I think we can all agree that waiting to hear back about a job isn’t topping anyone’s list of favorite hobbies. Every time your phone rings or your email dings, you stop what you’re doing just in case it’s news on the job front. Will you get an interview? Will you get an offer? Maybe you even pick up one of those automated scam calls, just on the off chance that the hiring manager is suddenly calling you from a blocked number or remote location.
So, more power to you if you decide to take matters into your own hands and write a note. That said, as with everything else, you need to find a way to phrase what you’re really thinking (i.e., “Hire me!”) in the best way possible.
Read on for five lines you want to be sure to avoid, as well as better options.
1. “You Said You’d Get Back to Me on Monday, and It’s Tuesday.”
Yes, you get points for paying close attention. Except: You only get them with yourself. When you write a line like this, it feels accusatory. Suddenly the hiring manager is on the defensive, feeling like you’re a candidate who doesn’t understand that some times things take more time than anticipated.
In this instance, your best bet is to give it some more time (a.k.a., until Friday) and then say you’re “looking forward to learning about potential next steps.” Don’t worry—waiting a few extra days won’t make you look like you lack attention to detail or weren’t listening closely. Rather, it will make you look patient and understanding of a modern hiring process.
2. “Why Haven’t You Gotten Back to Me?”
You have to be extra bold on job search—get out there and network, sell your abilities, and follow up! And while a can-do attitude is a must, you don’t want to feel so emboldened that your emails sound, um, threatening. Another variant on this line—“Where are you?”—can read as either angry or confused, but it’s still best avoided.
A better option than either of these is a line that inquires if there’s anything tangible that you can do to make it easier for the other person to reach back. If you submitted an application and haven’t heard back in 10 days, you could try, “I’m very excited about the open position and I’d like to confirm receipt of my application materials. Please let me know if I may send anything else along.” Alternatively, if an interviewer said he or she would be in touch and you never received a response to your thank you note, you could follow up a week later to ask if you “could provide any additional information or assistance.”
This approach is nice because it shifts your tone from “Don’t make me hunt you down” to “Just a reminder that I’m happy to do what I can to continue the conversation.”
3. “I’d Really Appreciate Any Response Whatsoever.”
Let’s be real: You don’t actually want any response whatsoever. Ideally, you want to hear that you’re moving forward in the hiring process. If that’s not possible, you want a general status update (e.g., applications are under review or all final candidates have been contacted).
This line comes off a little desperate. It sounds like you’re waiting by your phone and like you’ll jump off the treadmill or out the shower if it rings—and the hiring manager doesn’t need to know that!
So, if you’re itching to know how things are going with your application, try: “Would it be possible to get an update on the status of the hiring process?” It’s concise and it doesn’t tip your hand.
4. “I Have Another Offer. Do You Have a Decision Yet?”
Sometimes you’re really excited about a certain company, but sadly, the hiring process is dragging on so long that you’d have to (essentially) commit before you get an offer (very risky!) or bow out. Thankfully, there’s another option whereby you let them in on your predicament—delicately.
First, don’t put the cart before the horse. If the company has rescheduled your interview three times, they may be trying to let you down easy—or too disorganized to get back to you within your parameters anyhow. On the other hand, if you’ve interviewed and think things went well, it’s worth letting them know that you’re interested, but that external factors may force your hand.
Try this: “I’m really excited about this position, and it’s my first choice. So, I wanted to let you know that I have another offer that I have to respond to by Friday. Do you know when you’ll be making a decision?”
If you don’t want to share news of your offer—say you’re applying to closely connected firms—you could simply say: “Could you share the projected timeline for the remainder of the hiring process?” This way, you’ll know if you’ll magically hear in a matter of days—or not.
5. “I’m Disappointed You Never Wrote Me Back.”
We’ve all been there. It’s upsetting when an interviewer you thought you hit it off with goes radio silent. And there might be a part of you that wants to write something like you would in a break up text about how you’re better than this anyhow, and you’ll get through it and find what’s right for you.
However, an angry response makes you look like you’re someone who doesn’t understand how to communicate professionally. It’s annoying, but it’s a fact that some companies, per protocol, don’t reach back to candidates—even finalists—once they’ve filled a post.
As far as what to write instead, you have a few options. If you’re dying to write something back, you can say you “enjoyed learning more about the company and would love to be kept in mind for any roles you might be a better fit for in the future” or that you “would like to stay in touch.”
That said, I prefer to say nothing. You can always reach out at a later date. In the meantime, you can focus your energies on the companies that are getting back to you.
It’s important to follow up on job opportunities. So take the time to focus on what you say and how you say it.
Sara McCord most often writes about making a better professional impression. She's been published on Mashable (where she was a regular career contributor), as well as Forbes, Newsweek, TIME, Inc., and Business Insider. A Staff Writer/Editor for The Muse, Sara has experience managing programs; recruiting, interviewing, and referring job applicants; building strategic partnerships; advising executive directors; and supporting a national network of volunteers. See more of her writing on her website or follow her on Twitter @sarajmccord.More from this Author