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How To Follow Up On A Job Application Without Looking Desperate

What's the worst thing that could happen?
Ring, damn phone.
Betsie Van der Meer
Ring, damn phone.

If you'd rather have a rotten tooth removed without anaesthetic than follow up after submitting a job application, you're not alone.

It's been two weeks. Surely you should have heard by now if they were interested? You are perfect for the role -- what could possibly be holding them back from excitedly calling you in for an interview?

Of course, you hate picking up the phone if you anticipate rejection. It's so hard to ask some stranger if they think your application is worth considering for the job for which you so very painstakingly took the time to apply. You spent over two hours crafting and fine tuning your cover letter, tailoring your resume for that role that is so perfect for you. You meet all the requirements of the role... why haven't they called? How could they possibly even consider rejecting your application?

So why don't you follow up? Maybe it's an ego thing. Maybe it's just the fear of rejection. Or maybe you just don't like picking up the phone.

Job applications can be frustrating, especially when you apply so very perfectly and don't hear back. Screeners may have very good intentions and try to reply to everyone who applies, however, many are inundated with applications and if your application is a very valid one (your meet the requirements of the role), then of course it's perfectly fine to follow up with a call if you don't hear back within a couple of weeks.

If you make the call, at least you'll find out either way and then you can decide what you'll do next. Not knowing is a killer. It plays around in your head. You keep thinking the phone will ring. You look at the phone several times an hour, or several times a minute. You start to hate the phone for not ringing. I'm being a bit dramatic here, but we've all been there.

Give this a try to avoid getting the cold shoulder when following up:

1. Understand the priorities of the person you're phoning

Remember that even though your application is your top priority, to the screener your application is one of many to consider out of a number of roles he/she is trying to fill. Filling that role is one of many priorities he/she has to focus on (especially if the screener is not a recruiter and is the hiring manager.)

2. Know what you are going to say

Prepare what you are going to say so you don't waste time. Make sure you sound confident, in control and not needy. All you're doing is following up to find out what's going on.

When you get through to the right person, let them know who you are, what role you applied for and when you applied, and then just say that you are following up to find out if you are in consideration for the role.

3. Smile

When on the phone, even though they can't see your smiling face, your voice will be more engaging, relaxed and friendly if you smile.

4. Stand up when speaking

Or, at least, sit up straight. This helps you to sound more confident on the phone.

5. Don't ring if there is a lot of background noise

If you're in a busy café, or at home with dogs barking and children screaming, that's not professional. Find somewhere quiet to make your call, away from interruptions or distractions so you can focus.

6. Understand they may be short on time

Be succinct. Ask if they've had a chance to review your application and if not, ask if it's okay to touch base at a later time, and find out when would be appropriate.

7. If they aren't interested

Thank them for their time and consideration. If you can, highlight your core competencies that are relevant to the role and let them know that, should another need arise for your skills and experience, you would be happy to be considered. Now they know your name and capabilities, next time you may get further along in the process.

This is all about relationship development. It's all about touch points. The more touch points, the better. It breeds familiarity. People are comfortable and are more trusting of people and things they are familiar with. If another role comes up and your name is a familiar one, you may get a second chance. Worth a go, don't you think?

8. Call again if you have to

If you're told you will get a callback but you don't hear back after a week or so, call again. There may be a multitude of reasons for the delay. Perhaps the job specification for the role changed, or an internal candidate ended up being the preferred candidate, or the role was withdrawn, or someone was sick or travelling.

9. What's the worst thing that could happen?

If you still feel awkward about calling, just think -- the worst thing that could happen by picking up the phone is that you can't get through, or you do get through and you are told that they don't want you. If you can't get through, try again later. If they tell you it's the end of the road for you for this role, you can focus your energy elsewhere.

At all times ensure that your skills and experience are relevant to the role you are targeting. Find out if you're a good fit for the company culture and understand what their pain points are by conducting thorough research, talking to your industry network to gain advice and guidance about the company, and, if possible, gain a referral in to the company from someone who is able to create a positive buzz about you.

There isn't a magic formula that will work every time. However, those who have a positive, flexible attitude and are willing to try a new approach and explore every angle when marketing themselves despite challenging economic factors are the ones who are successful in a shorter period of time.

If one door closes, look for the door that is ajar.


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