When you hit “Submit” on a job application, your work isn’t necessarily done. Often, applicants don’t hear back right away, and you may need to follow up with a potential employer at different stages of the process.
Here are some guidelines to help take the guesswork out of following up.
Immediately after applying: Say thanks to whoever encouraged you to apply
Maybe you have a friend who’s already working as a line cook at the restaurant you applied to or a former coworker who’s now an operations manager at the hotel where you’re hoping to get a job. If any contacts like these alerted you to a job ad, answered your questions about an employer, or offered to mention your name to the person who’s hiring, it’s a nice gesture to reach out once your application is submitted.
Send an email, or call them on the phone. You might say, “Hey, I just submitted my application for that opening you told me about. Thanks again for thinking of me. Fingers crossed!” You could also offer to let them know when you find out whether you got the job.
Immediately after applying: Follow up if there’s a problem
Suppose you submit your application, and then your browser crashes. Or maybe the online form said you’d get an email confirmation, but nothing came through. In cases of technical difficulties, it’s best to follow up with the employer immediately to make sure they actually received your resume. Call and explain that there was a problem applying for the job. Be prepared to read them any error messages that appeared, and ask them to see if they have your application. If they don’t, ask what you should do to resubmit.
After two weeks: Check on your application
Once a couple of weeks have passed, you may want to check on your application if you haven’t been contacted for an interview. Call or email, and ask if you can have an update on the status of your application. If they haven’t made a decision yet, ask if they need any more information from you. You could also ask if they have a timeline planned for when they’ll make their decision, or if they’d like you to follow up again at a later date.
If you receive an offer from another employer
Let’s say you’re waiting to hear about your first choice job application, and you get an offer from your second choice. It’s appropriate to pick up the phone and say to the hiring manager at your first choice employer, “I need to let you know that I received another offer, and I have to respond by Monday. But your company is my first choice. Can you tell me if you expect to reach a decision on my application this week?”
The point is not to play hardball, just to give the employer an opportunity to offer you a job before you commit to a different position. If the hiring manager was going to extend an offer to you soon, he or she may appreciate the heads up.
After two to three months: Check if you’re still in the running
When a few months have gone by with no requests for interviews or other communications from the employer, it’s often safe to assume you weren’t hired. But it doesn’t hurt to email the hiring manager and ask if you’re still being considered for the job. If you learn that the role has already been filled, you can reiterate your interest in working for the company and ask them to keep your resume on file in case other opportunities come up.
When you get a job offer: Respond right away
If you get a message that you’re being offered a position, call back immediately, even if you haven’t made up your mind about whether you want to take it. Thank the hiring manager for the offer. If you know you want the job, tell them that you accept and that you’re excited to get started. If you aren’t ready to accept yet, you might say, “I want to take some time to make a decision. Is it okay if I let you know by Wednesday?” (For most management roles, it’s typical to give applicants a few days to respond to an offer. For entry level or temporary positions, the timeline may be tighter, and you may be required to make a decision more quickly. In that case, you could say something like, “Can I call you back with my decision by 4 p.m. today?”)
Finally, you’ll need to follow up one more time to tell the hiring manager what you decide within the time frame you’ve agreed on.