The Ultimate Follow Up Email for After You’ve Sent an Application or Proposal
By Rob Williams
Your follow up email after a job/contract application is one of the biggest determinants of whether you land the gig.
Sorry to be the bearer of bad news but… that job post or RFP you applied to?
Yeah, that puppy got A LOT of applications.
So many, in fact, that the person in charge of hiring for it is now in a dark corner contemplating their life choices.
When they refresh their inbox and see it cram full of job applications and proposals they be like:
The next logical step is for them to create an email folder and dump everything in there… AND NEVER OPEN THIS FOLDER (OR THINK ABOUT YOU) AGAIN.
…. Thereby rendering your awesome application dead on arrival.
What does this mean?
It means it’s now your job to claw yourself out of this folder.
“By god, that’s following up’s entrance music!”
A follow up email after application is the perfect man for the job.
In fact, this is exactly where an effective follow up email strategy comes in.
Make no mistake – sending a follow up email after an application is required (if you’re serious)
Any buying/hiring decision takes a while – and people in the sales industry know it.
They invest millions of dollars in figuring out exactly how long it takes.
Take, for example, this chart by the consulting firm, Accenture:
A small fraction of their sale cycle happens in the first month.
… And that goes for most jobs & contracts, too.
Hiring an employee (or freelancer) is expensive and therefore has a long sales cycle.
This almost guarantees that the job or contract you just applied for will take months to hire – and the people who follow up numerous times over that time will have the best chance to land the gig.
The good news for you is: very few actually will.
(Some reports estimate 60% of people never follow up on an application or proposal. I’d wager it’s closer to 90%.)
The trick is to follow up WITHOUT being annoying.
Following up too much or too aggressively will unintentionally kill your chances. I know, I’m constantly on the receiving end of these follow ups.
So that brings me to this “follow up email” template article that I found after doing a quick search on Google, written by The Muse.
They suggest you send the following:
Thanks again for chatting today, and I look forward to talking more in the future.
P.S. Enjoy your upcoming vacation to New Orleans—the food at Manning’s is incredible!
They say adding that last part: “proves you were listening intently and shows an ability to forge relationships with new people quickly.”
I mean remembering an off-handed remark about upcoming travel plan is indeed a tiny, fake, relationship hack… but in my opinion it misses the point entirely.
The goal of a follow up email isn’t to “forge a relationship”. Is that even possible with a follow up email to a basically stranger?
No, in my opinion the goal of a follow up email is to:
- Create an impression that you’re a professional who cares about the details.
- Say exactly the right thing for your situation and no more.
- Wait the perfect amount of time before following up (so you don’t annoy anyone or miss out on progress made in the hiring process).
- Continue to follow up for the correct amount of times that gives you the best shot of landing the gig.
These things you CAN do with your follow up email strategy.
And that’s what this guide is here for.
How to make sure you send a follow up email after a job application even though you don’t want to
Spoiler alert: nobody wants to follow up.
No matter how psyched or determined you are right now, a few Thursdays from now when you’re in your sweat pants checking Twitter – following up is going to seem like such. a. drag.
Humans are trash at keeping track of minute details like the status of multiple conversations, how long it’s been since you spoke to someone, and who’s in charge of a hiring decision.
That’s exactly why I don’t rely on my brain to do it for me.
Instead, I setup a follow up system in Pipedrive.
I outsource it so that it becomes automatic.
Here’s a quick walk-through of how I use Pipedrive and how it might make sense for you when you need to remember to send a follow up email after a job application:
Pipedrive is the best app I’ve come across for following up because it keeps things simple. (You can use this link to get sign up.)
Other apps I’ve used in the past have more features, but Pipedrive nails the basics.
I strongly recommend setting up a system like the one outlined in the video above to each and every Folyo member.
If you’re responding to jobs and projects like these, it worth setting up.
How to send the right follow up email after a job application for your specific situation
One of the biggest mistakes I see people make when it comes to writing emails for their business in general is using templates.
We’ve all gotten emails from spammy “businessmen” that were clearly copy-and-pasted and sent to hundreds of people.
Please don’t take this approach with your follow up emails.
It won’t help you, it’s just annoying.
So what SHOULD you say?
It depends almost entirely on the situation.
Here are a few very common situations you might find your self in, with sample copy to use as a basis for your own voice:
The “no response” follow up email template:
Let’s start with the most common scenario.
You send your application and get back… radio silence.
This will happen most often.
Because of this, you need a game plan for this exact scenario.
Here’s what I recommend:
Instituting something like this in your business or job search process is boring.
But if I had to one thing to double my chances of hearing back from job leads, it would be adding this follow up sequence to every single lead I contact.
It’s that much of a game changer.
After the fourth follow up email in this sequence, the next step is to remove or mark them as lost in your CRM.
At that point you can rest assured knowing you followed up for over a month without hearing back.
Note: In Pipedrive you do this by dragging them to the “lost” tab.
The “in-conversation” follow up email template:
So after sending a great cover letter or introduction email, and following the sequence above, you will start to get replies.
Now comes the fun part.
Real sales conversations.
When a reply comes in from an interested hiring manager the first thing I do is drag them to the “in-conversation” stage in Pipedrive.
Why? Because leads that respond, even once, are much more likely to convert – and should therefore be treated differently altogether.
Putting them in a new “in conversation” stage means they get followed up with more often.
While you should follow up with both groups, people in this stage should take priority.
So what’s the difference? How aggressively do you pursue these leads?
Based on helping hundreds of companies hire, my recommendation is following up every 3-5 days with an active prospect who has responded favorably.
The goal is no longer just getting a reply. You want them to:
- Schedule a call with you.
- Or give you a solid “no” or “not right now.”
It may seem like I’m telling you to man the battle station and get the emails going, but hold on…
My #1 tip at this point is to avoid rushing the conversation.
Instead focus on the present situation.
Don’t say things like “I can start tomorrow,” or “let’s schedule a call” right away.
Especially when you haven’t established there might be a fit.
Here’s a breakdown of what it might look like:
You’ll notice I’m not assuming anything in this email.
I’m asking a yes or no question that is easy to answer, and will give me more information about the company.
A few more ideas for you to add to this follow up sequence where the goal is scheduling a meeting:
- Establish what you will be working on – decide whether that is truly in your wheelhouse.
- Create a timeline for when you will be starting – if the timeline is too far in the future, schedule a follow up closer to the true hiring date.
- Identify the main problem you’ll be tackling – are your hunches correct / lined up with what the person hiring is saying?
- Get to know their business – what are they currently doing that you love? Are there any red flags?
- Find out how much they’re looking to pay – make sure the budget is at least in the ball park.
Rushing through these doesn’t help you, so take your time.
A hiring manager can tell when you’re just agreeing to tell them what they want to hear.
Remember: keep your follow-ups short.
And don’t be too fast to follow up either. One follow up per first week is plenty. Keep it simple.
The “stay in touch” follow up email template for leads that you want to follow up with later:
Sometimes you’ll suss out that the hiring decision won’t be coming for many weeks or even months.
If this is the case, you might want to move them to a “staying in touch” stage and send a reply like this:
“OK I’ll follow up with you then. I love X about your company so you’ll be high on my priority list.”
It’s always great to take the ownership of a follow upon yourself because it means the client doesn’t have to do anything.
Again, putting this into Pipedrive and creating a task for it means you don’t have to do all that much either.
The “post-meeting” follow up email template:
The last email template I want to share with you today is one you can send after you successfully schedule and meet with a hiring manager.
At this point you’ve successfully qualified them and are ready to send a proposal.
Freelancers tend to forget to follow up at this point and confirm that you will be sending a proposal.
It can take a while to put together so it’s a great idea to touch base here.
Here’s an example:
Thanks again for meeting with me.
I loved learning more about the job / project and have a few ideas for you coming in the next few days. Will send those over next along with my proposal.
Does that sound good?
This email will confirm you guys are on the same page.
You can even throw in a few details like:
- Meeting notes recapping and confirming that you understood the information that was shared
- A rough ballpark price that you’re thinking (aim high)
- A service package recommendation like a monthly retainer to see if they’re open to it.
Regardless, keeping the prospect in the loop after every meeting is part of being a professional.
Remember: the most likely response to any follow up email after a job application is no response.
Sometimes, people are just really freaking busy man.
The key to turning contract proposals and job applications into real relationships is to actually follow up.
Not only is following up one of the most important pieces of a sales process, it’s one of the most forgotten as well.
It’s critically important because it’s the best way to increase your chances of hearing back from your lead generation efforts.
Everyone forgets to do it, so you stand out.
Plus, most large design projects have delays, set backs, or just slow sales cycles so following up is the only way to solve this.
Hopefully you’re crystal clear on how to setup an awesome follow up strategy now.
About Rob Williams...
I run Folyo which helps freelance designers find the work they were meant to do. I also host Freelance a podcast about how to be more effective at independent work featuring remote companies like Disney, Basecamp, YNAB, ConvertKit and more.
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