Job Application Follow-Up Etiquette

Q.  I’ve applied for a couple dozen actual jobs in the past six months.  A very few have acknowledged my application.  No response from the others.  What sort of follow up is appropriate?  How long should I wait before follow-up with those who never respond, or should I just move on?  -EV

A.  Lean staffs and tight budgets have created a lot of bad manners by companies and agencies.  One of my favorite bosses at Lilly, Bud Cairns, insisted that anyone who contacted the company would hear back from us within a week.  And those were the days of written letters, not email.  Technology today permits easy responses that acknowledge receipt of resumes.  Such responses should spell out the process and note what the applicant should expect.  It can even say that if you don’t hear from us, then we’ve found someone with greater qualifications. 

If applicants know someone within the firm where the application was sent, tap that person to check out what’s happening with your resume.  If your resume was sent to a job site with no contact person, call the company and ask who is responsible for the open position.  If that’s impossible to determine, get the name of the firm’s recruiter or human resources director.  Then send a follow-up email and resume to that individual directly.  Avoid the phone; no one has the time plus they won’t have ready access to your resume. 

Regarding follow-up timing, I suggest doing so 10 days after sending the original application.  If you don’t hear back within a few days, it’s a safe bet they’re pursuing other candidates.  But don’t throw in the towel entirely, send another resume with a brief cover note explaining that you’ve updated your resume–perhaps adding a new freelance or volunteer job that’s relevant to the position you’re seeking. 

Finally, as I advised another writer last summer, you need to send out more than a couple dozen resumes over a six-month period if you want to produce the results you’re seeking.  In that period of time, you should have sent a minimum of 24 resumes a week.  The more often you go fishing, the more likely you’ll get fish to bite.

One thought on “Job Application Follow-Up Etiquette

  1. 24 resumes a week!? No. I hope that anyone who finds this blog randomly on a search like I did does not take that to heart.

    Perhaps if you owe tens of thousands in debt and are simply desperate to get ANY job, ANYWHERE, with ANY sort of company, you could just send out resumes to your heart’s content.

    But if that’s not your case, I would look for jobs that you think are a good fit for your skill set and that you think you are a good fit for and would enjoy.

    You should also focus on tailoring your resume, cover letter and any other forms of contact to whatever position and company you are applying for. Don’t just send the same generic resume to every company.

    If you send 24 resumes a week as this blogger has suggested, what happens when you get a call and someone calls and says, “Hi, this is the hiring manager from VNC Tech, Inc. and I was hoping to ask you a couple of questions about how you think you would be a good fit for our company.”

    There is no way you will remember enough about that particular company to impress an interviewer if you can’t even remember which one it is compared to the 100 other companies you sent resumes to in the past month. Unless you are Rain Man or something, your lack of knowledge about the company and generic materials are going to turn any interviewer off. So I would respectfully suggest people to not heed that advice on the amount of resumes to send out.

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