How To Follow-Up When Applying Online


Dear J.T. & Dale: I’ve been looking for work for four months. When I apply online, the dilemma I run into is that they say, “No phone calls, please.” I don’t know how to follow-up. I’ve tried e-mails, but I never receive a response. - Rachel

J.T.: The “no calls” rule isn’t one I’d suggest breaking. I know many HR folks who blacklist people who don’t follow instructions.

DALE: Let’s back up and deal with the real problem: If you’re sitting back and applying to places that get so many applications that they have silly rules about phone calls, then your search is the equivalent of putting notes in bottles and throwing them in the ocean.

J.T.: True, but there is a workaround… “no calls” refers to calling in to the HR department. There is nothing stopping you from using social media to connect with people who already work at the company. Simply say: “I saw that you work at XYZ and that we have similar backgrounds. I’d love to connect and learn more about your work.”

If they accept, you can start a dialogue that could advance your candidacy. Even if the job is filled, you’ve started a professional friendship that might get you to the inside track for future jobs.

DALE: Doing so, you will be solving the real problem, which is how to get out of the long lines at HR’s door and start making connections inside your target employers.

© 2012 by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

Feel free to send questions to J.T. and Dale at or write to them in care of King Features Syndicate, 300 W. 57th Street, 15th Floor, New York, NY 10019.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

J.T. & Dale

“JT & Dale Talk Jobs” is the largest nationally syndicated career advice column in the country. J.T. O’Donnell and Dale Dauten are both professional development experts.


  1. The Raging Scotsman

    It seems the older I get the more I come around the lessons of childhood; “To get along you’ve got to be willing to go along,” and “Everyone is a potential friend. Reach out and make as many as you can, for you never know when you might need a friend,” and other maxims which have led me to develop my personality as a friendly one, always seeking new opportunities to reach out to others in friendship. When you reach out to befriend people. showing a genuine interest in who and what they are as a person, and follow up with a sincere desire to get to know them, it is difficult to imagine how you can fail to acquire a vast network by the time you are in your late 30’s. Life requires some foresight, some time invested in actual focused cogitation over those issues which affect us most, namely, that we are indeed our brothers’ keeper, and to forget that is to perhaps suffer being forgotten when we most need to be remembered. We need not view our past wistfully with 20/20 hindsight if we simply prepare now, today, to make a new friend every single day. It’s up to us to empower ourselves; to question why we are not answered when we show interest in a position, to wonder why we are not called when we applied for the job, we need only look inside ourselves and ask, “Have I done everything I can to ensure that the greatest possible number of people know me as a friend? When you can honestly answer ‘Yes’ to that question, your future will be in much better hands than merely your own. It will be in the hands of perhaps dozens of others who call your ‘friend,’ and that is a power which you cannot possibly hope to match. Give it some serious thought, then, go out and make a new friend today. Remember, though, the cardinal rule of friendship: ” To have a friend, BE a friend.”

  2. However, the problem remains that many of us at big companies don’t have anymore access to HR and open positions than those on the “outside”. I’ve tried several times to help people I know, but I don’t have any information about who to contact either. Even if I can find out, I frequently get as “ignored” as anyone else. The funny thing about that is that these ignorers are the same people that complain they can’t find qualified candidates. Sigh…

  3. Another lesson is: Try not to leave an interview without asking the question: “How do I follow-up on this conversation? May I call you or email you?” Sometimes you can’t work that in, or the interviewer is evasive, but I always try to get some contact information (maybe with someone in my area of expertise instead of HR) before I leave.

  4. In addition to reaching out through social media, I highly recommend mailing a hand written note to the head of HR (you should be able to find the name and mailing address on the company’s website.) As a former personnel director that collected resumes on line and also requested no phone calls, I can tell you that this often made the difference when I was debating calling an applicant in for an interview!

  5. Applying to government or large government contractors is like this. They do get hundreds of applications for each job opening, and they have a very formalized application process that includes more than just a resume and cover letter. It seems like with these kinds of firms (gov and contractors), we really do have to throw a bottle in to the ocean first, and then hope to get lucky making connections into the company/agency later.

  6. The key assumption in this and the majority of similar articles I’ve read is that someone at the company ‘in your field/area of expertise’ is going to want to connect with you. Not only that, that they will be willing to share information with you, a total stranger, about their work. This approach might work during better economic times but my experience (and I believe the experience of a lot of people) is that a large percentage of people who are employed are concerned about staying employed. I don’t believe people are as benevolent during poor economic times as they might be during good times. Think about it. How eager would you personnaly be to give a total stranger information about your work? Are you really going to give your manager a resume of someone who has as much experience, or maybe even more experience, than you do? No, you’re not. That’s reality.

    I believe we need to be realistic in our job search approach and address the issues as they are instead of trying to fix all of them, which we can’t do. I’m not saying don’t network but I suggest you start networking within your own network and find someone who knows someone, who knows someone in the company in the area you have applied for. This person might be able to tell you some of the problems the department or hiring manager is trying to solve. If you want to get their attention, tell them how you can help them solve a problem. Otherwise, you’re just like every other applicant.

    My question is – why didn’t you do that research ‘before’ you applied online? Yes, it takes longer. Yes, its more complicated. But, having someone walk your resume into the hiring manager is a lot more effective than simply applying online. Good luck!

  7. Pushing the submit button often brings to mind just which black hole did my resume just enter so the any response is a surprise. I have never gotten a job from a job board or any type of related company website-nor a response. Successful job hunts where through friends and business contacts and yes, a newspaper ad including the V.P. and Exec. V.P./COO positions. However I have hired from resumes received on-line. So there is some hope that others are doing the same. The hiring cycle is long and do not expect calls or acknowledgements to be immediate. “Sorry you were not selected” calls/e-mails are not likely-too many candidates, not enough HR staff.

  8. Situations like this further emphasize the importance of networking and relationships in your job hunt and professional life in general. Do whatever you can to have a relationship with someone at the company before you apply.

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