A Quick Guide to Following Up on a Job Application

Close-up of a man's holding a sticky note that has the phrase 'follow up' written on it
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You have painstakingly penned a cover letter, proofread your CV several times and completed an extensive 30-minute job application. You are excited, anxious and ready to go to work. Because of this, you will likely hit F5 on your keyboard every minute for the next several days – or until you receive a response from the company you applied to.

Frustration builds, so you inevitably try to follow up with the person in charge of hiring. You try email first, but you do not receive a reply. You phone the company, but you leave a message. You even head over to the offices, since it’s only a couple of blocks away from your home, but everyone is conveniently away for lunch.

Suffice it to say, there’s a right way to follow up on a job application and a wrong way. Let’s just say that if you are harassing the employer with a barrage of emails and phone calls, then that’s the wrong way.

We have seven tips to follow up on a job application.

1. Do the Legwork First

Before you open your inbox or lift the telephone receiver, you should do a little bit of legwork first. This could consist of checking on the status of the online job advertisement (is it still up or has it been updated?), perusing through LinkedIn or other social networks to see if someone was hired, as well as rereading any email exchange you may have had with the hiring manager.

Rather than getting in touch with the company, you can first perform some detective work that would make Hercule Poirot or the amateur sleuth duo of Tommy and Tuppence proud.

2. Wait it Out

According to a 2017 study of hiring managers, 43% said jobseekers should wait one to two weeks before following up, and 30% reported two to three weeks. The survey revealed that employers disapproved of the extremes: only 19% listed ‘less than one week’ and 8% said ‘three weeks or more’.

Sometimes, the best approach to following up with an application is to simply wait it out. While this can be confounding and frustrating at a time when you’re desperate for an employment opportunity, it is the only way ensure you are considered for a position.

Instead of senselessly phoning and writing emails to the company, you should bide your time. Remember: companies are inundated with CVs, applications and queries. The last thing they want is an applicant pestering the business.

Play it cool, Sam. Play it cool.

3. Send an Email

Now that you have waited a week or two, you can get in touch with the business. You might be anxious to know the status of your application right away, which means you would likely phone the company and request to be connected to the human resources department. But this could backfire because it is likely that everyone is busy, so spending a few minutes asking questions about your application will irk them.

Your best option is to send an email – one that is professional, polite and to the point.

Unsure how to type one? Here’s a sample letter:

Dear John,

Last week, I applied for the position of Latex Salesman at Vandelay Industries. I would like to determine if you have made a hiring decision.

I am quite excited about the idea of joining your firm and utilising my skills to grow your firm.

If you have any questions or require more details about my application, please get in touch with me as soon as possible. I look forward to speaking with you further.


George Costanza

This letter was succinct, respectful and professional. And, most important of all, it was easy to compose and simple for the HR team to understand.

4. Customise Your Correspondence

A common mistake that jobseekers make is that they use a one-size-fits-all way to communicate with potential employers. Whether it is a CV or a cover letter, so many applicants insert the same language (keywords), incorporate the same style into their correspondence and even submit the same CV to 10 different job ads.

This is the wrong strategy to employ when trying to find work, especially in an ultra-competitive labour market and global economy.

So, what should you do? That’s easy: customise your correspondence, from your follow-up emails to your CVs to your status update requests. Yes, you can get things done a lot quicker by having a standard email template prepared and attaching the same CV to the 25 applications you sent out on a Sunday morning. However, as we are quickly learning, quality supersedes quantity; you need to highlight different skills, add a diverse array of keywords and reformat your CVs.

How important is this? Glassdoor’s expert recruiter and Talent Acquisition Partner James Parker had a great message for jobseekers:

'If you speak with three recruiters, email each of us with a unique message based on our background or a particular part of our conversation. If you interview and send the same follow-up email to each of us, it’s a missed opportunity to make yourself stand out. Taking the extra three to four minutes to write a unique email could be the difference in the next three to four years of your life’.

5. Don’t Stalk HR

Are you creepy? If you are someone who leaves two messages about the four emails you sent regarding the three applications you submitted (and resubmitted) over the weekend, then you might be.

In other words, you should never stalk the human resources department, the business owner or the hiring manager. Unless there was a specified date that the company missed, you need to heed the earlier advice and simply wait until it is appropriate to get in touch regarding a job interview.

Moreover, if the company isn’t giving you the time of day and the respect to inform you that they have decided to hire another candidate, then this could be a sign of what your employment could look like down the road: disrespect.

In the end, if you never hear from the company, then you need to accept that they were not interested. If you think harassing them every day – by email, phone or in person – until you get an answer will change their mind, then there is a 51% stake in Amazon we wish to sell you for pennies on the dollar.

6. Use LinkedIn

In your quest to follow up on your application, LinkedIn can prove to be a valuable resource. It seems like every professional is on the social network these days. Simply put: the social media outlet can serve as the six degrees of separation – or Kevin Bacon.

There are two ways to take advantage of LinkedIn. The first is the on-site message: if you do not have the email for the employer or hiring manager, then a LinkedIn message is a great option for a follow-up. The other benefit is navigating through the website and tapping into your digital sleuth skills:

  • find a connection who works at the company you’re applying to
  • locate someone who has updated their profile to showcase their new job from the same firm
  • speak with a LinkedIn member who is employed at the company and ask for potential updates.

And that is how you use LinkedIn to your benefit when job hunting.

7. Inform the Company of Other Offers

Do you want to show how classy, respectful and professional you are? Then use this tactic: inform the company that you have been offered another position and that you have gracefully accepted it. This leaves a future opportunity open, even if the private firm never responded to your application or emails.

It can be easy to dismiss the company when they never had the common courtesy to speak with you., but you never want to shut the door in today’s economy.

Besides, if you take advantage of this step, we will salute you with a glass of bourbon.

Out of all these steps, there is perhaps an important one that has been left unsaid: you should always maintain your job search. You might think you are qualified for the job or that your chances of being accepted for the position are near 100%. The reality is that you should never get too invested in a single job until you have signed on the dotted line of your employment contract.

The art of the follow-up has not fully been mastered yet. Everyone is still going through trial and error – it’s as if we are all walking on eggshells for merely finding out about the status of our applications. The No 1 rule to live by when following up with the HR department is this: stay as cool as a cucumber.

Do you have anything you’d like to add? Join the conversation down below and let us know!