How and When to Send a Follow-Up Email
Back in the mists of time, in a long-lost era known as the 20th century, it was common practice to call someone on the phone to follow up on an application or an interview. In fact you may have been advised to do this by your parents or a career counselor at your high school or university.
But here in the future, we have this thing called “email” — you may have heard of it — which is a more acceptable way to get in touch with somebody. Emails are low-pressure and don’t immediately require the recipient’s time and attention.
So when it’s time to follow up on your job application, usually the best way to do it is by sending an email. And that’s exactly what you should do when…
1. You applied to a job but haven’t heard back.
Ever worked as a hiring manager? No? Well, it’s a good job in some ways, but you have to review a lot of applications. So after you send in your application, give the hiring manager a few days to sort through the pile of applications they’ve received.
After a few business days have passed, if you haven’t heard anything, it’s a good time to demonstrate your deep and abiding interest in the position by emailing to politely ask about the status of your application — once.
Just remember, all you’re doing is demonstrating interest in the job. You’re not demanding an answer or insisting they consider you for the position RIGHT NOW — though it may be tempting to do so when you’re deep into a job search.
2. You just did an initial phone screen.
A 15–30 minute phone interview is a common part of the application process. At this stage, recruiters are usually trying to whittle the pool of possible candidates from a couple dozen to a handful who will come in for a real interview.
After a phone screen, it’s a good idea to send a brief, 1–2 sentence email thanking the person you talked to for their time. Showing gratitude (without being demanding) is a nice thing to do, and most hiring managers and recruiters prefer nice people.
If a few business days pass and you haven’t heard anything further, then it’s time to send a brief, polite email inquiring about “next steps.”
3. It’s been a few days since an in-person interview.
You suited up or dressed up, you got to the office on time, you shook hands firmly, you made eye contact, you remembered everybody’s names, you answered questions with intelligence and verve, you asked a few questions yourself, you cracked a couple of appropriate jokes — basically, you charmed the heck out of everybody you talked to. When you got home, you sent a brief yet personalized thank-you email to the people who interviewed you. You nailed it.
A day passes. Two days pass. You haven’t heard anything.
It’s tough, but you have to give the company some time. They have other people to interview, it takes time to get an offer letter together, and the department that interviewed you has other responsibilities as well.
If 4–5 business days have passed and you still haven’t heard back, send your main contact an email inquiring about your application. Keep it short and polite, and again, don’t demand anything.
Don’t send multiple emails. Bombarding someone with requests will get you nowhere.
4. You just got rejected.
Yes, this too. In the professional world, you never want to slam a door shut behind you — always leave it open at least a crack. A simple “Thank you for considering me, and I hope you find the right candidate,” message will leave a positive impression in your contact’s mind. Maybe they’ll hit you up next time there’s an opening!
And one more thing: Obviously you can only send these friendly follow-up emails if you have the email addresses of the people you’re talking to. If you don’t have them, you can ask for their email if there’s an appropriate time to do so (there isn’t always one).
LinkedIn is also a good resource for finding out contact information. Don’t be shy about getting someone’s work email from their LinkedIn profile. That’s what LinkedIn is for — contacting professional connections.
TL;DR: Except for “thank you” emails after an interview, wait a few days before following up via email. When you do, keep your email short, polite and professional. Express gratitude rather than demanding anything.