AS IF A job search wasn't already frustrating enough, we often get absolutely no response to many job applications. If you're lucky enough to get an interview, you may be told, "We'll get back to you." Then you begin to wonder: How long do I have to wait to hear back? Is it OK if I follow up and when is it appropriate to do so?
Whether you've received no response or been told that you'll hear back, there are some creative, non-intrusive ways to tackle the uncertainty.
Reach out. If you've applied for a job and you do not have any direct or indirect contacts at the company through your networks, including on LinkedIn, it's time to dig deeper. Ideally, you should do this before you apply for a job to address your cover letter to a real person. But if you've already applied, check out the company's website. Can you find a page with leadership or staff and determine who might be the head of the department where you've applied? If not, is senior human resources staff listed?
You may be able to determine their email address as you research, but if you can't, try contacting them through LinkedIn. In your note, don't just ask for the status of your application. You should tell them you are following up on your application to learn the status, and briefly – in one or two sentences – summarize why you are a good match against the job requirements. Attach your resume. Ask if they have a colleague with whom you can get in touch to find out more about your pending application.
Play the waiting game. Whether you've had an interview or not, you may have been told, "We'll get back to you." This may sound like an easy dismissal, but it isn't necessarily. They may be waiting for a hiring manager to review all of the resumes or come back from a vacation to do so. There are a lot of variables at play that you know nothing about. Look at the bright side in this scenario: you have a contact, unlike in the example above. If you are just waiting to hear if you'll be asked for an interview, sit tight for a week. Then get back in touch with the person. Emphasize that you are a good match against the job requirements and ask – politely – when you should expect to hear more about the status of your application.
At an interview, make sure you ask when you should expect to hear something. Hopefully the employer will give you a time frame and stick to it. But again, many unforeseen variables can be at play and it may be an inaccurate estimate. If you don't hear back within the given amount of time, or if you're only told, "We'll get back to you," how long should you wait to contact them?
Practice professional persistence. You need to have some degree of patience in this situation. Emailing and then calling immediately to find out if someone got your email is not a respectable approach, and neither is asking for a "read receipt" confirmation because let's be honest: most people find those annoying. You should wait four to five days to follow up if you've been told that they'll get in touch with you. Email the person. If you don't hear back, follow up with a phone call two days later. If you decide to leave a message and don't hear back, don't push your luck. Wait to be contacted. If you decide not to leave a message, call again the next day. At that point, you might want to leave a brief message and then hope for the best.
Last but not least, if you've applied to a company and followed up directly asking if they've received your application and haven't heard back, it is probably a dead lead. These are not worth your time. Do you want to work for people who are not getting back to you with a "yes" or "no" answer despite your best efforts? Your answer should be a resounding "no!" But make sure that you've done your homework and followed up before you give up because there could be other reasons you haven't heard back that have nothing to do with you.
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