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You've sent your application and all you've heard back is crickets. So now what?

I Just Applied for a Job. How (And When) Should I Follow Up?

In all our copious posts about getting a job and advancing your career, we’ve left out one crucial part of the job application process.

What the hell happens after you’ve submitted your application?

Ideally, you’ll receive a prompt response confirming the receipt of your application. Following that, you’ll be cordially invited to an interview in a timely fashion. And after the interview, within very little time, you’ll receive a job offer. Just a really prompt, dignified process that respects and values everyone’s time and effort!

GET YOUR HEAD OUT OF THE CLOUDS, YOU NAIF. LIFE IS PAIN, MOTHERFUCKERS.

Of course that adorable fantasy scenario only happens on Wish Fulfillment Island, where the hiring process is swift and painless and dogs never die!

In reality, job applicants are plagued with long, drawn-out hiring processes, unclear communication, repetitive applications, and flaming hoops of bullshit in front of an obstacle course of crocodiles who only scanned your resume for keywords.

In other words, it blows! But you still need to get through it if you have any hope of employment. So here’s what happens after you submit a job application.

The waiting is the hardest part

Here’s an awful truth: while potential employers expect the world from applicants, they feel absolutely no obligation to reciprocate that courtesy.

In other words: you’re not going to hear back from a lot of jobs for which you apply. Sorry ’bout it.

So if you apply for a job and hear nothing but the howling void in return, be neither surprised nor distressed. They probably got your application! They probably even looked at it! But they also probably don’t think they have time to respond to every applicant.

I’ve applied for many jobs in my life. And I can count on the fingers of one hand how often an employer contacted me to say they weren’t going to hire me. Most who didn’t want me just ghosted me. So if you don’t get a response, after time you can safely assume the answer is “No.”

Keep careful track of every job you apply to, along with the date you applied and the hiring manager’s contact information. (Note: I’m going to use “hiring manager” as shorthand for “the person responsible for hiring you at the place where you applied for a job” even if that’s not their actual job title.)

But if you haven’t heard anything for eight weeks, you’ll probably never hear back from them.

Don’t lose sleep over it. Don’t frantically check your email, Facebook messages, and LinkedIn inbox. Simply remind yourself that they don’t deserve your brilliance and keep applying elsewhere.

Sending a thank-you note

The post-interview or post-application thank-you note serves two purposes.

  1. To show you are a person who possesses good professional etiquette.
  2. To remind those fuckers who you are.

You want to show that you are capable of follow-through and well-versed in the professional etiquette of a model employee. It’s courteous, it reminds them who you are and that you’re a serious candidate, and it’s how The Game is played.

Because rest assured that the hiring process is indeed a game! You need to follow the right steps, show the right level of professionalism and courtesy, and present yourself just so in order to be hired. Here’s some of our other job search advice for playing The Game right:

The post-application note

Half of the job application process is showing up. The other half is making sure they remember your goddamn name. And a good way to do that is by sending a thank-you note. It keeps your name at the forefront of the hiring manager’s brain, which gives you a slight competitive edge.

After flipping through a stack of resumes that all bleed together after awhile, the hiring manager is going to have a hard time differentiating candidates. Sending a personalized thank-you note after they confirm that they received your application will help make you stand out to them.

Send the post-application thank-you note only if they contact you to confirm they received your application. It should be brief and to the point. Something like this:

Thank you for confirming you received my application. I look forward to discussing the position with you. If you need any more information, please don’t hesitate to ask. Regards, Baron von Gimmeajob

The post-interview note

While you might not get confirmation that your application was received (and therefore, not have a reason to send a post-application thank-you note), you should always always always send a thank-you note after an interview.

You may send your post-interview thank-you note via email or snail mail or both. Though keep in mind that if you choose to send a note via snail mail, you need to send it immediately after the interview to have the right effect.

Your note should read something like this:

Thank you again for the opportunity to interview for the role of chocolate sandwich cookie taste-tester. I enjoyed our conversation and meeting the other members of the team. I look forward to the next steps in the hiring process and learning more about the position and how I can be of use to the company. Should you need any more information, don’t hesitate to get in touch. Sincerely, Unemployed McPleasehireme

Don’t be creepy

Okay, speaking as someone who has to try hard not to be a try-hard: don’t be a try-hard!

In most situations, an email is preferable to a physical thank-you note. Physical notes are slow. They also come across as a bit too intimate. (Though it would be appropriate if you already have a more intimate relationship with the recipient; say, if a former mentor remembered you and invited you to interview for the job.)

On the other hand, don’t be too hasty with your email. Don’t fire it off from your phone the second you leave the interview. That’s sloppy. Send it from home that evening, where you have time to consider exactly what you’ll say (and check you’re goddamn splelling and grammer) before you hit send.

Finally, I can’t stress this enough… don’t send gifts. Never. Never! Your hiring manager will interpret it as poor judgement at best, attempted bribery at worst. If I find out you sent flowers to the person you interviewed with, I will drive to wherever you live, knock on your door, and wait for you to answer just so I can shake my head in disappointment at you in person.

See, that’s the BGR touch. Bitches Get Riches is like a full-service gas station. If you can’t pump this wisdom yourself, we will pump it for you, baby!

Following up

Again, you might not ever hear back about an application! And while that sucks harder than a giant leech, there’s also not a ton you can do about it.

But you can do something. It is definitely worth it to follow up on your application. Once.

Do you hear me? Once!

In my experience both applying for jobs and hiring interns, I’ve found it’s most acceptable to check in with the hiring manager two weeks after submitting your application. This goes for whether or not you’ve had confirmation that your application was received.

You want to follow up only once, and only after two weeks, because a) the hiring process can take a long time and they might still be accepting applications or whittling down candidates, and b) it’s super fucking annoying to have a job candidate constantly bugging you when you are trying to get shit done.

Just send them a quick note saying something like this:

I’m writing to check in on my application for the role of cheese cracker quality detector. Any information you can give me about the hiring process at this stage would be greatly appreciated. Thank you. Yours, Desperate de la Ineedapaycheck

If you hear back from them, great! Mission accomplished! If you don’t, well then…

Move on with your life

You’ve sent the application. You’ve sent a follow-up note. And all you’ve heard in response is crickets. So now what?

Now, unfortunately, is when you move on with your life. Keep searching for other jobs. Keep applying for other jobs. Be not an unemployed Snow White, wistfully singing “Some day my job will come!” Be a Tiana, moving steadily toward her goals because she’s “almost there!”

You gain nothing by suspending your job search while waiting to hear back about a single application. Even if it’s a job you desperately want and know you’ll love, you should keep applying elsewhere. There’s nothing wrong with keeping your options open. Plus, we all could use the practice.

Got tips on the interminable wait between job applications and getting hired? Share them with the whole class in a comment below!

5 thoughts to “I Just Applied for a Job. How (And When) Should I Follow Up?”

  1. See, I’m always baffled by thank-you notes after interviews, and I don’t think they are widely done here (UK)? I know I’ve never sent one, and the few times I was a part of the hiring process, I received few and far between. I wonder if they’re an American thing, or if they’re just something I haven’t picked up on as an immigrant, because back where I’m from, a thank-you note after an interview would be considered needy and awkward.

    I would add one piece of information/advice: don’t worry if you don’t get immediate responses, and don’t think it means you didn’t impress potential new job. In many places, hiring isn’t up to one person. 2-3 people have to agree on the choice, and getting those 2-3 people in a room together might take time. Especially for applications. In some places, applications are assessed blindly, and that can only start once all applications are in. So you might have submitted it two weeks ago, but from the employer’s perspective, no one is allowed to even glance for another week.

  2. I spent years trying to get a higher level job (Australian state govt employee here), and the one big thing I learned was not to care about whether or not I got an interview for a specific job (or the job itself) – i.e. not to take it personally. As an applicant, you have no idea how many or who else you’re up against, and sometimes you lose out not because you’re not a suitable candidate, but because there were just too many others who had more to offer. I learned to treat applying for jobs as a numbers game, and apply for anything and everything that I thought I could do and would enjoy. And eventually, I got the particular job I was really after all along!

    1. Yes to not taking it personally! Especially for readers who are just starting their careers, I don’t know if they realize how many posted positions already have their preferred candidate, but need to post the position for legal reasons.

  3. I submitted an application for my dream position on March 11th at a library, but on March 16th, all libraries in the state closed, and are still closed. I’m working remotely for my current job, and would assume everyone at the library I applied to is either working remotely or laid off. It’s been over a month–how do I even begin to follow-up on this application? I’m still interested in the job, but… Everything in the world is not the same as it was when I applied, not by a long shot. Did I wait too long? Or are these guidelines a bit flexible, since we’re in a pandemic? Any suggestions?

    1. A lot of libraries will be implementing hiring freezes right now, because (as I’m sure you know) they are underfunded in the best of times. I would say you could still reach out, but mainly to ask if they’re still going through with the hiring process considering everything. If you’re lucky, they were just extra slow because of the need to focus on emergency changes. 🙂

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