If you've submitted your resume and cover letter to a non profit job, you might think your work is over. After all, once you have expressed your interest, the ball is in the employer's court, right? Well, not quite. Theoretically, applying for a job should be all you have to do, but that's not the way the world works. Especially in such a competitive economic climate, it is very important to do a job follow up. Whether this is an e-mail or a call, it's imperative thtat you keep in touch to continue to express your interest and inquire on the process. So now that this fact has been established, the question now becomes when you should be following up on a job application.
Unfortunately, things get a little tricky here. You certainly don't want to do a job application follow up a day after you submitted your resume, but you don't want to wait too long either. Remember, it's not only your resume that is being considered: there are hundreds, if not thousands, of resumes and cover letters that a nonprofit will go through before they move on to interviews. To me, the best time frame is to wait no more than a week to follow up. After that week has elapsed, you have to decide whether to contact the company by phone or e-mail. While choosing to send your follow up by e-mail may be more comfortable, I'd strongly recommend making a phone call. To me, it's the best way to directly reach the person you want to speak to (in this case, the HR manager). This is because, in general, e-mails are easier to ignore than phone calls. Besides, you are not the only one going to be sending these follow up messages, so you don't want to be lost in the crowd. If they don't answer, leave a message with your name and phone number. If you don't hear back after a few days, call back. Obviously you don't want to be a pest, so whatever you do don't call back on the same day (or even the day after).
Some non profit jobs request that you don't call regarding the status of your job application. In this case, you have no choice but to respect this request. There is at least one thing you can do, however, to help move your resume up on the pile. I've talked about this briefly before but if you haven't done it already, create a LinkedIn account . Once it is set up, you should check to see if you have any connections at the not for profit you have applied to. If you do, contact them and see if they can put in a good word for you. Unfortunately that is the most you can really do in these cases, but it can be a real boost for your chances (see how important job connections are?).
At the end of the day, when doing a job application follow up you have to straddle that fine line between showing interest and being a pest. If an employer thinks you are going above and beyond the call of duty, it's going to make you look good in their eyes. But at the same time, if they think you are going too far with your follow ups, it's going to hurt your chances. So the most important thing you can take from this post is to make sure to space them apart and to be respectful. You shouldn't be demanding your resume be reviewed immediately, nor should you be overselling yourself. All you should be doing on your job follow up call is once again stating your interest in the position, and asking when they think a decision will be made. If you do that, you should be in good shape.