Video series: How to follow up on a job application

Andrea Barger |
Andrea (she/her) is our head of PR at Snagajob, where she’s focused on telling the world how we help hourly workers and employers. Her first hourly job was as a lifeguard.

We’ve been getting a lot of questions lately on the right way to follow up on your applications. From our YouTube channel:

1993c4Corvette: "If I apply online, how do I follow up on an application?"

Following up is a critical step that often gets overlooked. But in a competitive job market, you're probably competing with several other job seekers for the same job and recruiters tell us that following up is a great way to stand out and get noticed.

There are three common ways to follow up: email, phone and in person.

1. Following up through email

Email is probably the least intimidating way to follow up on a job application because you don't actually have to talk to the hiring manager. But that comes with a couple of drawbacks, including not actually getting to talk to the hiring manager.

Remember to review your follow-up email before you send it out. The slightest error can cause you to be passed over. Treat it just like you would a resume or cover letter, and even have a friend edit it, look over it over once more just to be extra certain you haven't made any mistakes. If you don't have anybody handy who can look over your writing to make sure you didn't misspell a word or have a typo you haven't noticed, read aloud to yourself to see if you can catch any errors.

This email can and should be short. Don't go on very long and definitely don't repeat the same stuff that you put into your application or cover letter. Just tell them that you are checking to see if they received your application and maybe reiterate the top three awesome things about you that would make you a great fit for the position.

2. Following up by calling

If you're going to follow up over the phone, make sure you practice what to say beforehand. You really don't want to be caught hanging up as soon as they answer.

Only follow up during non-peak business hours (this goes for following up in person, too!). For restaurants this means between 2 and 4 p.m., and for retail this means after 4 p.m. on weekdays. When someone does answer, ask for the manager (or the name of the manager if you have it). When you have the right person on the phone, introduce yourself and say, "Hi, I'm calling to inquire about the status of my application. It was for the (job title) at (business name)."

Even though you're on the phone, don't forget to smile. Hiring managers can tell if you're happy or grumpy. End the conversation with something like, "I look forward to hearing from you soon," so the ball is in their court.

We recently talked to one of our hired Snagajob members, Billy, who said he got hired at Sonic by calling and following up on his application a week later. When he was able to talk to the hiring manager, he offered Billy an interview right there over the phone. And then he got hired on the spot during his interview.

3. Following up in person

Following up in person is a great way to get noticed but if you don't do it the right way, you can stand out for all the wrong reasons.

One of the most important things we can tell you is to dress professionally as you would for an interview. We actually talked to one of our members, Patrick, on our blog who told us that he used to work for a hotel and when people would come in to drop off an application or to follow up, he had to write on their application what they were wearing and how they presented themselves. We’ve put together sample interview outfits on our Pinterest page for the ladies and the gentlemen; check it out if you need some ideas!

In addition to looking your best, you also want to make sure to bring copies of your resume. You never know when you'll be asked to interview. It could be right on the spot and you don't want to be left unprepared. If just walking in and saying you're there to follow up feels a little awkward to you, come up with a different excuse, like saying you're there to drop off your references and follow up that way.

Tips from an employer

We talked to a nation-wide retail employer and asked for their tips about following up. Here's what they had to say:

  1. Coming into the store in person makes a better impression.

  2. Wait no longer than a week after applying to follow up.

  3. Follow up only once. The employer should get back to you one way or the other.

  4. It's okay to follow up again after an interview, if you haven't heard back. But again, only do this once.

Following up can be scary. Trust us, we know. But it's a great way to set you apart from the competition.

Have a question? Head over to the Snagajob YouTube channel and leave us a comment with the question you want answered.