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When to Follow Up After Applying For a Job

calandar By Taunee Besson, CMF, CareerCast.com Senior Columnist

Q: How long should I wait before sending a follow-up letter to a potential employer who hasn't responded to an application and resume? Also, where can I find information about "professional" employment opportunities aside from job boards?

A: Given that your second question refers to job boards, I assume you're sending resumes in response to online job listings. If this is true, there's more than one answer to your question.

Ads that contain employer names are easy to follow up on, because you know who to contact. In fact, a smart applicant will address their cover letter to the personnel director or recruiter specifically. After a week to 10 days, call to make sure your resume was properly received, answer any questions about it and hopefully schedule an interview. At the least, ascertain the time frame for the selection process and where you now stand.

Unfortunately, so-called "confidential" ads that don't reveal the employer's name present a real problem, because you have minimal information. Without knowing the company, you can't call anyone. You're left in the dark, waiting for the phone to ring. While some organizations send polite form-letter rejections, others only contact those they wish to interview. The interviewing process may drop in the firm's list of priorities and start weeks after expected, but you won't know this either.

Three weeks to a month is a safe interval for following up on a blind ad. A short email indicating your continuing interest in the position may get a response, especially since few applicants bother to pursue the job beyond sending a resume. Potential employers appreciate enthusiasm and perseverance. Most job seekers miss an important opportunity when they worry about being overeager.

One way to avoid questions about when to follow up on a job listing is to rely on networking as a job search method instead. 80% to 90% of positions are filled through networking. Potential contacts are all around you, but you'll have to do a little work to find them. Some sources are:

  • Friends and Family
  • Ask the people who know you best if they're acquainted with others in your chosen field. Then call those referrals for potential opportunities.

  • Business Colleagues
  • There is a grapevine among professionals. They often know about job openings within their own companies and at their competition.

  • Professional Organizations
  • These groups have both informal and formal job boards. Attending their meetings and checking job listings can uncover some interesting opportunities.

  • Churches and Fraternal Groups
  • Most churches and fraternal groups have members representing many careers and personal networks. Tell key people you are looking for a new position and the word will spread.

  • Volunteer Organizations
  • Some of the best referrals come from those dedicated to a common mission. Ask other members who they know in your field.

  • Hobby Groups
  • Any type of common interest forms a bond among those who share it. Whether you run, fly model airplanes or play chess for fun, your fellow enthusiasts will be anxious to help you find career contacts. And you may be surprised at how many they know.

  • Continuing Education Seminars and Conventions
  • Along with up-to-date information and techniques, these provide wondering opportunities for networking with other professionals who may be aware of current job openings.


Taunee Besson, CMF, CareerCast.com Senior Columnist Senior Columnist Taunee Besson, CMF, is president of Career Dimensions, Inc., a consulting firm founded in 1979 that works with individual and corporate clients in career transition, job search, executive coaching, talent management and small business issues. She is an award-winning columnist for CareerJournal.com and a best-selling author of the Wall Street Journal's books on resumes and cover letters. Her articles on a variety of career issues have appeared on numerous career/job websites and trade and business journals. Ms. Besson has been quoted numerous times in The Wall Street Journal, The Dallas Morning News, Business Week, Time, Smart Money, and a number of other websites and publications.

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