It’s a question people ask all the time regardless of where they are in the hiring process, but the answer really depends on the organization.

I’ve been responsible for hiring at multiple companies I’ve worked for and it’s never an easy job. It’s also something I’ve only taken part of in small companies and this is something all job applicants need to realize. A small company probably doesn’t have an HR department. More likely, there is some jack-of-all-trades employee that wears multiple hats trying to hire as well as do multiple other jobs. Not to mention, by the time a small company usually hires new people it’s because they desperately need the help.

So back to the question at hand. When you’re applying to a small company, it’s very possible that the reason the hiring manager hasn’t gotten back to you is because their time is limited. It could be that they haven’t sent out rejections yet, or it could be that they haven’t sent out interview invites. Sending them an email follow up might be a good idea, but if this person is already underwater on work, you may not get a response.

What about when you apply to a large corporation?

This is different. Larger corporations tend to have staff specifically allocated to communicate with job applicants. You should expect to hear back from them in some regard. However, if it’s been weeks and you haven’t heard anything, you can be certain they’ve declined to proceed with your application. This is exactly the kind of company where one or maybe even two follow up emails would be welcome.

Are Government Job Applications the Same?

Nope! As with everything related to government job applications, these are still different yet. Job applicants may not hear back from the hiring manager for a long time. Why? Everything is procedural in government and some processes can be held up or just take a considerable amount of time. Not to mention, if you need a background check for security clearance this is going to add to your wait. The good news is that typically government job postings give firm timeframes for their hiring.

Has My Application Been Lost or Overlooked?

It’s possible! At small companies, large companies, and governments alike sometimes paperwork gets lost. If you’ve heard back from the organization at all it’s safe to assume your application is under consideration. If it’s been some time since you’ve heard from them, you might want to send them an email to check in.

Some places may be impressed by candidates that “take the initiative” to contact them about the job posting, however there are just as many people that will be annoyed by this. Know your audience and be respectful even if you’re frustrated with the process. If you’re finding the communication between you and the company difficult, this may be an indicator of the company culture you’ll be working in and perhaps you’re just not a fit.