Once you’ve submitted a job application, waiting to hear back from your potential employer can be stressful and anxiety-provoking. While you probably want an answer right now, your communication with the hiring manager could make or break your odds of receiving an interview. Can you send a follow-up letter? How long should you wait before doing so?
The hiring process can take a long time. While some employers make an effort to contact every person who applied, some don’t; you simply might not hear back at all. However, sending a quick follow-up email or letter can help prevent the employer from overlooking you, as long as you do it with care and respect. Here are some dos and don’ts for following up:
Do wait at least a week to send your email. While you may want to reach out right away, since the squeaky oil gets the grease, you don’t want to annoy the employer by being overzealous. If a week has passed, and you still haven’t heard anything, it may be time for your email or phone call.
Do check the job listing. If the listing has been taken down, it could be an indication that the company has found a candidate or candidates and made headway in the hiring process. That doesn’t mean you can’t still follow up, but do understand that it’s a possibility that the employer just hasn't selected you for an interview.
If the job is still listed, scan the advertisement for any instructions about following up. It may explicitly state that you shouldn’t or specify a preferred mode of communication. If it doesn't, respect the instructions and do as the listing says. The listing might also state how long they expect the process to take, in which case you should wait that length of time to follow up.
Do connect with the hiring manager. This assumes you sent your initial application through an application system or to an HR specialist. It’s worthwhile to locate the name and email address of the hiring manager and send her a short note with your resume. Be sure to let her know that you’ve also sent your application through the appropriate channel as well, but want to email her directly because you’re very excited about the job.
Do keep your email short and sweet. Express your excitement for the position, mention that you think you’d be a good fit, and acknowledge that you understand the hiring process may take some time. Fine.
Don’t pester the employer. If you send a follow-up letter and still don’t hear back, know when to quit. Don’t look for other ways of contacting her, because by now, she’s most likely seen your application. Repeatedly calling and emailing will come off as overeager and a bit stalkerish.
Don’t ignore the employer’s instructions. Contact the employer in her preferred mode of communication. She might specify no phone calls, so email instead. If the job posting explicitly said no emails or phone calls, heed that direction. If you ignore explicit instructions, the potential employer will not only be annoyed, but may also wonder if you’re capable of following directions on the job as well. You definitely don’t want to give her a reason not to hire you!
Don’t repeat your cover letter. You’ve already submitted your cover letter. This email is just a chance to reiterate your interest and put yourself on the hiring manager’s radar. Keep it short, and briefly convey your enthusiasm for the position. You might ask when the employer expects to begin interviews, but don’t ask again if you don’t receive a response.
Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. While you’re waiting to hear back from one job, keep applying to others. Your job search will take some time, so don’t get your heart set on one job and assume it’s all over if you don’t get it. Instead, apply to as many as possible to increase your odds of securing an interview—and, ultimately, a position.