How to write an effective job application follow-up email

Want to do more to help influence your chance of securing a job interview? Find out how to write an effective job application follow-up email.

So, you’re applying for a job you know you’re a perfect fit for and would love to get, but you’re worried that the restrictive, online application process you’ve followed hasn’t really given you an opportunity to shine.

And now you’re left in that nail-biting limbo, wondering if you’ll get through to the next stage and be invited in for interview.

Is there anything you can do to stand out at this stage, and increase your chances of securing an interview?

Why you should send a job application follow-up email

There is one tactic you can employ to get another opportunity to put in a good word for yourself at this early stage. And that’s a job application follow-up email.

While they’re not always appropriate, in the right circumstances a well-written job application follow-up email will increase your response rate. Pitched well, it can improve your chances of getting invited to an interview.

And if you’re not ideal interview material, it can sometimes help put you out of your misery with written conformation you didn’t make the cut. (As hard as this is to hear, it’s better than waiting for an answer that will never come.)

But how can you write a job application follow-up email that works? We’ll walk you through the most important aspects to consider, to make sure you get it right.

What’s the purpose of your job application follow-up email?

Before you actually write your email, you need to understand exactly what you want it to achieve. Because an effective job application follow-up email is about more than obtaining a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer.

It’s not just about finding out whether someone has received your job application and if they are planning to call you in for an interview. This is what a good follow-up email should succeed in doing:

  • It should provide the HR department with extra information that was left out of your job application because of its narrow format.
  • It should re-assert your genuine interest in the company and the work to be done there.
  • It should politely ask the receiver for a response, either directly or indirectly (by asking if you, the applier, could possibly help your chances by submitting any extra information or documents).

As you can probably tell, you need to achieve a pretty delicate balance with your email. On the one hand, considering that you’re basically sending a cold email, it requires you to be bold. But on the other hand, you also have to avoid coming off as pushy or brazen.

Your email’s tone of voice needs to feel natural to you, as well as reflecting the specifics of the company culture. If the company has a formal culture, stick to a classic business email format. If the atmosphere seems more relaxed, you can be slightly more casual (but don’t take it too far).

Five tips for writing a really good follow-up email

To help you craft the perfect follow-up email, here are five tips to follow.

1) Keep it short

A few paragraphs are more than enough for your follow-up email. If you write anything longer than that, no one will bother reading it. Also, you should be careful to separate all distinct ideas into paragraphs, to make your email easier to follow.

2) Be courteous, don’t assume

Don’t imply that you are asking for a reply from the recipient of your email. Remember that in a way, even if you’re doing it very politely, you are breaching protocol.

If the job application you submitted was through a career website, it means that this is the regular format of screening potential candidates, and they’re not obliged to respond to any personal communication coming in.

So by all means try to charm a response out of your recipient, but don’t assume you’re entitled to one.

3) Don’t send your email too soon after applying for the job

Don’t send out your job application follow-up email right after completing your application. Instead, wait for a few days, to give them time to notice it, or it least to make it plausible that you are wondering what the status of the application is.

Use this time to work out who to send your follow-up email to. Look up the email address of the HR person for the business location to which you applied.

4) Ask for something clearly defined and easy to provide

When making a request in your email, don’t say something like ‘I was hoping you can give me some feedback on my application’ or ‘What else do you think I should do to increase my chances of being selected?’

These are all open-ended questions, requiring vague and elaborate answers. To quote a popular meme, ain’t nobody got time for that.

Instead, ask for something clear and quick. Something that won’t waste too much of their time, should they fulfill your request. A question that requires a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer is usually best.

5) Don’t end it with your intention to wait for an answer

You should leave room for another possible follow-up on your part, just in case they are too busy or forget to respond to this first email. You can send out a new follow-up, even shorter, if you don’t get an answer in three or four working days.

If you were to conclude with a phrase like ‘I will await for your reply’, you risk either imposing a uninvited pressure, or implying that you won’t write again until they do. This way, if do write another follow-up, you may seem a bit desperate – if not bordering on stalkerish!

An example of a good job application follow-up email

To give you an idea of the type of email you might write, here’s an example:

Dear Mrs. Johnson,

I am writing to you as an applicant for the position of Office Manager. I have already applied for this position via your careers portal, but I wanted to send you a more personal message.

I wanted to let you know that I am highly motivated to work in a company as friendly as [name of the company] seems to be, and that I’ve always imagined myself as working in office management. In my previous positions, I was the person who organised the office, and any company events and outings. Your company seems the perfect place to start applying these skills professionally.

As well as letting you know how excited I am about the potential prospect of working with your company, I wanted to ask you a quick question. Would it help the application process if I submitted any further documents? I was considering sending you a cover letter and two recommendations from my former supervisors, but wanted to check with you if this would be appropriate first.

Thank you for your time, and I hope you can give me a brief answer on whether I can follow up with these documents, or on the status of my application.

Best regards,

[your name]

As you can tell, this example uses an indirect approach, asking the HR representative whether it would be okay to send some extra application documents. Restating enthusiasm for the job and giving more insight into motivation makes this much more compelling than a simple, soulless application.

Please note this is an example email for a fictional job. It’s just here to give you an idea of how these emails can be structured. The content and tone may not be appropriate for a role you’re applying for. You should always consider carefully whether it’s wise to send a follow-up email at all, and if you do, pitch the tone and content carefully for your specific situation.

Read more job interview advice

Need more tips on securing a new job? You’ll find more good advice on how to ace your job interview in these articles:

Scott Lawson is an HR manager devoted to his career. During his five-year work span Scott developed a taste for writing and helping others. This materialised into a website called JobApplicationWorld, that aims to help people tackle the hiring process.

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