notebook that reads, dont just stand there

Photo by Jeff Sheldon on Unsplash

By Allison McWilliams (’95), Ph.D., Assistant VP, Mentoring and Alumni Personal & Career Development, Wake Forest University

We’ve all been there. You find a job that fits your qualifications perfectly. It’s like it was written just for you. You pull up your resume, craft a winning cover letter, send it off to the hiring manager, and…. nothing. Crickets. A week goes by, then two, then three. You send a follow-up note; maybe your application just got lost somewhere, and you want to make them aware of your interest. Still, nothing. What do you do?

Searching for a job can be one of the most frustrating, aggravating, and confusing experiences you can go through, and no matter your years of experience, it doesn’t necessarily get any easier. Why? Because you only have half of the information you need to be successful. You have the job description, you have your resume, and you have your interest in the position. But you have no idea what’s happening on the other side of the equation. So what, exactly, do you do in this situation? Do you go beat down their door and demand some attention? Do you chalk it up as their loss and decide never to darken their door ever again?

Probably somewhere in the middle. Here are a few suggestions for you to think about as you navigate through this somewhat uncertain and daunting process:

Yes, reach out again, but with a purpose. Your first contact was your application, and your second contact was a follow-up to express interest. Should you contact them a third time? Perhaps, but do so with a purpose. Do some additional research on the organization, and look for something – a new client, or an area of focus you had not identified previously – to which you can connect and use that as your “hook.” Or, take a moment to highlight an additional skillset that would be useful to their work. And, ask a question, such as “Could you tell me what the timeline is for the hiring process?” which requests that they follow-up with a response.

But, don’t contact them on a daily basis. After that third contact, let it go. You’ve gone through the proper channels, you’ve expressed interest, and you’ve reinforced that interest with an additional contact. Anything more than that and you risk becoming the email that gets flagged to be ignored (which then has real impacts on the state of your application, too). You’ve done your due diligence. Now let them do theirs. When I’m hiring for a position, I tend not to respond to individual contacts by applicants, because I want a level playing field for all applicants. So, the lack of response you are getting may not be an indicator of a lack of interest.

On that note, understand that you only have one side of the equation in front of you. Maybe they are strongly considering an internal hire for the position. Maybe there are some unwritten qualifications that they are looking for, which you do not possess. Maybe the hiring manager has had a death in the family, and it has thrown the entire timeline off schedule. Maybe, as I noted above, they are very interested in you, but have a specific process that they are following which does not allow for individual communication. The point is, you’ll never know for certain what’s happening inside the walls of that organization.

Ask for feedback. Send the job listing, your resume, and cover letter to a trusted friend or mentor and ask for their feedback. This won’t be the last job that you apply for, so why not use it as a learning moment? Get some input on your qualifications and your ability to effectively read an opportunity. Ask for feedback on your cover letter and your ability to sell yourself and your skillset.

Finally, remind yourself that no job is perfect. No matter how sold you are on a position, there is absolutely no job out there that you have to have, and no position that is perfect. If nothing else, pay attention to how long it takes them to respond to you, and think about whether or not that is an organization that you want to work for. How people treat prospective employees is at least one indicator of how they treat actual employees. Lack of or poor communication would definitely be a big red flag in my book, and would make me think twice about how “perfect” this job actually may be.