Tips for Following Up on Your Job Application

Once you apply for a job, don't just sit back and wait—there’s plenty you can do to increase your chances of getting an interview.

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Alison Green
Once you apply for a job, the next step isn’t just sitting back and waiting—there’s plenty you can do meanwhile to increase your chances of getting an interview. But following up in the right manner is crucial, because follow-up done poorly can be a deal-breaker.

Here are some do’s and don’t’s for following up after applying for a job:

1. In addition to sending an application to the email address specified (usually an HR address or generic jobs email address), track down the email address of the hiring manager and send an application to him or her as well. If an Internet search doesn’t reveal who the hiring manager, a simple phone call to the company’s main switchboard often will.

[See 11 Tips for Getting Hired in 2011.]

2. However, don’t stalk the hiring manager. Don’t compulsively check on the status of your application. Don’t call, hang up when you get voice mail, try again half an hour later, and then repeat this cycle over and over in the hopes of getting a live person on the other end of the phone.

3. What you can do is this: A few days or a week after applying, it’s okay to follow up with the hiring manager to reiterate your interest in the job. It’s important to do this well, however. Note that many hiring managers despise the common job-search advice to call “to schedule an interview,” which can come across as overly aggressive and even presumptuous. A good-follow call or email might sound something like this: “I submitted my application for your __ position last week, and I just want to make sure you received my materials. I also want to reiterate my interest in the position; I think it might be a great match, and I'd love to talk with you about it when you're ready to begin scheduling interviews.”

4. Make LinkedIn your friend. This is where LinkedIn really shines: You can search to see if anyone in your network is connected to someone who works at the company you’re applying to—or if anyone you know is even a few degrees away from someone works there. Depending on who the connections are, you could do any of the following: ask for background information on the job, ask for a proactive referral or introduction, or ask directly for an interview.

[See How to Determine What Salary to Ask For.]

5. Start Googling. Why not search online for blogs written by people who work at the company you’re targeting? If you find one, read some of the posts, then contact the blogger with complimentary (but genuine) feedback on his or her work. Once a rapport is established, you can then mention that you’re applying at the company and ask what it’s like to work there. Don’t be pushy, but in some cases, this can lead to an introduction to someone involved in the hiring.

6. Be enthusiastic, not desperate. It doesn't look desperate to express interest in the job or check in to ask about the timeline. But enthusiasm does cross the line if you’re calling regularly, sounding eager to take any job as opposed to this one in particular, or appearing as if this is your only option.

And last, no matter how perfectly qualified you think you are for this job, remember to keep job-searching. Don’t get too invested in any one opportunity until you have a job offer in hand!

Alison Green writes the popular Ask a Manager blog where she dispenses advice on career, job search, and management issues. She's also the author of Managing to Change the World: The Nonprofit Leader's Guide to Getting Results and former chief of staff of a successful nonprofit organization, where she oversaw day-to-day staff management, hiring, firing, and employee development. She now teaches other managers how to manage for results.