I applied for a job and haven't heard back

79% of Companies Offer This Resource to Get You an Interview

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

2-Column Cover Letter Analysis

When you applied for the position, did you send a 2-column cover letter that showed you meet 50%+ of the 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 the job.

Instead, invest your time in opportunities that match your abilities better.

BTW, don’t send that letter. Hardly anyone executes them well. Plus, eye-tracking studies have found that readers prefer single-column text.

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. Your resume (not your cover letter) should contain at least half the keywords the ATS wants.

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

Instead, use LinkedIn Career Explorer to get some fresh ideas.

If it makes you feel any better, 151 of 152 people who try to get a job through an ATS fail.

Thus, it’s good to ask yourself why you correspond with computers instead of people.

Find the Right Human in the Company

Now, here’s a better strategy:

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 with these ideas and scripts.

Once you find that person, contact them. 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

The company probably has an employee referral program.

According to Jobvite’s 2021 Recruiter Nation Survey, 79% of organizations do. Plus, 88% of those incentivize referrals.

Thus, the person you contact likely stands to gain something by referring you. It’s a win/win situation.

How much of a win? A median of $2,000! That’s from  Drafted (now Instawork), a company that automates referrals.

Plus, referred candidates often move to the front of the line for interviews.


If at first you don’t succeed, try again with a fresh strategy.

Also, keep looking for new opportunities.

Good luck!

Image: Wayhome Studio
Updated October 2022

© 2010 – 2023, 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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