Anyone who’s applied for a job in recent years understands the effort and considerable time required to submit applications through the online portals used by many employers. You work hard to customize your resume, you craft a well-tailored cover letter, you upload both documents to the application site (and, in many cases, have to repeat information in different sections of the form), you hit “Send," and then... you wait.
Unfortunately, plenty of employers fail to provide status updates to applicants, leaving hopeful candidates wondering where they stand, when (and if) they can expect a response of any kind, and what they can do to prevent this state of limbo in the future. If you recognize this scenario, read on to find out what to do about these frustrating silences and how to reduce their likelihood in the future.
How long should you wait to hear back from a job application?
Especially if you’re applying for a job that really excites you, it can be tempting to hang all of your hopes on receiving an interview invitation from that employer. You might hold off on sending out other applications, just in case “Dream Employer” gets back to you soon, but this habit can put you at a massive job-hunt disadvantage.
Career expert Alison Green of Ask a Manager explains why it’s important to stop waiting around to hear about any application in very clear and decisive terms: “If I could control your brain (and the brain of every other job seeker), I would make you move on the minute after you send your application. There’s nothing to be gained by the agonizing and waiting and wondering — send the application and move on immediately. If they call, great. If they don’t, you’ve already moved on anyway.”
For the sake of your own peace of mind and for greater efficiency in your job search, follow Green’s advice and end the post-application wait times entirely. Keep applying for positions just as you would if this role wasn’t a possibility, and let it be a pleasant surprise if you do ultimately hear back.
Do employers call you to tell you that you didn’t get the job?
In this increasingly-digital age, it’s truly rare to receive a phone call informing you that you won’t be moving forward in a company’s hiring process. Considerate employers will notify applicants of their status, and those who don’t make the cut for an interview (or a second interview, or a trial day, or whatever comes next in that business’s hiring method) should get an email letting them know that they’re no longer under consideration.
That said, many employers, regrettably, aren’t especially considerate in this regard. That means that you may never hear back from companies to whom you’ve submitted applications. Impolite though it may be, that’s the truth of the matter, which is why Green’s advice proves so relevant. The quicker you can mentally move on, the easier it will be to handle unresponsive potential employers.
6 tips to make your application process more productive (and less frustrating):
1. Follow the application instructions to the letter.
In today’s highly-competitive job market, it’s common for applicants to believe that the application process outlined in the job posting (which usually involves online submission tools) might not be the best way to get your materials into the right hands. These assumptions lead applicants to show up in-person with a physical resume, to fax their materials to the company or to ship their resume via overnight mail.
You might hear career counselors (with painfully-outdated concepts of the hiring process) or relatives tell you that these methods “show gumption." But as Green so succinctly puts it, “most companies include specific instructions about how they want you to apply, and it’s pretty unlikely that ‘in person’ [or by fax or by snail mail] is included. Plus, many companies only accept resumes electronically because they get put into an electronic screening system.”
2. Review your resume to make sure that it presents your achievements in the best possible light.
Many job applicants create an up-to-date resume when they begin their search and use the exact same document for every position that interests them. However, it’s usually more helpful to your candidacy to thoroughly read through every resume that you send out to ensure that you’re highlighting the skills and achievements that relate most closely to the needs of the role. For instance, if the job description clearly articulates 1-3 years of management experience, make sure to present your past managerial accomplishments (i.e. “Managed a team of 20 salespeople, who increased their revenues by 50% during managerial tenure”).
3. Write an excellent cover letter that specifically highlights your fitness for the role.
Your cover letter presents you with an excellent opportunity to make a case for why you’re a strong candidate for the role, why this particular company is a great fit for you and what you can bring to the organization to help them achieve their goals.
As with your resume (in fact, even more importantly than your resume), you should take the time to customize your cover letter so that it addresses the particularities of the job you seek. Don’t waste your time or the hiring manager’s time by simply restating information that they can already find on your resume; use the cover letter to share additional evidence to support your candidacy.
4. Flex your networking muscles and see if you have any company contacts who might be able to help get your resume into the right hands.
“Who you know” can certainly make a meaningful difference in the hiring process, so if you have industry contacts working at your desired company, it doesn’t hurt to shoot them a quick email letting them know that you’re applying, particularly if you’ve worked with these people before and know that they can provide positive feedback about your job performance.
5. If you really want to check in, send a single email a few weeks after applying.
In most cases, “following up” on your application is an unnecessary step. Your choice to apply already indicates your interest in the role, and if the employer wants to move you on to the next step in the process, they probably won’t “forget” to let you know. But if it will ease your nerves to send a quick message to reiterate your interest, wait at least two weeks after applying. Hiring processes often take longer than candidates assume, and sending a “check-in” too quickly will make you look out-of-touch.
6. Don’t take the rudeness of others personally.
Now that companies can fire off multiple “Thank you for applying, but…” messages to rejected candidates with a simple mass email, there’s no reasonable excuse for an employer to fail to keep candidates informed. It’s rude, it’s thoughtless, but as we mentioned previously, it still happens on a fairly regular basis. The best way to handle this disappointing turn of events is to wholeheartedly continue your job search and to realize that, when it comes to post-application radio silence: it’s not you, it’s them.