Job applicants these days often seem to throw their application over the wall and forget about it.
It’s understandable, since similar behaviour has become normal on the company’s side, too. The standard rejection letter these days seems to be the silent treatment.
Google, showing nice transparency, even owns up to this in the Google careers FAQ:
Will you let me know when a job has been filled?
If you haven’t heard from us in two months about an application, we likely proceeded with other candidates for that particular role. However, our recruiters might reach out if we find a different potential match for your skills, interests, and experience.
My HR colleague Matthias Schmeißer confirms that over the past 10-15 years, with the “systemization” and digitalization of hiring processes, many companies even more explicitly asked applicants not to follow up. Wording like “Our team will review your application over the coming days and contact you if there is a good match.” is commonplace, says talent scout Joseph Wilkinson.
So it’s natural if you applied 2 months ago and didn’t hear anything, you assume it’s a “No”.
Nothing is not No.
Unfortunately — or fortunately for those who do follow up — I have seen that silence is not always rejection, nor even uncertainty. No matter how hard hiring managers and HR recruiters try, sometimes interesting candidates fall through the cracks.
For this reason, entrepreneur and company-builder Mads Faurholt-Jorgensen‘s publicly advises candidates to follow up:
“Should you have included [all the basic information], and I/we have not answered you in 7 days, then I am sorry, and please follow up.”
Of course, following up is not the factor of primary importance. Take care to make your application (cover letter, resume and portfolio) comprehensive in the first instance. Please don’t use follow-up as an appendix to a half-hearted application. If you were just throwing your CV over the wall, don’t throw more after it. Mads rightfully goes on to say:
“Should your email be missing any of the before mentioned information, then we will not answer your email to save your time.”
When it comes to following up, checking in after a week sounds good for the start-up world. For an initial application to a large company, I’d recommend following up after 10-14 days. After an interview, sharing thoughts from your side within 24-48 hours is a nice custom on the decline. So taking the time for a very brief but meaningful follow-up to a face-to-face can help you stand out.
Make follow-up meaningful.
A follow-up email is just like a cover letter — if you’re going to do it, do it right. Be thoughtful rather than train-of-thought. Try to hook into some topic of interest to the company, hiring manager or previous conversation — and share some valuable content.
That’s not to say you should get wordy. Keep it short. A one-liner asking about status is better than resorting to a meandering monologue.
Persistence alone will not get you a job. So how can you walk the line between being present and being annoying?
When you write to me, giving context is the best way to reduce my mental friction and communication overhead. Include the email conversation if we’ve had one. Attach your resume or LinkedIn URL again. Remind me where we left off.
Otherwise I may have to search your name in our recruiting software* to orient myself.
*Note that German privacy laws work to confound both context and institutional memory. After several months, all my notes about interviews with you are deleted. So giving context is even more important for long-term follow-up (see below).
Stay in touch long-term.
If you’ve been turned down for a job, but you remain intrigued by the company or manager, follow them and check in from time to time — especially if you’ve been given some positive signals along the way. Don’t take rejection personally; use it as a stepping stone.
I appreciate when designers and researchers I’ve conversed with stay in touch. I see hundreds of names of designers and I meet quite a few in person, as well. To be kind, let’s just say my memory for names isn’t one of my strengths. So even if you’ve made a good impression, I likely won’t remember your name without prompting.
This morning, for example, I was racking my brain trying to think of the name of a designer I had interviewed previously. I remembered what country he was from, some of the projects he showed me, and the reason we rejected him at the time — but I couldn’t remember his name in order to look him up again.
Instead, I sat down to write this article.
I want to make meaningful connections with designers and researchers. Despite heartfelt intentions, time constraints and necessary organizational realities can stand in the way. I appreciate your help here, and hope that your habit of following up makes you successful in your job applications, career development and everyday life.
Maybe next time you will surface in my mind at an opportune time.