Why haven't you heard back?

There are a myriad reasons why, after all your painstaking hours of creating the best CV and cover letter for your dream job, you never hear back again about a job application.

It can be very disheartening but, unfortunately, it happens. So how do you improve your chances of receiving an outcome to the job you’ve applied for, be it good or bad? Here are some tips.

Beat the robots

Firstly, did your application ever make it past the modern job gatekeeper? 

Many large businesses use automated job application software which hunt for keywords which could include specific skills, experience or training as asked for in the job advertisement, and rejects those that do not contain enough of them.

If your CV and application is not keyword-optimised, it’s unlikely to make it past that crucial first hurdle and after the initial, automated “thanks for your application” reply, no human eyes may ever see it. Complicated formatting may also confuse the robots enough to cause instant rejection.

The answer? Do some research and review your keywords. If it becomes clear you need more and better keywords, then begin by taking them from the job advertisement.

When to follow up

For the company, sending you a rejection email is far less urgent than actually hiring someone. This is, of course, the complete opposite priority to yours.

There is software available that allows automatic messages to be sent to unsuccessful applications at the touch of a button, but not all companies have these, particularly smaller companies. Given that New Zealand’s national business scene is dominated by small enterprises of 20 people or less, it’s highly likely there’s a person charged with manually typing you a note, which may never happen.

Also, even if you’re not on the short list, you may still remain on a long list until after the short list has been followed up.

What does this mean for you? That you need to give the company at least a couple of weeks – probably more - to process the applications and make a decision. If you still haven’t heard back in that time, then shift to “follow up” mode.

How can I politely follow up?

Ultimately, it’s up to you to judge when and how to follow up on your job application because circumstances can be vastly different. If you have followed an online recruiting process for a relatively junior position with a multinational corporation, then chances are that you’re one of many hundreds of applicants, and receiving feedback on your application is quite unlikely. 

But if you’ve applied to a small, local company in your regional town, then that’s different entirely and you are well within your rights to flick them a polite email requesting an answer to your job application.

  • Email is always the best starting point. Write a polite, succinct, short and professional email and hit send, then prepare for another wait. Sending multiple emails within a short time frame probably won’t help your case.

  • No answer? Try connecting with a company or individual via a professional social media networking platform – just one, not all of them.

  • The next point of call is the old fashioned telephone. Well, the modern version. A phone call is probably better suited to the aforementioned small, local company, but if you know exactly who you’re calling within a larger company then you can always try that. Do attempt to research the best time of day for this person – as a loose guide, 9am on Monday and 5pm on Friday are never great for most people.

  • Showing up in person is probably only a good idea at a very local, very friendly kind of company, not a corporate giant. If you choose this approach, then don’t forget that a smile and positive, understanding attitude will go a long way – including for any future job attempts.

Still nothing? Sleuth out an answer online

There are many unexpected reasons why an employer may not have replied to you. An industry crisis that holds up all normal business, illness, bankruptcy, an in-house change of circumstances – it can be extreme or mundane, but it can be true. 

While you may never know the reason for the silence, you can go online and see what you can find.

  • The company may have posted on professional and social networks that they have filled the position. 

  • The position may be relisted, indicating that they didn’t find the person they were seeking.

  • Another crucial nugget of information may be unearthed via professional and social networks.

It’s not you, it’s them

After hours and days and weeks of doubting yourself, if you haven’t heard back despite your polite, carefully worded and well-timed emails, then perhaps you can do nothing but chalk this one up to a learning experience. 

In fact, it could be that this company, which cannot even bother to email a quick sentence to waiting and genuine job applicants, would not end up being a particularly good employer to work for anyway.

Or, they may be holding onto your details for another role that may open up down the track.