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, when you applied for the position, 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, consider writing one now.

However, 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. Instead, invest your job search time in pursuing opportunities that better match your knowledge, skills, and abilities.

BTW, don’t send this letter. Two-column cover letters are a nifty idea, but hardly anyone executes them well.

They are, however, excellent tools for job seekers to use in analyzing whether or not their background matches a particular job description well enough to interest a potential employer.

Were You Compliant?

Next, if you meet at least half the selection criteria, be sure you applied as specified in the directions.

Did You Satisfy the Applicant Tracking System?

Then, 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.

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

Are you done with that one to two-hour process? OK, that was quite a bit of work to correspond with a freaking computer. If it makes you feel any better, 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

Now, rather than churning out letters to computers, 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 and jump through the hiring process hoops to make HR happy.

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 that yourself, it’s OK to ask others for help. You can plan on making your job hunt a team sport. Keep asking others until you have it figured out.

Once you find a person who works in your department of interest, make contact with them. 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 career 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 high confidence.

Wait Some More

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

You can also consider carefully repeating all of the above with a second person.

BTW, while you’re waiting to hear back, keep looking for new opportunities. Good luck!

Image: Tierney
Updated July 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. I just started following you but I’m glad I found you. Really great stuff.

    Thank you Jeff! Donna

  5. 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

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *