I applied for a job and haven't heard back

No Response on a Job Application — Do This

“I applied for a job and haven’t heard back. Now what?” 

Two-Column Cover Letter

First, did you send a two-column cover letter that shows you meet at least 50% of the job’s selection criteria? If you didn’t, write one now.

If you don’t meet at least 50% of the job’s selection criteria, don’t put any more effort into going after this job. Invest your time in pursuing jobs that are better matched to your knowledge, skills, and abilities.

BTW, don’t send this letter. They’re a nice idea, but hardly anyone executes them well. They are, however, excellent tools for job seekers to use in analyzing whether or not they should apply for a job.

Were You Compliant?

If you meet the selection criteria, be sure you applied as specified in the directions.

If you applied through an applicant tracking system (ATS), check your keywords. Optimally, your resume (not your cover letter) should contain each keyword the ATS will search for to produce a list of applicants for human eyes.

If you can’t use 50% of the keywords you identify, don’t put any more effort into pursuing the job.

Done with that one to two-hour process? OK, that was a lot of work to correspond with a freaking computer, wasn’t it? 151 of 152 people who try to get a job through an ATS also say, “I applied for a job and haven’t heard back.”

Thus, it’s a good idea to ask yourself why you are corresponding with a computer instead of a person.

Find the Right Person

Invest your time in getting to know people who can support your candidacy inside your target companies.

Stop writing to computers unless someone inside the company has your resume and has agreed to provide it to the hiring manager. Then fill out all of the computer stuff to make HR happy and help them do their jobs.

If you match the job’s qualifications, figure out a way to find a human being who works in your department of interest. If you can’t do this yourself, it’s OK to ask others for help. Keep asking others until you have it figured out.

Once you find a human who works in your department of interest, make contact with that person. Briefly explain your qualifications for the job — the 30-second version, not the 30-minute version.

Ask them for their advice on how to pursue the position. People love to give advice. (Look at me. I do it for free right here.)

Hopefully, the company has an employee referral program. If they do, this person might pounce on the opportunity to refer you because they stand to gain something too. It’s likely a win/win proposition that you are offering, so you can do it with a strong spirit and great confidence.

Wait Some More

If you have applied through personal contact and ten working days have elapsed, look here for more ideas on what to do next with your time and your contact person.

If 15 working days have elapsed, and you haven’t been able to stimulate any action, consider carefully repeating all of the above with a second person.

Image: Fotolia/g stockstudio
Updated May 2019

© 2010 – 2019, Donna Svei. All rights reserved.

Comments 9

  1. Well said Donna: there’s a reason the landing rate for black hole techniques is so low, relative to networking!

  2. Ah Ed,

    Thank you! I knew that I would eventually find a way to work Portia Nelson’s Autobiography in Five Chapters into a blog post. See here: http://www.panhala.net/archive/autobiography.html. It’s all about habits of falling into holes and it’s very appropriate for “black hole techniques” of job search.



  3. Your info is invaluable…going to study your blog some more! Appreciate you “putting it out there!”

  4. If I saw a cover letter like the 2 column one linked here come into my office, I would wonder why this person is repeating their resume and then I would wonder why they can’t format a simple letter before I threw it in the trash. What an awkward, ugly format. Do you have any evidence that that format works at all?

    Elizabeth, I agree. These letters are ugly. However, I usually read these letters. Why? Because a job seeker is either going to show me how well they match the spec or make it REALLY easy for me to disqualify them. Donna

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