There are many important instances of communication during the job application process.
You’ll go back and forth with recruiters; sending over your resumes, employment letters, and copies of your degrees. In return, they’ll send over forms to fill and salary expectations to set.
You may even get a chance to interview for the position of your interest. The interview will be a blur but your walk out of the building will feel good. You did your best, and answered all the questions well. The weight has been lifted.
Just as your hopes ascend for a position you’re certain you have a chance at landing, the back and forth communication with your prospective employer may take a pause.
“A few day’s wait is standard,” you’ll tell yourself on the third day without an email or a call.
You’ll continue conveniently speculating after a week.
“Okay, maybe they’re busy with filling other positions at the company.”
Sooner or later, you’ll feel a strong desire to ask for an update on your application. Especially for a job you desperately want to land, the silence from a potential employer after a series of back and forths will gnaw at your conscience.
This comprehensive, step-by-step, article is written to help you formulate effective queries for updates about your job application status.
Introduction: Setting a Warm Tone by Citing Your Past Conversation
Optimal length: 2 sentences
The introduction of your cold requests for updates is important to get right. If you were to send the same email to a hundred people, the introduction would statistically be read more than any other part of your email.
Your email’s introduction is thereby the most visible facet of your communication. In hopes of ensuring it stands out whilst also enticing your reader to want to read on, it’s in your best interest to cite a warm aspect of your prior interactions with those you’re writing to.
If you’re asking for an application update after having an interview with your potential employer, dig into your memory of what happened at that interview.
Rather than focusing on what you told them, think back to what they told you during your time with them. If you’re writing to an HR coordinator who you’ve had a few back and forth communications with, do your best to continue on the same trail of dialogue that you left off.
Your goals in your introduction are the following:
Thank them for their previous communications with you (if you haven’t done so recently).
Use information which was exposed during your prior interactions to establish a personal, unique connection.
Elicitation of warm feeling to motivate a response (a hint of humor works well).
Let’s pretend that you had an interview with a potential employer and are writing an update request a week after having that interview.
“Good morning Julia,
Thanks again for your time in meeting to talk about my candidacy for (role) at (organization name) last week.
I hope that your team feels they’ve come closer to filling this long vacant role.”
“Good morning Julia,
I appreciate you meeting with me for an interview last week!
I’m betting on you having beat out all the others with your picks for the World Cup bracket.“
The short introduction to your email above does well to make you stand out by citing a fact “Julia” disclosed when you were in her office being interviewed. In your banter back and forth prior to, and after, the structured portion of the interview, she may have revealed the historical difficulties involved in filling the role you interviewed for.
Since she likely wouldn’t have revealed that piece of information to all the applicants she interviewed, your citation of her telling you that fact would give you a head start in your communications with her.
About eliciting a warm feeling:
Don’t shy away from using humor in your elicitation of warm feelings in relation to the disclosed information you cite. In one example above, your reference to Julia’s World Cup bracket picks can introduce a pleasant tone to your exchanges with her.
If you feel that humor is not the way to go in the situation you’re in, then focus on:
Hoping good things (“I hope you’ve found success in…”)
Respecting aspects about the individual others forget to (“I appreciated how comfortable you made me feel at our interview and wanted to thank you.”)
The What: Writing a Clear Objective for Your Email
Optimal length: 1 sentence
After your introduction, it’s time to quickly get to the point. The people you’re interacting with likely aren’t too keen on spending too much time reading an email from an applicant they interacted with once or twice.
As much as the introduction of your email may have included warmth and a sense of joy, this next sentence is a cold, straightforward, clear reason for why you’re emailing them.
This section answers one question in a very direct manner. That question is:
“Why are you sending this email (or making this call)?”
Show your potential employer that although you can be sociable and warm in the emails you send, you can also get down to business.
This portion of your email will be your easiest to produce. Be completely honest as to why you’re emailing the individual in your, “to:,” field.
“I am sending this email to hopefully get an update on my application status.”
The most important part of your objective is the beginning portion of it. Since most people you send emails to have a habit of glancing quickly for important sections, ensure that you begin this section with a clear attention grabber.
The following, are good ways to begin your clear statement / objective:
“This is an email about…”
“I am writing to you for…”
“I am sending this email to…”
“The reason I’m calling is…”
The Why: Acknowledge the Length of Time Without a Reply
Optimal length: 1 sentence
Your clear statement in the previous sentence will need an objective reason behind it. You can’t just say, “I am writing to you to get an update on my application,” as soon as you get home from the interview. A period of time will likely have gone by and you’d likely operate with good reason behind your inquiry for an update.
It is therefore wise to get your recipient on the same page in terms of a long time having gone by without an update on your application status. In this section, you should communicate why you felt the need to send an email, message, or place a call.
This sentence will allow your recipient to agree with your reasoning for sending them an inquiry. The agreement you incite on their end will improve your chances of a thorough and speedy response from them. By doing a good job in explaining your position of waiting for an update for a little bit longer than you’d like, you’ll entice a certain level of empathy in those you’re interacting with.
Sentence about the lengthiness of a silent period about your application should focus on:
Expressing how much time has gone by since you heard from them last.
Justifying your request based on that time going by.
- “As it’s been over a week since we met for an interview, I’m hoping that you can provide some information as to any next steps.”
- “I know you’ve likely been very busy these past couple of weeks but I’d very much appreciate if you can catch me up to speed regarding my application status.”
The justification of your request for an update should not cast blame. You shouldn’t imply that those you’re communicating with have been slow or disrespectful with their lack of communications sent your way.
You also should not assume that they owe you an update. Ensure that you convey a sense that any updates you receive would be favors, not expected returns. The matter of fact is that the people you’re interacting with do not owe you an update. Their act of replying to your inquiry would thereby be a favor they do amidst an otherwise standard process.
The Fail-safe: Request for a Timeline From the Employer’s Perspective
Optimal length: 1 sentence
You should have your inquiry prepared for the possibility of there being no update on your application status. The management at the prospective company you’re being considered to work for may be taking their sweet time, or may just be busy with a variety of other business processes.
What you want to avoid is either continued silence on the part of your prospective employer due to there being no update, or a simple response stating, “There is no update.”
You’re looking for valuable information!
This portion of your inquiry will thereby encourage your recipient to add some information onto their response back to you.
This part of your inquiry will almost always start with something along the lines of:
“If there’s no update at this time…”
A request for a possible timeline on the current application process is what this portion is meant for. However, there’s a twist that you should keep in mind.
Maintain the perspective of this inquiry to always be from the employer’s side. Rather than asking, “When do you think I can receive an update?” you should switch the subject of that question to your potential employer.
“When do you suspect (organization name) will be ready to make a decision?” would be a better question in that regard.
You’d send the message that you’re understanding of the complicated processes at play by ensuring that your failsafe question is written from their perspective. In exhibiting that you’re aware of the possible complexities in the hiring team’s decision, you’ll exhibit a sense of understanding professional hiring processes as well as provide a sample of how well you can operate in a team dynamic.
- “If you’re unable to update me at this time, when do you anticipate there to be word from decision-makers?”
- “If it is still early in the process, would your team have any insight as to when more information would be available?”
Notice the professional and understanding tone of the fail-safe to your inquiry. By acknowledging the potential for there to be no updates for them to send, you alleviate these individuals of the burden of delivering bad news. They’d be encouraged to provide some details if your anticipation of there not being an update turns out to be correct.
Closing: Restate Your Interest in the Position With Specifics From the Interview / Interactions
Optimal length: 2 sentences
Your inquiry would now include most of the essentials to be considered effective. However, you can use the remaining space for concluding remarks to your advantage by reiterating your interest and dedication to the position in question.
The goal of utilizing your concluding remarks to reiterate your interest and dedication in the position is to leverage recency bias. It is in your best interest to provide the most incentive as you can for a positive response to your inquiry.
Employers seek dedicated employees. Though you may feel that an exhibition of your dedication and interest may be a bit cheesy and unwarranted, you should consider yourself being the one receiving the email.
Our instincts are to reward those who are dedicated to our cause. Whether that reward comes in the form of an employment offer or a simple response to your inquiry is secondary to there being benefit to expressing dedication to joining the prospective team.
You’ll encourage those who receive your email to reciprocate your kindness, even if that means delivering the news that you may not have been successful in landing the position. You’ll do well leverage your interaction with this prospective employer to the most of your ability by being willing to communicate your dedication to them.
The goals in this closing section are the following:
Specify one thing you found impressive about the organization.
Specify how that made you feel about wanting to join the organization.
“With all that said, I want to add that I was thoroughly impressed with how warm the social environment at (organization name) was during my short time there. Though my interest was already high prior to coming in for my interview, it only elevated after I left.
Ensure your concluding remark is memorable, warm, and induces a reciprocal desire to kindly communicate. You’ll never regret voicing your kind thoughts, whenever those thoughts are true. Try your best to fixate on one thing that impressed you in your dealings with the organization, rather than listing a few without really delving deep.
By soloing out one thing, you’ll be perceived as having been attentive and detailed. You’d also be less likely to be perceived as being flattering. If you were to list many things that you loved about the employer, it would be obvious that you couldn’t have possibly analyzed that much of a prospective employer’s work environment in the short time you interacted with them.