When, Why, and How to Follow Up after Submitting a Resume and Finishing a Job Interview (with Scripts)
Many candidates view preparing a strong job application and submitting it online as the final step of the process. They have put time into the application, and now they wait for a response. If they do not hear back from the employer, they may often choose to remain in the dark about what is going on in the company. You need to know how to follow up on a job application and do it regularly.
Consider the submission of a job application as a starting point. You’ve joined a pool of 100-300 applicants. What are your next steps? In this article, three career professionals share suggestions on following up to get an interview, build relationships, and thank the employer after the interview.
First, the basics about following up:
✔ to make sure the target employer received your application
✔ to make a great first impression
✔ to show them that you’re interested and available
✔ to expedite the interview request or to close the interview with the right amount of enthusiasm
✔ to potentially have more people advocating for you as a suitable candidate
✔ every 5 business days or so
✔ sooner if the job posting is urgent
✔ when you have a reason (valuable information to add)
✔ Do your research
✔ Use phone, e-mail, LinkedIn, and company websites
✔ Be precise and concise
✔ Show warmth, enthusiasm, knowledge, and motivation
★ Maureen McCann, an Executive Career Strategist and Founder of Promotion Career Solutions, recommends the following:
Good follow-up begins with good research
Before sending your application online, find the name of the person to whom you can address your cover letter. You want to start building relationships inside the company as soon as possible, and the best way to do that is follow up with the people in key positions within the company.
There are a number of ways to do this. You can:
1. Search the company website for a directory with e-mail addresses
2. Research the company and its team using LinkedIn
3. Ask your network to help pinpoint the right person
4. Call the receptionist at the company
5. Visit Hunter.io or Voilanorbert.com to identify e-mail addresses; then test the e-mail using MailTester.com or emailgenerator.io.
Here’s what you might say if you call the company receptionist. Adapt this language to suit your own needs.
“Hi, this is [Your Name]. I have a quick question for you. I’m applying for the position of [Position Title]. I’d like to personalize my cover letter. What is the name of the person to whom I can address my letter?”
If you’ve landed the interview, ask permission to conduct a follow-up call.
“Thanks so much for meeting with me. I’m interested in being part of your company. When do you hope to have a hiring decision made for this position? I’d like to give you a call next week to follow up on my application. How about I give you a call at [date/time]?”
Set the appointment in your calendar right away and begin preparing what question(s) you might ask and what impression(s) you want to leave them with after the follow-up call is complete.
Stay away from generic questions and redirect your attention to very specific questions you want to have answered.
Remember this conversation is not about you; it’s about demonstrating that you can do what the employer needs you to do. Focus all your time and energy on their needs (not your own).
“I am interested in the position of [Position Title] because [the value you have to offer]. What I’d love to know is…[add your questions.]:
· What is the most important quality you are looking for in a candidate?
· When do you hope to have someone in this role?
· When do you hope to have a shortlist?”
How often should you follow up?
You can follow up every 5 business days or so, unless directed otherwise. Most importantly, have a reason to follow up. You don’t want to be a follow-up pest and find yourself out of the running.
Relationship building is the key.
The more people who know you the better, because they may advocate for you. Picture this:
“What did you think of that person who called and asked for Susan’s contact information so s/he could personalize his/her cover letter. That’s the kind of detailed person we want working here, don’t you think?”
★ Tanya Mykhaylychenko, a professional resume writer, recommends the following:
Make no assumptions about the hiring process and be in charge.
The first thing to consider is that sometimes technology fails, and your inquiry, e-mail, or job application may not get to the right person.
Within 5 business days, send a brief e-mail stating your interest and your unique professional value (~125 words); ask to confirm receipt of your application. Suggest your availability for a phone, video, or in-person interview.
Prepare for an effective phone call.
You can also call the company and ask to speak with the person responsible for hiring for your target role. If you are transferred, be confident and prepared to take up to 5 minutes of the hiring manager’s time, explaining your motivation and value with clarity.
Discuss the next steps (another time to connect, a date for a face-to-face interview, or additional examples of your work to submit).
1. Write down ~125-150 words (the essential information you want the potential employer to know about your unique professional value).
2. Read it to yourself.
3. Note the time it takes.
“… Mr. Smith, my name is Anne and I’m a web content editor. I know you’re busy; I just wanted to take 5 minutes of your time to talk about your editing projects. I’ve applied for a content editor position at your company. I’m interested because I have been working with WordPress sites of similar businesses for several years. I can help you update yours within a couple of weeks and launch it to your target audience. I also work on content promotion plans focusing on SEO and cost-effective ways to get the content noticed in the long-term. What is the biggest challenge you are facing right now?”
Usually, a message like this is spoken in 45-60 seconds. A focused 5-minute conversation is a perfect introduction to a potential interview. By being sharp, memorable, and confident, you’ve just simplified the company’s hiring duties for them.
Draft a brief follow up letter.
Not all candidates will follow up on a job application. If you do, you are already taking the next step to stand out and become memorable. Add a follow up letter template to your career portfolio. In this letter, you could briefly restate your motivation and availability to interview as well as submit additional documents to help the company notice and select you for an interview. Find one relevant piece of information you could comment on to get the reader’s attention. This can be the company’s recent project, something from their news, or a crucial idea from their mission statement. Connect it to a successful story from your past performance. For example:
Dear Ms. Smith,
Last week, I applied for the Director of Communications role at ABC Energy Company. Over the past few days, I kept researching your latest projects and developments via social media and videos. I am particularly excited about the initiative to convert 5,000 homes in XYZ area to clean energy by the end of the year.
In my past role as Communications Manager for EnergyBlock Inc., I worked on a similar endeavor. My team and I created a simple website, launched a social media campaign, reached out to local universities, and distributed 20,000 brochures in 6 weeks. Our campaign gained acclaim among residents for the clarity of the message: we did our research on the costs and benefits and provided the residents with a simple calculator allowing them to estimate their gains over a 5-year term.
I would love to discuss what I could do for your organization to engage new audiences. I have also attached my References Sheet with the contact information of three people you may reach out to this week to verify my experience. I am available to interview with your organization at your convenience and can be reached at [phone number].
Accept every response with professionalism.
Once you get a written or phone response, use it as another networking opportunity, regardless of the outcome.
1. If you discover that the position was closed, build a relationship for future opportunities.
2. If hiring was delayed, let them know about your current professional activities and express your availability to interview later.
3. Still no response? Assess your other options, keep researching the company, or find other individuals to connect with at the target company.
★ Thea Kelley, a job search and interview coach based in the San Francisco Bay Area, recommends the following:
Stay at top of mind after the interview.
Interview processes can stretch out for many weeks (even months). You need to stay on the decision maker’s radar screen. If you’re the only candidate who keeps in touch, great – you’ll be seen as the one who really wants the job. So it can be effective to drop the hiring manager a note or a phone call (perhaps varying your method of approach) on a regular basis until the decision is made.
Will this be viewed as “pestering”? It will if you keep asking about the decision they haven’t made yet. Instead, focus on being helpful – for example, asking whether they need any further information – and continuing the conversation.
How often should you follow up? It depends on the circumstances, including the nature of the job. If you’re pursuing a role as a manager, sales rep or project manager, for example, persistence and assertiveness are expected of you. If you’ve interviewed for a technical role, your approach can be more low-key. But don’t let the decision maker forget about you.
If you feel this is too forward, you can basically ask for permission during the final interview.
“May I check in with an e-mail or phone call at some point to see if you need any other information?”
Go beyond “Thank You” letters.
The term “thank you letter” is a bit misleading. Even aside from demonstrating enthusiasm and good manners, your post-interview follow-up message can actually accomplish several important goals.
1. Confirm that you’re still interested. It’s very important to an employer to know whether you’re still a candidate. For all the employer knows, you may have changed your mind after the interview.
2. Show appreciation and warmth. Say “thank you” again. Mention something you enjoyed about speaking with them, or something that impressed you about the office. Maybe make a friendly reference to some item of chitchat.
“Thanks for making time to meet with me in the middle of your rush project. I hope that’s going well today.”
3. Remind them why you’re the right person for the job. Yes, you just (hopefully) made that clear in your interview yesterday, but maybe you were one of three interviewees that day and four earlier in the week, all of whom are beginning to blur together in the employer’s mind. If you feel like you’re repeating your message too much, find a new way to say it.
4. If necessary, correct any omissions, misimpressions or other issues. Did you misstate some facts out of nervousness? Did your external recruiter give you some feedback on a concern the employer expressed to her? Sometimes it can be helpful to address it in your follow-up message. But make sure you don’t come across as defensive or call attention to a misstep that the interviewer may not have even noticed.
5. Continue the conversation. What story or qualification did you not get a chance to bring up at the time? What could you add about some industry trend or company project that was discussed at the interview? Research it. Maybe there’s an interesting link you can send.
Can you accomplish all of these things in one letter? Probably not, given that it needs to be brief – no more than a few short paragraphs. You might save some of these ideas for later follow-ups.
Book: Get That Job! The Quick and Complete Guide to a Winning Interview: https://www.amazon.com/Get-That-Job-Complete-Interview-ebook/dp/B01MTSZVJD/ref
Article: “How Much Time Should I Spend Preparing a Job Application?” https://tm-editorial.com/job-application-preparation/
Article: “How to Reach a Real Person in Your Online Job Search” https://www.jobscan.co/blog/how-to-reach-a-real-person-job-search/
Article: “How to Call the Hiring Manage after Applying for a Job (Infographic)” https://jobsearchandinterviewcoach.com/how-to-call-the-hiring-manager-after-applying-for-a-job-infographic/
About the authors:
Maureen McCann, BA, CCDP, MCRS, MCIS, MCCS, MCES is a fierce advocate of career development, committed to preparing Canadians for the future of work. Founder of Promotion Career Solutions, she is one of Canada’s top executive resume writers. For more information, please visit www.mypromotion.ca.
Thea Kelley, CEIP, CPRW, OPNS, provides one-on-one job search and interview coaching for job seekers nationwide. Her Amazon best-seller Get That Job! was reviewed as “excellent” by Forbes. For information please visit https://jobsearchandinterviewcoach.com.