How Long Should I Wait After Applying?

One question I often get asked by job seekers I work with is how long should I wait to follow up with an employer after applying for a job.  So today, let’s look at this question from both your point of view as the applicant, and the employers point of view.

First however, let me ask you to honestly think about your own comfort level in general with picking up the phone and making the follow up call. Are you comfortable doing this and just want to know when, or are you uncomfortable making the call no matter when the time is right? You see, there are many applicants I’ve worked with who don’t really want to make that call and would put it off indefinitely unless I sat right next to them and gently pushed them to make the call. Okay, so you know deep down whether you’re likely to make the call in the end. Good.

As to when is the right time to make the call, I’m sorry to disappoint you but the answer is a very unclear, “it depends”.  Oh keep reading though, I’ll give you more guidance than that!

Looking at the job ad, are there any indicators of a deadline date? When you know the closing date to apply to a job, you have to assess how close it is coming up or indeed if it’s past. Knowing where you stand on the calendar with respect to this date guides you as to what to say when you make the call. If the deadline date is another two weeks in the future, you can still call to confirm they received your application and you can go further and ask if you might be able to pick up a more detailed job description, additional information on the organization or perhaps an annual report. The smart thing of course would be to inquire about the more detailed job description prior to submitting your application so you can include more relevant information on your resume that others will not. Just a hint.

Should the deadline have passed just recently, you should definitely make the call now. You may not have ever been someone who hires for a company, but I have and I talk with others who do. Many employers receive resumes up to the deadline date and then wait a couple of days or more. Why are they waiting when there’s a position to fill you ask? While they sift through the applicants to determine possible candidates, they also heed who calls and who doesn’t. Their assumption is that the go-getters, the ones who are really hungry and want the job the most are the ones who will call. Not desperate you understand, but they are viewed as determined, professional, show initiative and the employers are then also able to hear the applicant’s voice, their ability to express themselves and now they have additional information which they don’t on those who just sit home and hope for a call.

I bet you’re argument however is that today many job postings clearly state no calls; that only certain applicants will be contacted. This is one frustrating thing for those who are good at following up and it’s the best argument possible for those who hate picking up the phone and talking to an employer. It levels the playing field for those who are glad not to have to call. Well, guess what? Do an experiment and call some employer’s anyhow. What!? Seriously? Fly in the face of the employer’s wishes and call when they ask you not to?

Here’s a strategy to try. (And after all, if your current way of going about things isn’t working, continuing to go about things the way you are up to now just might continue to end in no positive results.)

Determine that you’re going to call. When you do, don’t just say, “Did I make the cut?” and then hang up. That’s what the employer asked you not to do. Try this:

Hello, my name is ______ and I’m competing for the position of _____. I understand and respect your wishes not to be contacted for an interview, so I’m calling just to introduce myself so I stand out from the competition, and want to expressing how grateful I’d be for the opportunity to demonstrate my strong interest in person. If there’s any additional information you’d like, I’m only too happy to deliver that to you.

So, you haven’t actually called with the lame, “So, are you going to interview me?”, and you acknowledge you’re aware of their instructions not to bother them. Is it a gamble? Sure it is. So is applying for a job in the first place. You might like it and you might not; the whole application is a gamble. You will succeed with some employers in showing them how polite and professional you are – determined to succeed where others are not. Or you will turn off an employer who doesn’t want anyone to show initiative, tenacity, determination or resolve.

Keep track of the jobs you apply to and which ones you follow up with a phone call and which you don’t. Look for patterns and what works over what doesn’t. Do more of what works.

When you do call, be in a quiet place, resume in front of you, pen and paper ready, know your calendar. Good luck!

The Job Interview Is Over. Now What?

What do you tend to do after you’ve had a job interview? A lot of the people I meet and listen to just go home and wait; and they wait longer. They rationalize this behaviour with statements that can be summed with something like, “Well, if they want me they’ll phone me right?”

Sitting around after a job interview hoping the phone will ring is actually a terrible idea, but so many do just that. Consider 3 people who applied for the job; Jim doesn’t really want the job after going through the interview, Ruth doesn’t really care one way or the other while Ahmad is extremely interested in the job – more than ever after learning more about the job and the offer in the interview. If none of the 3 communicates after the interview with Molly who conducted all 3 interviews, she can only make the same assumption for all 3 job applicants. Jim won’t care if he never gets a call, nor Ruth; but Ahmad is extremely disappointed.

In the above situation, it’s even more bad news for Ahmad because Molly was debating between him and Derek for the position, but based on the fact Derek followed up and expressed enthusiasm for the next step in the hiring process, she offered him the job. Not having heard from Ahmad, she went with the candidate who while equally qualified, appeared to want it more. All Ahmad accomplished in the end was making Molly’s decision an easier one.

I’ve done my fair share of speaking with employers over the years, getting to know how they go about hiring applicants. One thing I’ve always found consistent with the vast majority is that they appreciate candidates who want the jobs they are offering; really want the jobs. Employers are actually afraid they’ll hire people who just see the job as a job; and this lack of enthusiasm or passion could mean that when the work gets tough, the applicant will just throw up their hands and look for other work. The real go-getter however; the one who really wants the job and everything that comes with it will work through adversity and come into work each day with a love for what their expected to do.

One of the most frustrating things I do hear from people who have interviewed for jobs but didn’t get that phone call is that much of the time, the person is truly disappointed they didn’t get the job offer; they really did want that job! Again I’d have to say in the example above, how would Molly know Ahmad really wanted the job? He did nothing to distinguish himself from both Jim and Ruth; neither of whom really wanted the position in the end. You can’t expect Molly to read Ahmad’s mine; nor yours.

After a job interview, what typically happens is that after all the applicants have been interviewed, the interviewer(s) sit down and evaluate the people interviewed. Some they will dismiss right away because they didn’t perform as well as some others. In almost all situations the hiring decision will come down to 2 or 3 strong applicants. Based on the qualifications required for the job, they may even be identical. So after looking at the ability to do the work, the interviewers turn to the impression people made on them; the soft skills like personality, drive and attitude. “Who”, they wonder, “would be the best fit if all 3 of those we’ve narrowed it down to could do the actual job?”

It is precisely at this point that a phone call or short note of thanks for the interview can tip the scales in the favour of the person who does some follow up. Derek in the situation above followed up on his in-person interview by contacting the decision-makers. He told them with his brief letter that he was really looking forward to be hired; he’d gladly supply any additional information they needed to make a decision in his favour and after the interview, he wanted the job more than ever. Essentially Derek expressed what Ahmad was feeling too; Ahmad just didn’t bother to communicate this.

Okay so let’s turn from the example to you and your situation. Are you going to interviews and then getting frustrated with the end results – no job offers? You’ve put in the time doing some research before applying, you’re writing cover letters and specifically targeting your resume to the job postings; and its working because you’re getting more interviews. That’s a lot of work and you’re doing all the right things; with the exception of course of the interview follow-up.

After your job interviews you should have some idea of the timeline the employer is working with. If they are going to make a decision in the next day or so, mailing in a thank you note won’t reach them in time before they make a decision. In this case, write a note directed to the interviewer(s) from your car or local coffee shop and then walk back to the employer and leave it with the Receptionist.

Follow-up can include a phone call too; usually 2-3 days after the interview but this can vary based on what you learn as you leave the interview.

Your choice as always whether you follow-up or not; what have you got to lose? Communicate your enthusiasm and show them you want it!

“It Is With Regret…

That we must inform you that you have not been selected for the job you applied to”.

Ever had one of these letters end up in your mailbox? It happens less often than it used to, but it’s still done. More frequently these days in comes in the form of an email. This letter, or ones akin to it go in the wonderfully appropriate category of ‘rejection letters’. Not only is the content of the letter annoying, but so is the name of the category. What’s even more frustrating is that usually when you realize you’ve been rejected, it was only seconds prior to it that your hopes were raised, your excitement building as you carefully opened the sealed envelope it arrived in.

Notes of rejection hurt because of course it’s a statement a company is making that you are not what they are looking for. To them of course, they’d say, “Don’t take it personally, we send out hundreds of those over a year”. But when it lands in your mailbox, and it’s got your name on it, of course it’s personal. But to the company, it’s not, and the reason is that they haven’t got to know you very much if at all, and so it can’t be personally if they would pass you by on the street and not even recognize you.

Now here’s the thing about these letters and some action you can take. Resist the urge to crumple it up, toss it in the trash and move on. Just about everyone else who gets one of these letters will do exactly that. What I recommend is a different course of action. Think first about how much you wanted the job you’ve just be rejected for. Did you want it bad or was it just one of many jobs you applied to and you really don’t care whether you got it or not?

If you answered that you really wanted it bad, why give up? Sit yourself down and think about things first. As frustrating as it is, mentally review how the interview went. Your resume was good enough to grant you the interview, so that’s not an issue. Did you answer the questions intelligently and with confidence or where there any questions you failed to properly answer? If you can identify where you stumbled, you’ve got a clue as to where to avoid stumbling in future interviews. Maybe you picked up on a raised eyebrow, a puzzled look, or a point in the interview where things clearly went badly and things started wrapping up. Or maybe everything went great.

Now, after you’ve had about half an hour to digest the letter, and you should re-read it slowly and see if there is anything in it that you missed the first time you scanned it, sit down to write a reply. This reply to a rejection letter is to most people an utter waste of time and that’s why so few do it. After all, if a company and an interviewing panel have already rejected you, why go back for more of the same?

And here’s why it’s critical. In many situations, not everyone who is offered a job accepts. Of those that do, not all actually start the job as they may change their mind and take a better offer the employer was unaware of. Some who do start jobs don’t last beyond their probationary period, and a number don’t make it past the first few days as they realize what they are doing isn’t for them. And add to this mix the fact that while the person hired might work out just fine, there are other people in the company often performing the same job who surprise the employer and go on pregnancy leave, quit outright, ask for a prolonged leave of absence, or the company grows and needs more people than they anticipated.

Companies in the above situations now have a spot to fill and have a choice to make. Do they post a new job, advertise, receive resumes, set up interviews, assemble more panels of people that have to take time away from their jobs; all of which cost money OR do they just see who they almost hired? Sometimes it’s far less expensive and quicker to just go to back to someone who they could have easily hired but didn’t. Now imagine if you and one other person are in that situation. You’d stand out substantially if you had sent in a letter after the rejections went out expressing continued interest.

So what should you say? Something like this:

“Dear _________

Today I learned that I was not the successful candidate for the position of _____________. While disappointing, I want to express my continued interest and passion for the position and one day securing employment with ________________. Should a similar position present itself, please be advised that I am most eager to present myself as an enthusiastic candidate. If in the interim, there are any areas you can suggest I address to improve on my application, I would greatly appreciate your insight.

With enthusiasm,


Now think about it…what have you got to lose except an envelope and a postage stamp? You come across as professional, determined, and you really show you want it bad. Oh yeah, you’ll be the one they say, “Let’s call her back in shall we?”