Q.  I’ve applied for several jobs listed in company and agency websites, LinkedIn and other online sites.  I get automated responses from some and hear nothing from others.  When and how should I follow up and what should I say?   -KL

A.  Many online job listings are generic and don’t refer to specific jobs.  In many cases, those sites don’t have real jobs to fill.  They likely are building pipelines of potential candidates, selling job-search services or building marketing lists.  Don’t attempt to follow up with sites that don’t identify themselves or specify a specific job. 

If you’ve applied with an actual agency or company and have not heard back or received an auto-response, you should follow up by email a week after submitting your application.  If you received an auto-response, you need wait since a direct follow up might be irritating.  Don’t call unless you know someone in the organization.  If you know someone, change your strategy entirely.  Call the contact before submitting your application.  Many firms offer finder’s fees to employees who identify candidates who are eventually hired.  The insiders don’t get the bonus if you’ve already applied online. 

Email follow-up notes should be short and sweet, and should include another copy of your resume.  Don’t make the recipient search for the original application and resume.   Be sure to insert the job title in the subject line of your email.  Your note should simply indicate you submitted an online application a week ago and wanted to confirm receipt.  This is especially important if you didn’t hear back after your original submission.  Include a short one-paragraph summary of your experience, and end with a line saying you’re looking forward to hearing from them.  Until you’ve established actual in-person contact, it doesn’t help for you to request an interview or threaten to call them. 

If possible, direct your email follow-up to a real person, not a generic email address.  In cases where you don’t have a contact name, you should call the firm directly, ask the receptionist for the name of the HR director or hiring manager.   That individual will direct your follow up email to the correct individual.