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Last active Mar 13, 2021
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Job application follow-up emails

Some people recommend sending follow-up emails after submitting job applications to improve your chances of getting a response. This /r/cscareerquestions thread comes to mind: I raised the response rate to my applications from 14% to 50% just by sending follow-up emails.

Here's a list of techniques I use when writing follow-up emails. YMMV.

Finding the right person to email

Follow-up emails are only really effective if you are able to get in touch with someone in the hiring chain. In general descending order of preference, I look for:

  • someone I have a connection with in the company who can point me to someone on this list,

  • the hiring manager responsible for the position,

  • the manager overseeing the advertised position,

  • a company recruiter specializing in the position, or

  • someone who works adjacent to the advertised position.

The goal is to talk to someone who (1) can do something about your job applications and (2) might want to do something about your job application.

If you're applying to a very small company (less than 10-15 employees), there almost certainly is no recruiter or person otherwise exclusively in charge of hiring. In this case -- if you're confident -- it can be worthwhile to reach out to the COO (who in my experience is more likely to have a hand in hiring than the CTO/equivalent, but again, YMMV) or whoever on the list has LinkedIn Premium.

The larger a company is, the more likely it is to have dedicated hiring and recruiting staff. In these companies, recruiting responsibilities may be divided across business functions; e.g., there may be Technical Recruiters who hire for technical positions and Recruiters who don't. When I'm trying to track down a recruiter most closely associated with a job I'm interested in, I look at:

  1. how they describe their recruiting work (e.g., do they reference specific technologies, departments, or responsibilities in their job history?);

  2. their LinkedIn post activity (what jobs do they advertise? whose posts do they interact with?); and

  3. how long the recruiter has been at the company (if a recruiter was recently hired, and the job ad you're responding to is part of a wave in the same department that was just released, there's a good chance they're in charge of it).

Finding the right person's email address

There are many tools online to find email addresses for employees at a given company that can be readily found online; I don't care to list those right now.

The hard part is usually finding the name of the person to email. From there, it's generally easy to guess the company's email format.

  • Small company, newer / engineering-focused company, and/or startup? Vanity email addresses are common (i.e. firstname@company.com).

  • Larger company? Check what domain the company receives email at. You can generally find this by searching a company's privacy policy.

  • Some people allegedly list their email addresses publicly on their LinkedIn. I've never seen this in the wild.

  • If a company has a GitHub presence, it's likely that employees use have work email addresses attached to public commits.

  • Some companies list an individual as the administrative contact for their domain registration, which you can retrieve with whois. (An alarming amount of companies -- companies that you definitely know -- also register their domains with GoDaddy...)

  • Once I have the name of someone I want to email, I try entering their email address into the sign-in pages of major email hosts (i.e., Office 365 and Google Workspace).

    • Google Workspace If you enter the correct email address, you'll either continue to the password entry page (less likely) or the company's SSO portal (more likely). If you enter the incorrect email address, Google will keep you at the username entry page.

    • Office 365 If you enter an incorrect email address (but with the correct domain), Office 365 will redirect you to the company's SSO portal. It won't confirm whether or not an address exists like Google does. In my experience, the SSO page often hints at the valid username format.

    • It can also be valuable to check the MX records on the company's domains if you're havingt trouble placing where they host their email.

Sending the email

  • Keep it short.

  • Link to the job ad (and/or include an ATS job ID, if present).

  • Be nice.

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