It’s happened to us all before. You’re poking around online and happen upon a job posting that seems like a really great fit—but then you notice that the deadline to apply was a week ago. Should you apply? If you do, should you address your tardiness at all?
As with most questions, the answer is: It depends.
Do Apply if It’s Not That Late
If it’s really not that late—perhaps the deadline was a day or even a week ago—go ahead and apply. In your cover letter, explain that you only recently came across the job posting and was so excited about it that you put together your application as quickly as possible. No need for any excuses. The message you’re trying to send is that if you had known about the position earlier, you obviously would have applied earlier. Just leave it at that.
Don’t Apply if It’s Been a Month Since the Deadline
Of course, this doesn’t really work if you’re sending in your application as the hiring manager is wrapping up final round interviews. You might think, “Well, it won’t hurt to just send something in and see what happens,” but in this case it probably won’t help either. Instead, if you’re interested in future opportunities with the company, set up an informational interview with someone who works there to learn more. You’ll make a better impression and, in the unlikely case that final round interviews wrapped up and they still didn’t find anyone, you’ll be in the know to apply then.
Do Apply if You Have Insider Info
Following up that previous point, if you have a contact in the company, check in with him or her to see if it’s still possible to toss your hat in the ring. If so, this not only gives you a clear go-ahead, it also means you’ll have someone at the company who knows you’ve applied and could potentially check in on the application for you. Whether this contact is a good friend or not, make sure you mention why you think you’d be a good fit for the job when you ask if the position is still open. You never know if he or she will need to advocate on your behalf to let you apply late, so give this person some ammunition.
Don’t Apply if the Posting Can Only Be Found in One Place
Online job postings have no doubt made applying to jobs easier, but it’s also a bit messier to figure out whether a job posting is still open or not. Sometimes postings won’t even have a deadline, only a posted date. Before you start tailoring your resume, try to find the job posting on the company’s website. If you can only find the position on a job posting aggregate site and not the company website, then you’ve probably found a dud. You’re better off checking for current listings at the company website to see if there are similar postings.
Whether you end up applying or not, one thing you should definitely do is to keep your eyes peeled for the job to be reposted in the next two or three months. Sometimes an entire cycle of applications, interviews, and offers happens and the position still ends up empty for a variety of reasons (the first choice candidate didn’t accept the offer, the second choice candidate had already accepted another, there weren’t strong final round candidates to begin with—you get the picture) and the position ends up getting reposted. This time, you’ll have no reason not to be the first one to apply.
Lily Zhang serves as a Career Development Specialist at MIT where she works with a range of students from undergraduates to PhDs on how to reach their career aspirations. When she's not indulging in a new book or video game, she's thinking about, talking about, or writing about careers. Follow her musings on Twitter @lzhng.More from this Author