I applied for a job and haven't heard back

3 Tips for the Best Job Application Success

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

2-Column Cover Letter

First, when you applied for the position, did you send a 2-column cover letter that showed you meet at least 50% of the job’s selection criteria? If you didn’t, write one now.

Unless you don’t meet at least 50% of the job’s selection criteria, if that’s the case, don’t put any more effort into going after the job.

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

BTW, don’t send that letter. 2-column cover letters are a nifty idea, but hardly anyone executes them well, and eye-tracking studies have found that readers prefer single-column text.

However, they are excellent tools for job seekers to analyze whether 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 has been told to find.

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 2-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 correspond with computers instead of people.

Find the Right Person

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

If you match the job’s qualifications, figure out how 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. Make your job hunt a team sport.

Once you find a person who works in your department of interest, contact 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.

Employee Referral Programs

Hopefully, the company has an employee referral program. According to Jobvite’s 2021 Recruiter Nation Survey, 79% of organizations do, and 88% of those incentivize referrals.

Thus, if they do, that person might pounce on the opportunity to refer you because they stand to gain something too. You’re likely offering a win/win proposition, so you can do it with a strong spirit and high confidence.

How much of a win? Survey research published by Drafted, a company that offers automated referral solutions to talent acquisition teams, found its clients paid median referral bonuses of $2,000 in 2020 (H/T Hung Lee).

Wait Some More

If you have applied through a personal contact and 10 working days have elapsed, look at these tips for more ideas on what to do next.

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: Wayhome Studio
Updated December 2021

© 2010 – 2021, 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. Donna, I need help identifying keywords in the job description. Do you have any advice on that?

  5. I just started following you but I’m glad I found you. Really great stuff.

    Thank you Jeff! Donna

  6. 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. Donna

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