So it’s important to remember that the employer has other priorities besides just hiring. And they might be waiting until they have something definite to report before getting back to you.

However, it’s perfectly acceptable to contact an employer and ask for a sense of their timeline for moving forward. Ideally, you’d ask about their timeline at the end of the interview itself, since then if you haven’t heard back by that date, you have a ready-made excuse for following up. But either way, if you’re going crazy wondering when you’ll hear something – and if it’s been at least 10 days since your interview – send them a quick email, reiterate your interest, and ask when they expect to be back in touch.

Meanwhile, continue interviewing! And stay patient.

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

does company’s silence mean I didn’t get the job?

A reader writes:

I recently interviewed for a job, and didn’t get it. A few weeks later, though, the person I interviewed with contacted me out of the blue to ask me if I’d like to interview for a similar position, which was unposted. I went to the interview, met with four different people, toured the office–it took a whole afternoon! I sent off my thank-you notes, and one of my interviewers even responded by saying that she thought I should hear something soon. I felt like it was a lock.

Then, nothing. At first I thought, it’s the holidays, people are gone, it’s understandable that I haven’t heard anything. Then, a couple days after New Year’s, the job is posted as being open on their website. I responded by emailing the hiring manager, politely reiterating my interest in the position: nothing.

So, shall I give up? All I want at this point is closure. There’s this small part of me hanging on, thinking, “They’re just posting the job to cover their bases, and I haven’t heard from them because they’re putting an offer together. But I know it’s far more likely that they’ve simply moved on, don’t want me for the position, and won’t get back to me because they’re too busy.

Could you please tell me what you think is going on? If I’m out of the running, that’s fine. I just want to move on with my life!

Well, they certainly wouldn’t be the first employer to never bother to get back to candidates after interviewing them. It’s incredibly rude and inconsiderate, but it does happen all the time.

However, I don’t think we have enough reason to conclude that’s happening here, at least not yet. Hiring often takes longer than candidates think it will. And when you emailed the hiring manager, you didn’t actually ask for an update on timeline; you just reiterated your interest. To get real information, you need to directly ask about their timeline. Say something like this: “I hoped to get an update from you on your timeline for next steps and/or a hiring decision. I understand hiring takes time, of course, but can you give me a sense of when I’m likely to hear back from you?”

Ideally, you’d always ask this question at the end of an interview, so that you’re armed with information rather than sitting around wondering. Plus, then, if the timeline passes without word from them, you have a logical reason to check back in.

The fact that the job was posted after your interview may or may not mean anything. They might have reasonably concluded, “This guy seems good, but we’d be silly not to open up the candidate pool to make sure he really is the best person for the job.”

As a side note, I think you probably did yourself a disservice by feeling “it was a lock” after your interview. It’s never a lock, not until you have an official offer in hand. They may have thought you were a strong candidate but someone else ended up being stronger, or the job description may have changed in some way, or they may have hit any of a number of snags. Don’t assume it’s a lock, no matter how positive things seem.

Anyway, contact them, ask about their timeline, and see what happens. Good luck!

how often to ask for updates when you’re in the running for a job

A reader writes:

I recently posted my resume to a job board and got a response soon after. The employer (a news director) emailed and asked me to call him, which I did. On the phone he talked about the position and had me complete a quick script writing test, which I emailed back. After submitting it I didn’t hear anything from him, and a week later I emailed to ask for an update on the hiring process. He wrote back that they were still looking at candidates and he would contact me if he still needed anything else.

Should I still continue to ask for updates? Yesterday would have marked a week since the first request for an update. I’m trying to use restraint and not contact him again about it until next Wednesday or Thursday. Overall I don’t want to appear pushy, but still very much interested.

The thing to do here is not just to contact the employer asking for “an update.” That can feel like nagging if you do it more than once, and it’s also not as likely to give you particularly useful information.

Instead, you want to ask something more specific — their timeline for next steps. Say something like this:

“Would it be possible for you to give me a sense of your timeline for next steps?”

He will either (a) be vague or (b) give you a timeline for next steps.

If he’s vague, it’s either because (a) he really doesn’t know or (b) he doesn’t consider you a top candidate at this point but also not an obvious rejection, so he’s waiting to see how the rest of the candidate pool takes form.

If he does give you a timeline for next steps, then you reiterate your interest and then sit tight and wait. If that timeline passes without word from him, then you follow up and say something like this: “I’m really excited about this position and wanted to check in on your timeline.” If you want, you can add something like, “If you think I’m a promising candidate, I’d be glad to make myself available for an interview at your convenience.”

Also, read this post on employer time versus candidate time and do your best to adjust your time zone.

how much contact is too much contact when job-searching?

A reader writes:

I’m about to lose my job (temporary hire for a project that’s almost over) and now am starting the hunt again. I’ve been reading all the advice, going to the free federally-funded we-help-you-get-hired places, and all of them tell you to constantly call, call, call the place you’re applying. Call after you’ve sent in your resume/application to make sure they got it. Call to get an interview if you haven’t heard anything. Call after the interview to thank the interviewer. Call to see if a decision has been made. To me this just sounds… insane. And stalker-ish. 

So, how much contact is too much contact? How much should I give to show I’m interested but not a crazy stalker lady?

Your instincts are right. The advice out there to aggressively call at every opportunity is crap, and is probably being provided by people who either haven’t done much hiring in the last decade or who weren’t that great at it when they did. Here’s why:

1. Being interrupted by an unnecessary phone call is annoying and even arguably rude.  Email is much more courteous, because it allows the person to respond when it’s convenient, rather than having to stop whatever they’re doing to take a call. And remember, you’re not the only one applying; you’ve got to multiply your phone call by the 200+ applicants they likely have for the job

2. I’m organized and competent and thus I don’t need to be reminded of your application, because it’s not going to slip through the cracks. If a great candidate can only get an interview with me by calling to nag me, I’m horrible at my job.  Now, it’s certainly true that plenty of employers are unorganized and incompetent, which is why you’ll occasionally hear a story about someone who called to follow up on their application and got an interview out of it. But if you take that as confirmation that those calls are worth making, you’re self-selecting for bad employers over good ones.

3. The “advice givers” who recommend this aggressive calling routine are generally basing it on the idea that it’ll help you “stand out.” Can I train everyone’s gag reflex to kick in whenever you hear people talk about  “standing out” in any way other than by being a well-qualified candidate?  You stand out by being a highly qualified candidate, writing a great cover letter, and being responsive, thoughtful, and enthusiastic. You don’t want to stand out for having an overly aggressive, rules-don’t-apply-to-me, pay-attention-to-me-now approach. (And if such an approach actually gets you somewhere at that company, guess what it’s going to be like to work there?)

The one exceptions to the above might be for (a) jobs where they’re actively looking for someone who is aggressive to the point of intrusive and (b) jobs in restaurants or retail, where the convention for calling seems to work differently.

Aside from those exceptions, if you want to communicate with a prospective employer, use email. Times when it’s appropriate to follow up via email are:

* sending a post-interview thank-you note

* checking in about their timeline for next steps, particularly if they’ve exceeded the timeframe you were originally given

* alerting them to a constraint on your own side, such as a deadline for responding to another job offer

* if you’re not local, alerting them that you’ll be in town during certain days and available to meet

I want there to be some kind of career-advice-giving certification — run by me, of course — where we could fine the people giving bad advice on this kind of thing.

Read an update to this letter here.

am I annoying my recruiter with weekly follow-up?

A reader writes:

Just before Thanksgiving, I had an initial phone interview with a company. It went well and in the first two weeks of December I was called back for a second and then third interview, as I was up for two different slots in this company. Since then, I was told I was one of the final two for one of the slots. Also since then, the holidays have happened, a [reorganization], and now someone gave notice in the group I was one of the final two for. I’ve been touching base weekly with my recruiter just to see if there was any news. In my last email with her, she told me she would let me know when something changes. Should I still keep touching base every week or so, or am I becoming an annoyance?

How much post-interview follow-up is too much?

Checking in weekly when you’ve been told that you’ll be notified when something changes is too much! “I’ll let you know when something changes” can be a polite way of saying, “Please back off a little bit.”

Keep moving forward with your job search. If this job comes through great, but you don’t want to rely on it. Keep job searching just as vigorously as you would be if this weren’t out there. Good luck!