One of the most frustrating parts of the recruitment process for many applicants, and indeed there are many, is the waiting period between the time you apply and when/if you hear about the status of your application.  The two most common questions I am asked by clients are:

  1. How long should I wait before following up on my job application? and
  2. How should I follow up…of should I even bother?

How Long Should You Wait before Following Up?

The simple truth is that there is no “hard and fast” rule or accepted standard on how long an applicant should wait before following up on their application.  Thirty years ago, the accepted norm was to wait two weeks and then call, unless of course the employer sent you an acknowledgement/decline letter.  In the ensuing period there have been two major shifts that have impacted this:

  • Job applications are now done almost exclusively online; and
  • Employers typically don’t acknowledge applications anymore.

Based on these two factors the best advice I can offer is this:  depending on the level and type of position employers typically notify an applicant within about seven working days to set up an interview or to notify an applicant that they are under serious consideration.  Of course, this timeframe can be impacted by many things (i.e. vacations, absences, the nature of the position being recruited, the number of applications, etc.). 

Should you follow up or just forget it?

The second question is probably more difficult to answer.  My answer would be this: if you have a deep interest in a position for which you have applied, and you believe you meet most of the qualifications, I would definitely encourage you to follow up.

That begs the next question:  what method should you use?  Some would say a text, others an e-mail.  My suggestion is the phone.

Why you may ask, would anyone bother to phone?  Isn’t it easier to text or e-mail?  Probably, but here’s my point:  if everyone does the same thing they don’t stand out.  In business today use of the telephone is declining, and that is what makes it unique.  Also, the telephone offers one unique advantage over texting or e-mail; namely, it is much more personal.  In today’s recruitment community the personal contact and human touch has been virtually eviscerated from the hiring process.  The applicant who does something different, who stands out, and who strives to make a personal connection, will eventually be rewarded.

How Should You Follow Up?

Here is how I would approach it.  I would contact the company or organization where you applied, and using the automated switchboard find the telephone number or extension of the hiring manager.  Notice I said “Hiring Manager”, and not the Recruiter.  I would then call and leave a message.

If you have read this far your next question is likely:  when should I call?  The simple answer is….it doesn’t matter.  If it is a landline with voicemail you can call morning, noon, afternoon, night or even on the weekend and leave a message.  Don’t expect to connect with a live person because these days almost everyone screens their calls.  Invariably, you will not connect directly with the hiring manager, but for your purposes that is all right.  Your focus is upon making a contact, and if you have to record your answer then so be it.

What should you say?

In my June blog I wrote about the importance of the Elevator Speech. This is a perfect opportunity to employ it.

Whatever you do, write out the key points, and practice your delivery before making the call.  Use a pleasant and optimistic tone, and emphasize the positive contributions you could make.  Speak slowly, and what is critically important, state your name and telephone number twice:  once at the beginning, and once at the end of your message.  If your name is unusual or complex spell it out.  Keep your message to less than 90 seconds.

Is this technique successful?

I recall reading a couple of years ago that most applicants do not follow up with a prospective employer after they submit their application. In fact, less than 10% do.

Does it work all the time?  Honestly, no.  However, it doesn’t have to be successful for you all of the time.  It only has to be successful once.

I’m a firm believer in practicing what I preach.  I used this technique on several occasions earlier in my career.  On at least half a dozen occasions I obtained an interview as a direct consequence.  Twice this technique led to offers of employment.

A final thought….

Sadly, the humanity and human contact has literally been sucked dry from most modern-day recruitment functions.  Applicant tracking systems, data mining, artificial intelligence, etc., have transformed the function into an impersonal meat market devoid of human interaction.  Most recruitment departments are staffed with well-meaning but, I’m sorry to say, the most junior and experienced employees in the Human Resources Department.  

Knowing this, one way in which applicants can attract attention and gain recognition is by doing the unexpected, and engaging with employers on a very personal level.  Concepts like networking and direct follow up level the playing field, and give applicants a fighting chance of securing employment.

At the very least:  nothing ventured, nothing gained.  If it is a job you want, 60 seconds is a small price to pay for potential success.