NEW YORK (MainStreet) — Everyone has a different strategy when it comes to following up with employers during the job-application process. Some prefer to follow up quickly and repeatedly at every stage of the application process, while others may feel uncomfortable following up at all.
Part of the confusion is that there really are no standard guidelines for this part of the process. Employers rarely include details about when and how to follow up in the original job posting, which forces the candidate to do a certain amount of guesswork about what is and isn’t appropriate. But according to one career expert we spoke with, it’s rarely ever a bad idea to follow up as long as you do so in a professional manner.
“You are probably better off risking following up than not following up,” says Miriam Salpeter, founder of Keppie Careers, a career coaching firm. “As long as you are approaching things professionally and not being rude, usually you can’t make too many mistakes with the follow-up.”
MainStreet asked Salpeter for her advice on when and how often to follow up in every job application scenario, as well as what you should say in each case.
Job Postings With a Deadline
For any job posting that specifically mentions a deadline for when to apply, Salpeter recommends waiting until a day or two after the deadline.
“If they put a deadline, it probably means they are planning to review the application after that time. Following up before that could be seen as aggravating,” Salpeter says.
In your follow-up note, Salpeter suggests starting out by saying, “I assume you are beginning to review the application now that the deadline has passed.” From there, you should restate your interest in the position and highlight one or two key details from your cover letter explaining why you are a particularly good candidate.
Job Postings Without a Deadline
If the posting does not include a deadline, the follow-up time period is a little less clear cut. As a general rule, Salpeter says applicants should plan to follow up within a week after sending in the application.
During that time, though, you should do a little legwork of your own. If you haven’t already, try following and retweeting the hiring manager on Twitter or joining one of their LinkedIn groups and posting something intelligent there. This way, when you do follow up, your name may be a little more familiar to that person. At the same time, you should do additional research into the company culture and see if you can find any additional details about the kind of candidates the hiring manager or the company in general likes to hire so you can work this into your follow-up note.
“You want to say something inspiring when you follow up, not just, ‘Hey, hope you got my application,’” she says.
For job postings with or without deadlines, Salpeter says you can safely follow up by email one more time after the initial follow-up and perhaps call and leave a message just in case their email is completely flooded with applications. If that still doesn’t work, it’s time to look for other contacts inside the company who may be able to pass your resume along.
Unadvertised Job Postings
As MainStreet has reported before, many jobs are never advertised. Instead, candidates have to be proactive and reach out to people within the company about potential openings. But how aggressive should you be in following up about an email to someone you’ve never met about potential jobs that haven’t even been posted?
Salpeter says your best bet is to follow up three or four days after the first email just to make sure they received the message and to briefly restate why it’s worth their time to meet with you or chat with you about life at the company and potential career opportunities. If that still doesn’t work, Salpeter says you can follow up one more time just to ask if there’s anyone else at the company who may be able to help with your request, but otherwise you should stop bothering the person and look for other potential contacts.
After the Interview
Once you land an interview, the follow-up process becomes a little more straightforward. Salpeter urges candidates to ask the interviewer how they prefer to be contacted and when they expect to get in touch. You should then follow up within 24 hours of the interview just to thank the interviewer for their time and to recap your conversation or note a detail you might have forgotten to mention. If you don’t hear back, Salpeter says you should wait until a few days after the date the interviewer gave you and then follow up once more. If you still don’t hear back, you can try calling or emailing once more, but first, Salpeter recommends doing some digging to see if the company has announced a hiring freeze or if the person you’ve been in touch with has gone on leave.
Seth Fiegerman is a staff reporter at MainStreet. You can reach him by e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow him on Twitter @sfiegerman.