How To Follow Up on a Job Application Without Looking Desperate

Photo: Getty Images/Valentin Russanov
Ever submit a job application into the ether of the internet and subsequently hear nothing about it in the days, weeks, or even months to follow? If so, you're in good company—both with having that experience and being annoyed by it: According to the Human Capital Institute, 75 percent of job applicants never hear back after applying for a job, and 60 percent are met with silence after an interview. Furthermore, according to a 2018 survey by Glassdoor and the Harris Poll, 47 percent of job seekers said potential employers not responding to them was one of their biggest job-hunt annoyances.

Not getting a response is undoubtedly frustrating, which makes following up an important step. But, what’s the best advice for how to follow up on a job application without coming across as desperate or unprofessional? Or even bugging a hiring manager to the point that lands you outside their good graces?

In short, it's complicated. “There is definitely a fine line between showing initiative in an initial follow-up after an application or interview and crossing the line to following up too often,” says Toni Frana, career coach and team lead at FlexJobs and “Employers are busy, likely sifting through hundreds of applications or interviewing multiple applicants for multiple positions, so being mindful and respectful of their time is your best bet.”

Since getting the check-in message right could be what keeps your name at the top of the hiring team’s list, consider adopting the below advice from pros for how to follow up on a job application and, perhaps more importantly, common pitfalls to avoid.

How to follow up on a job application

Check the original job posting for details

Before you follow up on a job application, Frana suggests double-checking the advertised job description for information about how to proceed. Then, respect those instructions. If, for example, it says not to call or email after applying, don’t. Otherwise, “the employer may think you didn’t read the job posting or can’t follow directions,” Frana says.

If there’s a deadline listed for applications, wait a week or two after the window closes to email. At that point, frame your follow-up as a check-in on the application status.

If there’s a deadline listed for applications, wait a week or two after the window closes to email. At that point, you can frame your follow-up as a check-in on the application status, says Bergin Sullivan, marketing manager at recruitment firm JCSI. Keep it professional, she adds, saying something like, “'I hope you can appreciate my eagerness and persistence.' You should mention that you have a high level of interest in the role, and that’s why you’re reaching out.”

End the email by asking if there are additional materials or information you can provide, what the next steps are, and when you can expect to hear back.

Be careful when tracking down someone’s email address

If you apply for a job via an online portal and don’t have direct contact information, following up is tricky because you don't have confirmation of who the best recipient for your message might be. Still, Sullivan says sending a cold email can show initiative, but finding the right person to contact requires an extra layer of detective work.

Try searching LinkedIn, checking the job post for contact information, or browsing the company’s website for email addresses. You could also browse the company's website for email addresses. If you do email someone without certainty that they are the right person, apologize and ask that if they are not the correct recipient of the email, if they could point you in the direction of whomever is.

Even better, says Jessica Lambrecht, founder and CEO of The Rise Journey, a human resources strategy and consulting firm, is to see what connections you already have at the company. If a current or former employee is in your network, for example, use the connection to learn all you can about how to best be an asset to the organization, and follow up to your application with this information. “Put yourself in the position of the hiring manager," she says. This is someone who’s potentially getting hundreds of applications.” So do yourself a favor and set yourself apart by making your value clear.

Send a thank-you note after a job interview

If you do end up hearing from the company and getting an interview, sending a thank-you note is a critical tool for being able to stay in touch and creating a meaningful connection. “It’s a very simple act that, if done in a timely manner, can really set you apart from other applicants,” Frana says.

In the email, which you'll ideally send within 24 hours of the interview, you can thank the interviewer for the opportunity, mention something you learned about the job or company and how it relates to your experience, and reiterate why you’d be a great fit for the role, Frana says. Close by asking any questions that you have about the job or hiring process.

Mistakes to avoid when following up on a job application

Sending too many emails

No matter how eager you are about the job, don’t send too many emails. “I think that two follow-ups is ideal. One right after the interview—that thank-you email—and then maybe the following week," Sullivan says. "But, I wouldn’t push much further after that.”

Companies usually—but not always—let you know whether or not you got the job. But regardless of closure one way or another, after about a month with no word, Frana says it’s best to move on and look for other opportunities.

Other ways to avoid common email follow-up faux pas:

  • Keep the tone professional and personable, not demanding.
  • Change up the language for each email by adding some new points.
  • Avoid going over the head of the hiring manager if they’re not responding.
  • Never reach out to hiring managers on their personal platforms, such as Instagram.

Taking it personally

Not getting a response is absolutely frustrating, but it's still best to not take it personally, Sullivan says. “There might just be such a high volume that they can’t get to all of them.”

Still, that's not to say you shouldn't follow up. Doing so, Sullivan reiterates, conveys your professionalism, persistence, and passion, all of which stand to help set you apart from others in the tough job market. “It shows dedication and loyalty to the company you’re applying for, which are really good qualities to show right off the bat,” she adds.

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