After a job interview, the long wait begins. You think everything went well. The interviewer complimented your elegant resume, laughed at your small joke about the GDP, and promised to get back to you ASAP. A week passes, though, and you’re not sure what to think. When and how should you follow up about a job opportunity?
An interview is a business transaction. The interviewer asks questions, evaluates your work history, and gets to know you on a personal level. In exchange, you learn about the opportunity, ask about the company’s goals and resources, and decide whether you think it might fit with your expertise.
Business transactions rely on communication. Hiring managers lead stressful lives, juggling multiple tasks while struggling to meet deadlines. Sometimes they drop the ball when it comes to communication, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t pick up the slack.
Writing for Forbes, Liz Ryan points out that following up after a job interview isn’t just an option—it’s essential. You’re reminding the interviewer(s) about your conversation, thanking them for their time, and expressing your continued interest in the position.
Ryan recommends preparing for the follow-up as soon as you get home from the interview. Make notes about your discussion during the interview, the people with whom you talked, and any memorable events or topics of conversation. That way, you won’t forget key details when it comes time to follow up. We’ve listed the most important situations in which a job seeker should follow up.
You don’t have to wait several weeks to follow up after an interview. In fact, former career counselor Kathryn Lee Bazan advises against it. Instead, send a thank-you note right after the interview so the hiring manager keeps your name in his or her mind.
Don’t write a 10-page screed detailing your work history or a play-by-play of your interview discussion. Keep the thank-you note to a few well-written sentences. You can follow this formula to keep yourself on track:
Dear [Name of Interviewer],
[One sentence thanking the interviewer for meeting with you.]
[One sentence listing two or three of your qualifications that align with the job position and responsibilities.]
[One sentence explaining why you’re a great fit for the company culture, goals, or industry.]
Handwritten notes will garner better responses than cold, informal emails. Just make sure you write legibly. Drop the note in the mail and hope for the best.
Another way to follow up with interviewers lies in social media. Send the interviewer a request to connect on LinkedIn—but make sure your profile looks professional and thorough before you hit the connect button. Adding a photograph to your profile will help remind the interviewer who you are and why he or she liked you.
This simple follow-up option serves three purposes: Keeping your name in the interviewer’s mind, increasing your LinkedIn network, and ensuring your name might pop up for future opportunities if this job doesn’t work out.
If possible, ask the interviewer about connecting on LinkedIn before you leave the interview. Hopefully, you established common ground with the hiring manager, so the request shouldn’t come out of thin air. Maybe you both love hockey or knitting. Use that connection to foster a relationship.
When you send the LinkedIn request, mention something personal from the interview. Don’t just send a generic request with no personalized message. You have no idea how many people the hiring manager interviewed—or meets during a given week. Make sure he or she will remember you.
Maybe the interviewer told you to expect a decision in one week, but two have passed. Now’s the time to get in touch. Send a brief email or give the interviewer a call. Whenever possible, ask about the hiring manager’s communication preferences during the interview itself. Just ask, “If I have any questions, how do you prefer I get in touch with you?” or “Can I call or email you to check in? Which is best for you?”
Simply express your interest in the opportunity and invite the interviewer to get in touch with you. Don’t demand a response or make a pest of yourself. In most cases, one additional follow-up after the thank-you note will suffice.
Sometimes interviews don’t go as well as you would like. Maybe you made an etiquette faux pas, or perhaps you botched the answer to a critical question. Muse staff writer Katie Douthwaite Wolf advises using the follow-up to correct interview errors.
Wolf says, “One of the key elements of damage control is being able to recover in a concise manner.”
In other words, resist the urge to prattle on about your mistake and the reasons behind it. Instead, offer a quick explanation or summary that might endear you to the hiring manager.
For instance, if you forgot to mention a key responsibility in a former job, simply say something along the lines of: “When you asked me about my work at ABC Company, I didn’t tell you about my key role in training new employees. Our sales staff improved by 65 percent that quarter.”
Use the thank-you note for this information, but don’t overdo it. Keep it to two or three sentences. You don’t have to apologize or explain minor hiccups. Did you knock over a bottle of water or accidentally trip in the hallway? Don’t mention it. Otherwise, the interviewer might view you as insecure or socially awkward, which could ruin any chances of getting the job.
What if you don’t get the job? After you lick your wounds and rage against the world, you might want to follow up. You never know when another opportunity will present itself. If you paint yourself in a courteous, responsive light, the interviewer might remember and get back in touch.
After a hiring manager informs you that the company has decided to go “in a different direction,” send a brief thank-you note. Express your gratitude for the opportunity to meet with him or her and invite the company to keep your resume on file.
Never attempt to change the hiring manager’s mind or ask about the reasons behind their decision. You can, however, ask if the interviewer has any advice for future opportunities. He or she might offer guidance for nailing your next interview.
If you’re applying for a job in the C-suite or if you’ll work for multiple supervisors, one interview might not cut it. Following up after subsequent interviewers should follow the same guidelines outlined above. Just make sure you’re as brief and concise as possible.
If you’re interviewed by multiple people, send individual thank-you cards. That way, each person feels appreciated.
Following up after an email causes stress in many job hunters. If you stick to accepted etiquette standards, however, you’ll find the process painless and intuitive. Most sales are made on the 5th follow up - don’t hesitate to be persistent.