How to Follow-Up Following a Submission or Interview (Ask Lassie!)

Yesterday one of my career counseling clients contacted me with a question: “A week ago I applied on-line for a position with a non-profit and I have not heard anything.  What should I do?”

My immediate gut response was, “Do nothing.”  He wanted to call HR.  I can understand that, but, as I explained, HR probably received a hundred (literally!) resumes for the position.  If everyone of them calls they won’t be able to get any work done and they may become annoyed.  You don’t want HR annoyed!

As the saying goes, “So what’s a girl to do?”


If you applied on-line assume the resume was received.   Not calling puts you in the majority.  I always say that the key to getting a job is differentiation.  Of course, it has to be positive.  You don’t want to differentiate yourself by making a fool out of yourself.  So maybe calling is not such a bad thing.  But you have to do it the right way:

Rule #1;  Only call once.  If you are leaving a message, that’s it.  Don’t call back to find out if they got the message.  It’s over.

Rule #2:  Be it an actual conversation or a voice mail message, keep it short.  Sound confident and helpful.  “This is Bruce Hurwitz.  I submitted my application on-line a week ago for the whatever position, and just wanted to follow-up.  Is there anything I can do to help facilitate my candidacy?”  (If it’s a voice mail message then obviously change it to, “I just wanted to know if there is anything I can do to help facilitate my candidacy.  You can reach me at…”)

And that’s it.  Whatever the response is, that’s your answer.  And silence is a response.


Naturally, the next question has to be, How do you follow-up after an interview?  Here are my rules:

Rule #1:  Ask the interviewer.  At the end of the interview thank her, tell her you are interested in the job, and ask what the next step is.

Rule #2:  Whatever she says, that’s what you do.  “You’ll hear from us,” means that if you don’t hear from them, they are not interested.  Or does it?  Perhaps things are just taking a bit longer than they thought.   In that case, see Rule #5.

Rule #3:  Never lie.  If you have another good possibility, call the person who interviewed you and say, “I just wanted to update you.  I’m a finalist with another company.  My preference would be to work for you.  I’d appreciate knowing my status.”  Again, if you don’t hear back, you’ve gotten your answer.

Rule #4:  If they said, “Call in two weeks.”  Call in two weeks.

Rule #5:  If after doing everything they said, you still have not heard anything, stop looking at the relationship within the job interview context and start looking at it within the networking context.  If you see, for example, an article that the person might be interested in, send it to them with a note.  Write something like, “I remember when you interviewed me you told me that you enjoyed fishing in upstate New York.  I saw this article and thought it might be of interest to you.  All the best, Bruce.”  (It will also work if you noticed something in their office and are sending them something about that.  It could be, for example, something related to a painting or a photograph.)  Don’t ask for the job.  Don’t ask about the job.  The recipient knows you want the job.  If you are still in the running, they will let you know.  And if they don’t respond, you probably would not want to work for them!

And finally,

Rule #6:  For Rule #5 to work you have to LISTEN to the interviewer for clues and cues about how to follow-up.  So follow the good Lord’s hint when he put most of His creatures together: we all have two ears and one mouth.  So we should listen twice as much as we speak.  (And we always have to “listen” with our eyes as well.)  Think about it, animals rely on their hearing (and sight) to warn them of danger or to alert them to opportunities, and their mouths to scare away attackers and to realize those opportunities.  It’s the same for us!

So maybe the best way to learn about getting a job is to watch reruns of Lassie and Rin-Tin-Tin!  Or maybe not…