How To Master The Fine Art Of Following Up On A Job Without Being Annoying

Following up on a job--whether after the application or the interview--is a difficult but necessary step in the process of snagging a job.

Following up after sending a job application can feel, well, icky.

You're asking the person doing the hiring, "Did I get it? What's taking so long to pick me?" with a guise of civility. But not following up--especially after the interview--could leave the door unguarded for another candidate to snag your dream job.

What's the best way to show you're interested and excited for the chance, without seeming overzealous or getting blacklisted for pestering?

Here's how and when to follow up gracefully during every painful part of the job hunting process.

After the application

This is the hardest part: Wait.

Sometimes job applications don’t want follow-ups at this stage at all. If they explicitly request you not contact them first, don’t break that agreement. But if they list an email or phone number? Game on.

There’s mixed information about making a phone call to follow up at this stage--some recruiters prefer it, while others find it profoundly annoying to be tied up on the phone with someone they only know on paper. But if you’ve been corresponding to this point on the phone, and there’s a number listed with the job posting, dial away.

For email follows, US News provides this example phone script:

"I submitted my application for your __ position last week, and I just wanted to make sure my materials were received. 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." That highlights your interest without interrupting the employer or demanding an immediate response.

A similar script can be adapted for email.

Pro Tip: If you’re sending a lot of applications in your hunt for the perfect gig, start a calendar and mark down when and how you sent your resume, when you plan to follow up (within a week or two is standard), and how the correspondence continued from there. You’ll thank yourself later, when the phone rings and you can’t remember who you talked to, when.

After the interview

Once you’ve been in the door, shaken a few hands, and collected a few business cards, the follow-up becomes protocol. Ideally, you’ve learned what timeline to expect from the interviewer. But what if they leave you with a tepid, “We’ll be in touch”?

Send a thank-you note
Waste no time on this one. She took an hour out of her day getting to know you beyond your resume; a thank-you note is not only common courtesy, but a chance to shine in a time when they’re probably swamped with needy candidates.

Send a thank-you email right away--from your phone in a coffee shop, the airport, wherever--and keep it short and sweet. If they are active on Twitter, tweet at them. Don’t overthink the thank-you; just saying it is what matters most.

Give them a reason to get back to you
If they told you a week and it’s been 10 days, chances are, they’re still in the process of sifting through applicants. Have you ever had a kid poke you while you were busy, until he got your attention--just to get it? Don’t be that kid. There’s nothing wrong with reminding hirers of the timeline they gave, but give them a reason to engage.

Ask if they need anything more from you at this point. Requesting an updated timeline shows that you’re still excited about the opportunity, and gives them something tangible to reply with. You can also pose your own follow-up questions for the decision maker, career site, The Ladders suggests:

  • "What kind of experience would your ideal candidate have?"
  • "What would be happening by the end of the year to tell you that you definitely hired the right person?"
  • "What would be the biggest challenges I would face in this position?"

All those great questions that popped to mind as soon as you left the interview, two minutes too late? This is the time to get them answered, or at least show that you’re thoughtfully weighing the job yourself--and picturing yourself in the position.

How not to follow up

Luckily, the line between being annoying and considerate isn’t that thin. Here are a few reminders (that you hopefully don’t need):

Snail mail
It might have been commonplace to send thank-you cards or follow-ups on your best letterhead years ago, but with the pace of our online lives, you’d be better off sending a tweet than a stamped envelope. And emails are easily forwarded from HR to managers in other departments or colleagues who’d be interested in your skillset even if they can’t hire you, increasing your own visibility. Paper ends up in the shredder.

If you’re tempted to think delivering a package shows effort and initiative, drop the packing peanuts--recruiters agree that this attention-grabbing way to send materials is a turn-off. You want to make their decision to hire you as easy as possible, not require them to sign for it.

Multiple attempts
Resist the urge to make multiple phone calls, send more than one unsolicited email, or attempt to reach out on social media without permission. Please, don’t be creepy. A Facebook friend request, flowers, LinkedIn requests to people you don’t know, or--the horror--showing up uninvited, are well-intentioned and terrible ideas.

The one rule that overrides all other rules:

Overriding all of these tips is the application’s instructions. Whether they ask you to mail your resume, send it via pneumatic tube, or put it on the Pony Express, do exactly as they say. Straying from their directions implies that you either can’t follow clear directions, or you don’t think the rules apply to you: characteristics no one wants in a new hire.

[Image via Shutterstock]

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3 Comments

  • Samantha, it seems one crucial thing is missing: Recommendation Letters from previous managers/colleagues.

    Can you tell me if this is a good idea (like attaching it to your thank you email). Tweet me @yellazeb ~

  • all except the no paper thank you are great suggestions. In today's world, a very nice thank you card in the mail after the email thank you is not only appreciated but stands out. I know I've hired those who take the time to send one.

    And agree with the follow the directions. Please!