One aspect of the job search that hasn’t changed since the first time I looked for work is that feeling that I’ve sent my letter out into the void. I imagine myself being in a sort of suspended animation. (With apologies to David Bowie) Major Kim sitting in her tin can, completely divorced now from the process. Planet Earth is blue and there’s nothing that I can do.
That space between sending the letter out and the response is fraught with self-doubt and second-guessing in direct proportion to how much I want the job. Did I send it to the right address? Am I sure there were no typos in the letter? Did I remember to send my CV? Did I send enough clippings? Did I send the right clippings?
And then there’s the unknown at the other end: the letter could be lost in the mail, or be 101st in a pile where they’ve decided to only look at the first 100 letters. These days, depending on the employer, it could be discarded because it didn’t contain enough of the key words the computer is scanning for.
I’ve worked in a couple of HR departments and in both the secretaries set aside time each week to send out TBNT letters — Thanks, but no thanks. In one office I typed them individually, sometimes adding notes from the administrator asking for more information or referring the person to someone else; in the other I plugged their names and addresses into a computer program that sent out form letters to everyone. But at least those people got letters within a reasonable time span after making their applications. These days, you could wait forever for an acknowledgment, although I’ve seen a couple of employers now have set up an automated response so at least you know your email has landed.
There are a couple of ways to deal with this. You could sit back and just wait for responses, which is frankly the old-school advice — don’t pester, don’t harass, when they’re ready to talk to you, they’ll call. The other, and you see this in the literature more and more often is to follow up your application with a call, a few days later. The person at the other end of the phone may have no answers for you, but you’ll have introduced yourself and will have demonstrated your interest. Once you’ve made that call, however, you’ve shown your cards and you are once again left to wait until the hand plays out.
So make yourself comfy in your tin can, and keep looking. Planet Earth is blue and there’s nothing else you can do.