Following Up on a Job Application: Good or Bad Idea?

Young woman on phone following up on a job application

During a recent Advanced Résumé Development (CDP-105) course, students enjoyed a lively and interesting discussion about the pros and cons of clients following up on a job application. The discussion came out of the analysis of a cover letter in which the job seeker closes with the statement I will try to reach you next week to see if we can arrange an interview or a brief meeting.” Some students took exception to the phrase “try to reach you next week to see if…,” labelling it passive language. But, even more class members objected to the end of the sentence, where the applicant wrote he would try to set up an interview or meeting. Several comments in the course discussion forum stated that a post-application follow-up could be considered “pushy,” “presumptuous,” and, even worse, a potential “turn off.” Like many things, there are different factors to consider and more than one side to the story. Six recruiters, former and current, weigh in with their thoughts on the practice of following up with an employer after submitting a job application.

Karine Touloumjian

“Here’s what I would recommend to job seekers who would like to follow up on their application.

Reread the job posting thoroughly before doing anything. Take note of any dates or timelines that may be specified in the posting, such as the closing date. Before that time, applicants shouldn’t follow up on the status of their application. Also, job seekers might be instructed not to call or email about their application’s status. Always follow the employer’s wishes.

When it comes to following up, applicants should wait a week or two (unless the job posting lists a specific closing date). This gives the hiring team enough time to review received applications. Also, individuals shouldn’t message or call more than twice in one week.

Whenever feasible, applicants should send an email or a private LinkedIn message directly to the hiring manager. If that’s not possible, they might call the company, ask for the HR department, and speak with someone who can provide more information about the recruiter or hiring manager responsible for filling that job.

Personally, I think the statement in the cover letter is unnecessary because, at the end of the day, if the company is interested in a candidate, they are the ones who reach out to schedule an interview — not the other way around.”

Tina Iantorno

“Many organizations vary in their recruiting practices and policies. Variations include the length of time a job posting is advertised, when the initial screening is conducted, etc. If a job applicant followed up soon after submitting their résumé, I would be irritated, and if they were persistent, I’d be annoyed. If the applicant comes across as too confident or was remiss in reviewing the instructions when applying to the job posting, it will likely create a less than desirable first impression.

For job applicants, my thought is to reiterate your interest in the role in your closing paragraph and then close your cover letter with a statement such as, ‘Thank you for your time and consideration. I look forward to speaking to you about this opportunity.’

To add, it is important to carefully review the points within your cover letter. Be clear on what makes you the standout candidate a company will want to contact. Doing this one thing can drastically increase your chances of being contacted and I’d welcome a follow-up after the initial screening call.”

Barb Penney

I agree with Tina’s comments about applicant behaviour that could sometimes be irritating. I was super busy in HR and found it disruptive and almost annoying when people dropped in, emailed, or phoned when application instructions were clear.

The top candidates never “pestered” and normally followed instructions, or they might contact the hiring manager and not HR.

I don’t think the opening phrase of the sentence we’re discussing (‘I will try…’) is passive or pushy…I think it’s realistic.

That said, when I write cover letters now, I say something like ‘I look forward to an opportunity to discuss my candidacy.’ Further, in my opinion, the closing paragraph is not the most important piece of the cover letter — it’s what precedes it that is important. So, even if a promising candidate’s letter stated they’d be in contact soon, I would ignore it.”

Michelle Precourt

“There is more than one ‘right’ approach to the application follow-up. I, too, have encouraged job seekers to close off with something similar to the cover letter you discussed in the course. I always preface this piece of advice with two key points:

  1. Write authentically. We need to demonstrate confidence through the cover letter. At this point, it is our only way to get face time. BUT, if the job seeker is not comfortable with the recommended language, then, quite simply, they should not use it.
  2. If the job seeker has no actual means of contacting the recruiter, HR, or hiring manager, then they should not write in the letter that they will do so.

If recruiters do receive a phone call, I see it as the candidate following through on what they said they were going to do. I expect this is a quality (follow-through, commitment to what they say they’ll do) that most employers want. Having said this, I have also been on the receiving end of many phone calls from job seekers. They do stand out for both the good and the bad.

In short, while I encourage my clients to use language like this, ultimately it is up to the individual to proceed authentically. I do think there is value in this approach, i.e., “the squeaky wheel gets the grease.”

Rita Kamel

“Honestly, when I was into mass recruitment, I was as practical as practical can be. Positions were very difficult to fill and follow-up calls were welcome. No matter what stage the application was at, I was happy to provide feedback or a status.

There is a difference between being confident and being arrogant, and I think it’s normal to be anxious about something one really wants. Many applicants follow the job search methods they have been taught and being confident works better than being passive. Whatever works to get things done!

Also, communicating with applicants at a very early stage sometimes helped me screen them in more confidently when, earlier, I may have had doubts based solely on the résumé.”

Lotte Struwing

“As a recruiter and career strategist, I appreciate it when a job seeker follows up.

In the cover letters I write, I change the line slightly to read, ‘Understanding you are very busy, if I do not hear from you by x date, I will call you to follow up.’

The reason I appreciate the follow-up is I am super busy. I try my best to connect with everyone in a timely manner, but sometimes I cannot. When someone reaches out to me, it signifies their diligence and interest. These are positive qualities that many employers look for.

I think I approach cover letters differently than many recruiters. Being a career strategist as well, I admire it when people go out of their comfort zone and follow up. I will give them more time because I know how much courage it takes to do that.”

What Do You Think?

What are your thoughts on following up on a job application? Please share  your stories of times it worked like a charm for your clients (or  yourself!) and other instances where the outcome was not so positive. We’d love to hear from you.

Cathy Milton, after a long career in the telecommunications industry, embarked on the path to become a résumé writer. She has been a member of CPC for 10 years now, and has earned the MCRS, MCIS, MCCS, MCES, and MCWS designations. Cathy is an advisor for CPC and the association’s Communications Manager. She is an avid sailor, a fairly decent cook, and active “pack member” in her pet menagerie.

Photo by peoplecreations on Freepik


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