The Etiquette of Following Up

As Tom Petty said, “The waiting is the hardest part.” You apply for a position from a job posting on a website and receive no acknowledgment—ever. You (finally) get a job interview and think it went well, but it has been several weeks since you heard anything from the interviewer. You e-mail a contact to do an informational interview, at the recommendation of a mutual professional friend, and get no reply—after a week of waiting. How do you follow-up without stalking?

Remember that anyone involved in the hiring process these days is being deluged by applications, e-mails and other requests for information. This is overloading the capacity of most HR tracking systems, let alone the average e-mail user. Rather than get aggravated at the lack of response, think of other ways to connect to the target employer. Do you know anyone at the firm or company who can do some inquiring on your behalf? Can you locate an actual person via LinkedIn, for example, who might be a mutual connection or have some potential role to play in the hiring process? Even with the increased access to job postings on websites, decision makers still rely on the tried and true—personal contact and recommendations—in deciding whether to interview candidates. This becomes even more important when the number of applications per position soars.

If you have already interviewed for a job, hopefully you asked about the employer’s timing for the process.  If not, traditionally, two to three weeks is a reasonable amount of time to wait before getting some communication. Unless you have a competing job offer, there is usually little you can do to speed up the process. Instead, wait the two or three weeks and then send a polite e-mail inquiring about the status of hiring and offer to provide any additional necessary information.  Unless you hear otherwise, this is usually your one shot to make the request—after that, you will probably start looking desperate.

Finally, do not be afraid to pick up the phone. Everyone is overwhelmed by e-mail these days—so much so that I often wonder whether it is losing its effectiveness as a means of communication under certain circumstances. Instead of suffering in silence when an e-mail goes unanswered, call the person and politely reiterate your request. Again, keep the communication brief, to the point and professional.  If you still get no response, move on and save your energy for more productive opportunities.


  1. Good advice. I find myself wondering the same thing about email. Certainly there are too many people who just can’t keep up with what’s coming in, which makes it impossible to find time to try to stem the flow. On the other hand, I suspect that many of the same people who don’t reply to your email won’t return your call either. In a perfect world, those people would eventually stop receiving emails or phone calls at all.

  2. Avatar Jennifer St. John says:

    I know when I was looking for a job, all I wanted was SOME kind of communication. You don’t even get hold muzak waiting for a response from a prospecive employer. In my position now, I know all anyone wants is for someone to connect with – even when they don’t necessarily like what they hear. It is better than nothing. Also, if you know someone is getting alot of phone calls – you can sometimes be a little more creative with an email. Especially if you clicked on something in an interview.

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