Following Up on a Job Application: How to Do it Right

Whether this is your first job search or you’ve been in this situation many times before, the process is predictable. You find the perfect job posting, and then send off your resume and a painstakingly crafted cover letter. Then, you wait... and the tension mounts.

You can turn this situation to your advantage, however, by knowing how and when to follow up on a job application. While other applicants are nervously waiting by their phones hoping to be invited to an interview, you can take steps to swing things in your favor. Here are six guidelines to help ensure your potential new employer admires your determination — and doesn’t just think you're being pushy:

1. Follow instructions.

If the listing explicitly states “no phone calls,” then abide by that. Working in finance and accounting requires attention to detail and the ability to follow procedures. If you ignore instructions laid out in the ad, your application could easily be sent to the bottom of the pile. However, if the ad doesn’t rule out follow-ups or, better still, actually lists contact details, then you can and should get in touch after an appropriate length of time.

2. Time it right.

Timing is crucial when following up on a job application. Calling right away, before anyone’s had a chance to read your resume, can be counterproductive. But you don’t want to wait too long, either, or you might miss the window when the HR manager is evaluating the applications. In general, the ideal time to follow up is a week to 10 days after you’ve submitted your application.

3. Choose your method carefully.

The job ad may indicate that you should contact the hiring manager by either phone or email, but if it doesn’t note a preference, just choose whichever method suits you best. Remember: If you’re following up by phone, prepare notes in advance. If you use email, carefully proofread your message before you send it. Your follow-up should be as carefully crafted as your resume and cover letter.

Also, try to use the hiring manager’s name in your correspondence or call. If the name isn’t in the job posting, use your LinkedIn connections or the organization’s website to track the information down. If all else fails, simply call the company’s reception desk and ask.

4. Make it meaningful.

Following up on a job application improves your chances of getting an interview — and possibly scoring the job — because it shows that you’re genuinely interested in the position. But it also provides you with a second chance to sell yourself. Without being pushy, steer the conversation toward your skills or attributes that will help your cause and increase interest in you. Also ask if your application lacked any information or left questions unanswered.

5. Keep a record.

Make a note of each follow-up, especially when you’re applying for more than one job at a time. You don’t want to mistakenly contact an HR recruiter a second time and repeat something he or she has already heard. Write down what was said, especially if it leads to questions or a discussion. This information could prove useful and become a talking point should you make it to the interview stage.

6. Don’t go overboard.

One follow-up call or email is enough for each job application. Go beyond that, and you risk coming off as annoying, desperate or both. And although a post-interview “thank you” note is a nice touch, it’s not appropriate at the application stage.

Following up on a job application allows you to start a dialogue with the hiring manager or HR recruiter. You’ll stand out from the crowd and demonstrate your willingness to go the extra mile. When done skillfully, a well-executed follow-up can help tip the hiring scales to your advantage.

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