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How to follow up on a job application

CareerBuilder | October 4, 2021

Should you follow up

Following up on a job application the right way will help you get an interview — and a job. Here's what you should do when you reach out.

So you’ve made your CareerBuilder profile, built a knockout resume, submitted your job application and maybe even nailed an interview. You’re an unstoppable force of job-hunting inertia. Congrats! But now you’re waiting on a response and don’t know what to do with all that energy. Do you follow up with the hiring manager on the status of your application? Shoot your interviewer a thank-you note? Compose a sonnet regaling readers with your passion for a company’s work?

Well, we wouldn’t recommend that last idea. But we can help alleviate the stress of waiting and wondering. Here’s everything you need to know about when and how to follow up on a job application or interview.

When to follow-up on a job application

We at CareerBuilder are always telling you to be proactive. Send out that resume! Learn new skills! Be your own advocate! We stand by that. But sometimes a little restraint is the right tactical move. So how do you know when it’s time to lean in and when it’s time to give hiring managers some space?

Read the job posting again

If you’ve ever heard a teacher sigh at a question and reply, “It’s in the syllabus,” you know how hiring managers feel when they get bombarded with requests for information they’ve already provided.

Pull up the job posting again. Does it mention when the company will stop recruiting for the role? Probably best to avoid following up while they’re still searching for candidates. And if the job posting says that you shouldn’t call, don’t call! If it says you shouldn’t email, don’t email! Show the hiring manager that you took the initiative to research the job posting, that you are diligent about following instructions, and that you’re a professional candidate overall.

If you’re itching to keep your job hunt moving, use this down time to apply to other jobs.

Time your follow-up right

Unless the job posting says otherwise, you should wait at least a week — and probably two weeks, to be safe — before following up with a hiring manager. You can send a thank-you note after an interview — more on that later — but don’t ask about hiring decisions too early.

Hiring is a painstaking process in the best of times, and depending on what’s happening in the job market, hiring managers may take a little longer to communicate with applicants, vet resumes, conduct interviews and mull over candidates’ qualifications with their teams. Following up every minute of the day is not a good idea. Give your hiring manager enough time to consider everything you've shared with them. You don’t want to come off as desperate.

"Following up does not mean becoming a nuisance," says Julie Kniznik, senior consultant with ClearRock, a Boston-based HR consulting and leadership development firm. "If you've made multiple attempts via email and phone and aren't making progress, let it go and move on to the next opportunity."

"Checking in periodically based on your understanding of the company's hiring process is important," Kniznik adds. "Conducting a successful job search requires being assertive without being annoying."

Oh, one more thing about timing: don’t send a follow-up email on a Monday or a Friday. Your potential employer is undoubtedly busy and probably knee-deep in emails. No one is going to read your message when they’re trying to tackle a new week or check out for the weekend. Lunch is another bad time for emails — sorry, but you just cannot compete with a good sandwich. Reach out in the late morning or early afternoon during the middle of the week. The hiring team will appreciate your considerate timing.

Should you follow up on an application if you haven’t had an interview?

As long as you’ve followed the company’s instructions and waited the appropriate amount of time, it’s perfectly fine to follow up on the status of an application.

Many employers use automated systems to vet applications, so you should get an email confirming that your application has been received. If you haven’t gotten a confirmation within a day or two, reaching out to the hiring manager could help you establish a connection and keep you from getting lost in the slush pile.

"If you've invested the time it takes to fill out a job application — and these days online applications can be quite lengthy — it is absolutely appropriate and necessary to follow up on a job application to be sure your application has been received and to inquire about when you might expect to learn of next steps," Kniznik says. "Whenever possible, try to find the hiring manager and send a cover letter with your resume directly to the hiring manager letting them know you've applied to the position and are eager to learn more about the opportunity."

Should you send a thank-you note after an interview?

Hiring managers are looking for workers who are genuinely excited about the position, and sending a thank-you note after an interview is one of the easiest and most effective ways to demonstrate just how interested you are.

"Job seekers should know that tenacity is often noted and usually rewarded," says Adam Hatch, a hiring manager and career expert. "Going the extra mile, especially with an immediate 'thank you' follow up after an interview, is quickly becoming standard etiquette in job searches."

According to Penny Locey, vice-president of Keystone Associates, job seekers should send a thank-you email within 24 hours of the interview.

"Try to be creative," Locey says. "Candidates can send the interviewer news with the thank-you note. Look to touch on your conversation. If you spoke about a certain issue, an article or book or an upcoming event, send them information that touches on the topic. This will show that you are thinking about the business and were truly engaged in the conversation."

How to follow up on a job application or interview

You’ve studied up on the hiring process, sent a thank-you note, followed all the rules and waited ever so patiently. Now it’s finally time to follow up. Here are some tips on how to reach out the right way:

Contact the right person

Your follow-up won’t do much good if the person reading it has no idea who you are. Track down the email address of the hiring manager or recruiter. If the job description isn’t clear about who you should contact, do a little research on the company website or LinkedIn. “To Whom It May Concern” is your enemy! Always address your correspondence to a specific person. Show the company that you’ve done your homework and can craft a personalized message.

Email, email, email!

Unless the company says otherwise, the most professional way to follow up on a job application or interview is via email.

If you don’t have a deep personal rapport with the recruiter or hiring manager, a phone call is too forward. Snail mail is out of the question. And while you might impress a company by communicating via carrier pigeon, those of you who aren’t specially trained bird wranglers should stick to your keyboards.

Use a professional-sounding email address for any employment-related communication — something with your name in it. Sorry, but no one wants to hire unicorn_hunter77.

Brevity is the soul of wit – and getting hired

About that email: keep it short, sweet, and most of all, specific.

Include the job title and your name in the subject line. Remind the hiring manager or recruiter who you are, highlight any recent news about the company, mention something you discussed in your interview, and reiterate your relevant experience, skills, and an example or two of major accomplishments — the SparkNotes version of what makes you a strong candidate.

This should take no more than a handful of sentences; hiring managers don’t have time to read your autobiography.

You’ll have a better chance of getting a response if you include a polite call to action, like asking a follow-up question about the position, requesting additional information, inquiring about the timeframe of the hiring process, or simply saying that you look forward to discussing the opportunity in more detail.

Be sure to include your contact information, including your phone number, in your salutation so that it’s easy to get in touch.

Leverage your personal contacts

If you know someone who works for the company or organization you're applying to, ask them if they'd be comfortable recommending you, and mention your connection in your cover letter and interview. (By the way, if you need a template for your cover letter, we've got you covered.)

The job application process is draining, and it can be hard to stand out. Having a professional reference inside the company will help hiring managers understand that they can trust you.

Let hiring managers know how popular you are

Say you left your job interview feeling like you could fly. The job listing was basically your resume. You just know the company is interested in you, and this position is practically your dream job. But you still haven’t heard anything, and your other job prospects are calling you up. What then?

Letting a hiring manager know that other companies are interested in you is a delicate matter. You don’t want to seem pushy, like you’re trying to leverage your other opportunities against a prospective employer. But you do need to be forthright about your situation so that the hiring manager can account for your availability during their interview process.

In your follow-up email, reaffirm your interest in the position, but let them know that you are fielding other opportunities. Aim for something like this: “I am highly interested in this position and would love to learn more about your timeline for hiring. I feel I have a lot to offer your company and would make a great fit for this role, but I have to let you know that I am fielding other opportunities. Please let me know if I can provide you with any more information. I look forward to speaking with you again!”

Don't close doors

Even a rejection may merit a well-crafted follow up. Getting turned down for a job isn’t fun, but smart job seekers will recognize the opportunity to demonstrate how they behave in the face of adversity.

"If you receive a rejection, respond and thank them for their time. I always suggest adding in a statement saying, 'Please do consider me for other positions you feel I am better suited for in the future,'" says Samantha R. Strazanac, CEO and founder, Strazanac Solutions LLC. "This shows you are resilient, not upset and still interested in the company. I have many experiences where the first person hired didn't work out so we tried someone who we originally passed by and they turned out to the better than the person we originally hired. Never burn bridges, even in a job rejection."

What else you should know

  • Still need some help getting through that job application in the first place? We can help.
  • And if you’re worried you’re being a follow-up pest, we can show you how to keep it professional.