Hi Dr. Converse,
I have not gotten any response to resumes I have sent out. How long should I wait before following up by phone?
The answer to your question depends on a number of factors. Before I can give you a realistic response, I need to have a bit more information. For example, how many resumes have you sent out? Were there accompanying cover letters? How long have you been waiting for responses? Was there any indication in any of the job announcements as to closing dates for these positions?
There are so many variables that it is nearly impossible to give you a generic answer. However, I can tell you that if you have not heard anything at all within a week after the closing date for the position, you should call to simply be sure that your materials were received. At that time, whoever you talk to should be able to give you a realistic date as to when you can expect a meaningful response.
I'm not a big fan of follow-up in most cases simply because my experience tells me most job applications have deadlines and that deadline date is the one that tells you when you should hear something, either positive or negative. Unfortunately, a lot of people think it's okay to call every day to "follow-up" on their app and to demonstrate they "are still interested." That can have the opposite effect of your intent.
Having been on the receiving end of many of these nuisance calls, I can tell you that a follow-up is okay ... several of them is not an okay strategy. It's just annoying. Certainly you deserve to get an approximate response date, but that doesn't mean that date is absolute. Many things can hinder an individual's - or committee's - ability to meet the date they gave you. It isn't that they didn't mean well, it is simply that they have other things on their agenda that sometimes will delay their response. So, ask politely. If you don't hear back when they promised, it's all right to call again. But ... be polite. If you still don't hear then that is rudeness on their part and I suggest you move on. If an institution demonstrates a failure to meet deadlines and continues to put you off without explanation, do you really want to work there?
I will say in closing that your best opportunity to follow-up is immediately after the interview. This is how you do it: before you leave your house for the interview, write a later dated the day of the interview. Address it to the interviewer or chair of the interview committee. Thank them for the opportunity to interview, tell them that you are very interested in the position (assuming you are), and VERY briefly state two or three reasons that you feel you are the ideal candidate based on what you know about the position. Put the letter in an envelope, put a stamp on it, and drop it in the nearest mail receptacle as soon as you leave the interview site. Chances are it will get there the next day. Your courtesy will be appreciated and your name is again in front of the person who counts the most which gives them another opportunity to keep you in mind.
I am specifying you do this before you leave for the interview and mail it immediately after because if you wait until you get back home, it is too easy to forget or put it off. It will also delay its reception by a couple of days or more. You want that letter in the hands of the right person as soon as possible. And trust me - you will set yourself apart from the other applicants (which is the object of all this) because most of them won't take the trouble to send the letter. And, no, an email is not the same thing. Don't be lazy; write the letter. The interviewer probably gets dozens if not hundreds of emails a day. Do you want to be in that mashup or would you like to be professionally different?
If you want to send me a follow-up regarding the questions I posed above, feel free to do so and I will then be in a better position to answer you with a bit more specificity. Good luck!