Stop Being The “Desperate Candidate”: How To Follow Up With Recruiters

By Tang Kai Long   •   7 min read

Interviews are hard to come by, especially in trying times like this.

After countless applications – you finally got shortlisted for an interview. You give it your best shot. But after that, you don’t hear back from them. It is hard to stay calm and keep yourself from going on a frantic spree. We all know that feeling too well.

We spoke to Sharon Lim, Campus Recruiter at SembCorp to get insider tips so you can better understand how and when you should be following-up with your recruiter. Sharon has been an experienced Campus Recruiter with past experiences at GSK, Oracle, HPE, Accenture, and more – with rich recruiting experience to share the insights of how the interview process works.

If you’d like to read the full transcript with Sharon Lim — which includes additional details and questions not included in this article — you can download it here:

Get the Full Interview Transcript with Sharon Lim, Campus Recruiter at Sembcorp

Get the Full Interview Transcript with Sharon Lim, Campus Recruiter at Sembcorp


After I’ve submitted my application, how long should I wait before considering to follow-up on my application?

From the point you sent in your resume, wait for about at least a week. Typically, recruiters have a lot on their plate, and a week is a good gauge for them to get to screen your resume.

Some companies use an Application Tracking System (ATS). Recruiters use the ATS to manage candidates – those that are rejected will be dragged into a rejection category. From here, you will receive a rejection email, and that helps to improve the company’s image (as opposed to not hearing back from the company at all). So if you didn’t get the job, you know you can move on to the next application.

But there are some companies that perpetually leave the job posting open. This means that even though you may have already been rejected by the recruiter many months back, you may still be left hanging. If you are left hanging for a month or two, chances are you didn’t land the job and you can definitely move on.

How should I follow up with the recruiter? What should I be saying that won’t make me sound overly desperate?

You can check LinkedIn for recruiters from the companies you’ve applied to. If you can get them to accept your connection request, check-in with them if they have received your application, then proceed to inquire about the status.

It is important to know that most recruiters aren’t the final decision-maker. They usually screen candidates based on what the hiring manager wants. The hiring manager is the person who is actually going to be your boss. He/she then makes the final decision to hire or reject.

Hence, there may also be delays depending on the hiring manager’s schedule and workload. This is the part where students get anxious and worried about not receiving a reply. The hiring process isn’t linear, and many roles and processes are involved. Patience is paramount.

How often should I follow up with the recruiter? What’s the frequency that is actually effective without being annoying?

The jobseeker shouldn’t be hounding the recruiter every minute. Let me share my personal encounter.

We had an internship posting that actually has my name and WhatsApp details on it. My colleague accidentally put my phone number onto the job internship portal, and shortly after the internship listing went out, I received 2 WhatsApp messages from students.

They started their verbal diarrhoea and sounded very desperate, telling me about how they got their internship canceled. Then they proceeded to send me their resume without even telling me the context. I think the student should have known that they shouldn’t just WhatsApp a recruiter like that.

I figured it’s actually from the internship that was advertised. So I told them that their actions weren’t right. I received your email if you have already emailed, just stick to the email. I will look at it, just give me a couple of days.

If I’m trying to follow-up via email, should I send my email to the generic careers email (such as Or should I try to hunt down the specific recruiter’s email to send my email to the individual directly?

In my previous organisation, we do have these what we call “resourcing email” (i.e. so that when we go on campus we can tell students to send their application to this email.

However, when it is not a recruitment period, we typically don’t check that email very often. Many students may have sent their applications to that email but were never seen.

Having said that, let me share an example of how I got my best intern from our resourcing email. I generally don’t check the resourcing email at all, as it is usually checked by my interns. One fine day, I got the inspiration to check that resourcing email.

As I was looking through, I actually found someone that wrote me an email. He said he met me on campus and wants to do an internship, but he only got this generic resourcing email.

I opened his email and thought: “Hey, interesting. I am just looking for an intern and there is his email in the inbox!”. So I replied to him and I asked him “Are you looking for an internship? Are you taking a gap year?” and we started chatting. The next thing I know, he got my direct email and we followed up from there. In a couple of months’ time, he became my intern.

Let’s say if a jobseeker has already applied to the general careers email, waited 3-4 days, and there was no hear back. I then proceed to hunt down the recruiter’s direct work email and I email him/her from there. Is that too much?

I’d probably see you as resourceful since you managed to find out that I am a recruiter. But I guess it depends on how that jobseeker writes the email, and that will help me decide if he’s desperate or someone that I’d want to talk to again.

So there’s a difference depending on how the person approaches it. Compare “Have you received my resume? How come you never reply to my email?” to “I believe you are very overwhelmed at work and may have missed my application, so I’m now writing into you to check on the status of my application.”

The former gives me a feeling as I owe them a living, while the latter portrays the candidate as someone who actually went the extra mile to find out my email address. That’s the difference between me thinking that this person is aggressive, versus someone who is polite and just wants to find out if his resume is lost somewhere in the deep blue sea.

Related article: Are you a job-hopper? Here’s how you should explain it

I have my interview scheduled for after circuit breaker end. How do I keep the relationship warm during this extended period of time until I actually meet the interviewer?

First of all, do not ping the recruiter every other day, because that just adds unnecessary stress to their existing workload. Other than recruitment, I have other projects on hand as well. Simply write in to say hi two weeks from the time you applied.

Aggressive follow-ups are never welcomed. Especially if you have already sent them an email, do not reach out to them on other platforms (for example SMS or WhatsApp). Stick to the email and trust that they will get back to you.


Get the Full Interview Transcript with Sharon Lim, Campus Recruiter at Sembcorp

Get the Full Interview Transcript with Sharon Lim, Campus Recruiter at Sembcorp


It’s a difficult period for everyone who’s either trying to get a job or keep their jobs. We’ve curated the best-of-the-best career resources out there on our Covid-19 Career Resources page. Includes companies still hiring, recession job hunting tips, work from home advice, mental wellness support, and more resources you don’t want to miss.

Tang Kai Long

TalentTribe Writer

If his life were a book, the title would be "The Woes Of A Jobseeker". Understanding the jobseeking-induced torment, Kai hopes to help individuals in the same plight through the articles he writes.


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