Careers advice: Following up on a job application

27 February 2024

Konstantina Dee, Alumni Careers Manager at WBS, discusses three different approaches to help you follow-up on a job application. 

You have just pressed send – hours and hours of hard work of analysing the job description, of identifying how you match the criteria, of demonstrating this in your application, of writing one, two, three drafts of your CV and cover letter. Only to hear nothing for weeks or get a standard email which says “Unfortunately on this occasion we are unable to progress your application further.”

It should not be like this and you don’t have to remain passive in following up on your submission.

To illustrate how a proactive post-application pre-interview (PAPI) process has worked, I will pass on my recent exchange with a graduate who, after months of applying for jobs, was offered his dream position. The alum shared their experience but what really stood out for me was that they followed up the application – they did not just send it, they contacted a number of people from the company, arranged a meeting with someone, talked with them and that person then re-sent the application directly to the hiring manager and the story goes directly to the happy ending.

Follow-up is important because not everyone does it and you can stand out by showing your initiative and interest.

I suggest three different approaches to PAPI that can be used alone or together:

Email the hiring manager 

Personally, I would always go directly to the decision maker. I often hear alumni talk about the issues with the electronic screening and how their applications are being rejected even before they get to the desk of the hiring manager.  Very often the applications will be initially reviewed by the talent acquisition team, who will then shortlist some applications and send these to the hiring manager. In many cases they will not understand the intricacies of your work experience and skills, which, on the other hand, would be obvious to the person who needs a new member in their team.  So, your task is to communicate with that very person.

Once you have submitted your application through the advertised channels, email a copy of this application directly to the hiring manager. You can find their name either within the job posting, on LinkedIn, or through a direct contact within the company.

Getting the email address of the hiring manager might be tricky but not impossible. Contact the company and kindly explain what position you are applying for and that you would like to send your application to the hiring manager. You could then ask for their name and email address. Of course, there are online tools like RockerReach, SignalHire, Mailscoop that can help you get hold of a professional email address (Please note: we don’t recommend any tool and it is up to you to decide if and what to use).

Once you have an email address, send a concise (no more than 100 words) focused email, including information about the job you are applying for and two to three skills that you have which match the job description. Finish with a suggestion for a follow-up conversation.

When to do this: maximum a week after applying. 

Send a voice message to the hiring manager on LinkedIn   

Think differently. A voice message is picking up popularity as we speak and it shows the hiring manager that you take the time to make a great impression. If you can do this for your application, you are likely to have a similar behaviour when dealing with clients - bingo!

Practise what you are going to say. Practise again and the record your voice note without any background noise and interruptions.

You can start by introducing yourself and mentioning that you have recently submitted an application for the role and you wonder if there is anything else you could provide to offer a better insight of your suitability. Finish by saying that you would welcome the opportunity to speak to them further and leave your telephone number. 

But remember that your LinkedIn profile should be updated and tailored to highlight the skills for this particular role. 

When to do this: within three days of applying for the role and if you are unable to send the email to the hiring manager.

Use a referral

My example above demonstrates that this works. To recap, the alum approached a current employee of the organisation who they happened to know from before. The request for referral was not immediate but it came after a couple of meetings where the two parties got to know each other and a mutual trust was built. The employee of the company was then able to vouch for the alum and sent their CV directly to the hiring manager. 

To get a head start connect with people from your target organisations and initiate these ‘getting to know each other’ conversations. This will give you a chance to speak to your contact once you have submitted your application. If you have been in touch with the hiring manager, you can use your contact at a later stage of the recruitment process.

When to do this: start as soon as possible and certainly within the first week after submitting your application. It’s good to use this in cases when you have not been successful in directly contacting the hiring manager. 

In conclusion, you need to develop your own strategies that work for you and which will make you stand out in your job applications. The above three are just examples of PAPI that have worked recently with people who secured jobs and you can adapt a PAPI that fits within your own personal brand. 

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