1. Tailor resume.
  2. Personalize cover letter.
  3. Clean up online presence.
  4. Send application.

Check, check, check, and check.

Well, your to-do list has been cleared. Right?

Not necessarily. You might need to follow up.

I use the word might because it’s not always obvious if you should follow up with a potential employer. On the one hand, a long wait between application and interview (and then offer) can be frustrating. On the other, you don’t want to be the overeager applicant who seems to think the recruitment process revolves around them. After all, if your resume makes it to the short list, the process shifts to assessing your personality, attitude, and soft skills.

Still, you’ve put in the time on your end. They now have a responsibility to keep you informed, one way or the other. So, how do you follow up without looking crazy? It all depends on what stage of the process you’re in.

Let’s look at the following scenarios:

  • After your resume and application are submitted.
  • After the first job interview.
  • If you’ve waited a long time between steps.
Following up after submitting the resume

If there’s a specific timeline for the recruitment process and each stage has been given a deadline, stick to it. In this case, following up is fine if the wait went beyond a crucial due date.

If there’s no strict timeline, two weeks from your previous interaction would make for a reasonable rule of thumb.

Important: It’s best to follow up by email. Give the recruiter the freedom to respond at their convenience. Phone calls should be left for more time-pressing circumstances.

When it comes to the actual writing of the email, it’s best to keep things as simple as possible. Here is a sample you can use:

Hi (hiring manager name),

I recently applied for the [position title] position, and wanted to check in on your decision timeline. I am excited about the opportunity to join [company name] and work with your team.

Please let me know if it need any additional information.

Thanks very much for your time.

Following up after the job interview

In this case, think thank-you notes.

These are not some relic of a bygone era; around half of all applicants send thank-you emails after the job interview. Why? They’re an elegant way to thank the interviewers, show your appreciation, and reiterate your interest in the position. Simply put, it’s good etiquette. But more importantly, it’s good strategy. In fact, we recently included thank-you emails as one of five things you should do after a job interview.

The key is not to wait too long. Thank-you notes have an expiry date. After a few days, they smell fishy and might come across as a hurry-up note in disguise. Follow up with a thank-you note a few hours after the meeting or the next day.

Pro tip: Forgot to send your thank-you note immediately after the interview? Make your follow-up email a bit more formal. Express your appreciation for the opportunity and elegantly remind the recruiter why they invited you to the interview in the first place. Just be careful not to make it look like a sales pitch.

How to follow up after a longer wait

It’s normal for the recruitment process to take a month or two. Before you hit that send button on your follow-up email, though, think it through.

If it’s not a serious, time-pressing matter (e.g., you received a counter offer from another company), you should stick to the recruitment timeline. However, if it’s been a few weeks since contact (or an important decision is past due), it makes sense to touch base. Something might have fallen through the cracks.

Send the contact person an email to inquire about the status of your application. Remind them who you are, explain why you’re contacting them, and at what stage of the recruitment process you’re in.

Special case: Following up if you got a counter offer

First, congratulations, you’re in demand!

If you’ve been offered another job but you feel like giving the company in question a second chance, you have the right to do it.

Send them an email, explain your situation, express your interest with the position at the company, and give them a few days to get back to you.

Bearing the circumstances, a follow-up phone call is fine as well. Especially, if you don’t hear back from them after your initial follow-up email.

What you need to remember

The recruitment process typically follows a timeline. Stick to it. If you don’t hear back from recruiters when you should, follow up. If you haven’t been given a timeline, you might want to initiate contact after a few weeks.

After all, the early stages of the recruitment process are almost entirely void of actual human interaction. The simple act of following up adds a human touch, and can help you stand out from the crowd.

Good luck!