The follow-up email to a job application is one part of the job search process that many candidates tend to fumble. Either they don’t follow up at all for fear of being a pest or they follow up repeatedly and actually are a pest.

But, in my experience as an executive recruiter, I’ve seen that hiring managers nearly universally agree that a single follow-up email three days to one week after submitting you application is the way to go. Your goal here is to make your application top of mind and gather information about the hiring process. Just follow these simple rules for writing a job application follow-up email that comes across as persistent as opposed to pestering.

Skip the handwritten note

The old advice was to send a handwritten note on sophisticated stationary to demonstrate enthusiasm but the speed and efficiency of email makes it the far better approach. A handwritten note can also be a hassle for employers who then have to take the extra step of going to their computer and pulling up your applicant file. It also makes it more difficult to forward your information on if they want someone else to take a look or consider you for a different position.

Use a Clear Subject Line

Hiring managers can’t stand vague subject lines. Make it clear what you are reaching out about by leading with “Following Up on XXX Position”.

Frame the Email Properly

Position the email as checking in on the company’s timeline. Ask when they expect to reach out candidates selected for interviews. This gives your email a purpose and the resulting information has the bonus of making you less anxious while you wait since there is sometimes a long lag time before interviewing actually begins.

Reiterate Your Interest

Very briefly mention your enthusiasm for the company and why you are a good fit for the job. This should be a single sentence. You’re not re-applying; you’re just demonstrating your ongoing desire for the position.

Offer additional information

Finish by offering to provide any additional materials they may need in reviewing your application. If you have an online portfolio or your work is otherwise viewable online, you may want to send that link. Don’t overwhelm though. One link is plenty but two would be the maximum advisable.

Follow Instructions

If you’ve been given specific instructions regarding follow-up – either not to do so or to direct your follow-up to a specific person or email address – don’t disregard that. Some companies immediately eliminate from consideration candidates who do not follow instructions. Directing candidates to use a particular email address can also be requested to make sure the company’s applicant tracking system detects the email and adds it to your file.

Once you’ve sent your follow-up, it’s in the employer’s hands and there’s nothing left to do except be patient. It can be tempting to follow up again but repeat contacts will not enhance your chances of getting the interview.

How do you handle the always-tricky job application follow up email? Share your experiences below.


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