Interview Follow Up (The Right Way) Can Land You That Job

Good news! You just completed an interview for your soulmate job and it went great! How are you going to make sure you leave a positive lasting impression?

Every correspondence and interaction within the job interview process matters. How you answer your phone when the recruiter calls, those two minutes before you realize your Zoom interview started, how you act in the elevator, how you talk to the receptionist, how you wait in the waiting room, how you behave as you walk out, and of course, one aspect that candidates often overlook, how you follow up.

Interview follow up can make or break your interview. That’s why run-of-the-mill follow up won’t do. For instance, don’t you hate it when people leave you a voicemail and just say ‘call me back’?! So infuriating. Emailing someone after your interview “just to check in” produces the same sentiment.

Following up after an interview is an important gesture to show your respect for your interviewers and for the job. Thank you notes are a part of that, but any correspondence you have after an interview should accomplish the following:

  • Reiterate your interest in the role
  • Remind the hiring team why you are a slam dunk choice for the job 
  • Act as a way to drive the process forward (aka – get YOU hired faster!)

Before we get into specifics, it’s so important to remember that your ability to do your job and your ability to interview well are two different skills.

Just because you are good at your job doesn’t guarantee that you’ll be hired immediately, and vice versa. So let’s keep in mind learning to interview well is a skill, and like any skill, it should be practiced and cultivated.

Here are some tips for better follow up that can help you take your interviewing abilities to the next level.

Set Follow Up Expectations During Your Interview

In order to follow up properly, you have to lay the groundwork during the interview.

Interview Questions to ask to inform your follow up:

  • What is the interview process? You should know how many interviews to brace yourself for and how long that process might take (especially if you are juggling interviews with multiple companies). The process can change (so be flexible) but it’s good to know general expectations at the beginning.
  • What other aspects are included in the interview process? For example, in addition to your interviews, they may ask you to write a mock email to shareholders for an email marketing role, or to do a quick SEO audit for a search manager position, or compose writing samples for a copywriter position, etc.
  • What is the ideal start date for the right candidate? Don’t let them say “yesterday”. Have them give you a somewhat realistic timeline. That way, you won’t find yourself following up for 6 months when you know they needed someone to start by X date ahead of a product launch. According to Workable, the average time it takes to fill a marketing manager position is around 55 days.
  • What do you envision for next steps? A lot of times, the interviewers will say, “We’ll know more after the holidays, or we will contact you next week, our VP is on vacation until Friday, if you don’t hear from us, reach out on the 15th, etc.” ***This question also makes them start subconsciously imagining that they WANT to move you forward in the process.

Importance of Thank You Notes

If you’ve ever been in the position to hire someone, did you pass on their candidacy because they were *too* polite? I doubt it. According to a survey from Accountemps, roughly 80% of HR managers place value on the thank you note as they consider candidates.

The purpose of a thank you note is to show gratitude, right? Partly, yes. It’s nice that your interviewers spent time with you, but the real reason for writing a thank you note is to move yourself through the interview process.

Other Reasons Why Thank You Notes are Important

  • You could be one of two final candidates. If the “on paper qualifications” are the same, but one candidate sends a note and one doesn’t, that could be the thing that tips the scales.
  • If you botched a question or didn’t give your best answer. The thank you note allows you to get the last word. You could write in your note, “You asked me a really thought-provoking question about {insert topic here]. As I’ve thought about it some more, I wanted to add that…”

General Thank You Note Guidelines

This framework has worked well for me in the job search and for candidates that I have coached over the years:               

  • If it’s a phone interview, an email thank you note is fine. Six sentences maximum, and send it within 24 hours after your interview.
  • For an in-person interview, a short emailed thank you note is fine within 24 hours, as well as a more personalized handwritten note (they should say different things). Sometimes you might be interviewing at a large corporation where people do not get their mail very quickly. So you can bring blank thank you notes with you, and then right after it’s over, sit in the lobby and write the notes and then ask the receptionist to give them to your interviewers.
  • Sometimes you are interviewed by several people at once. Each person should receive an individual and different note.
  • If everyone works remotely, you may want to stick with email thank you notes. It is sort of weird before you get a job to mail a thank you note to someone’s personal address.
  • Send a thank you after every interview round, and make them different, because each interview is different. According to CareerSidekick, candidates average three interviews with one company for a job.
  • If you don’t get the interviewer’s contact information, make sure you write down their full name and then message them a thank you note on LinkedIn (aren’t you resourceful!), and add them as a connection.
  • Check your spelling and grammar. You would think this is a given. But typos are almost inevitable. One time, a candidate (applying to a communications role) had so many typos in her thank you note, our client decided to no longer consider her for the job. They said, “If this candidate writes a thank you note with this many errors, how is she going to communicate with media on behalf of our company?” Solid point.

You Sent a Thank-You Note…Now What? Show Your Interest but Don’t Be a Pain

While the thank you note is the first follow up touchpoint, don’t be afraid to contact your interviewers if you don’t hear anything about the job for a while (and don’t get discouraged). If they tell you they’ll know more next week, it’s safe to follow up after two weeks.

Giving them space helps your case.
Desperation doesn’t get you first place.

That’s probably a Dr. Seuss quote, right?

Follow up every two weeks up to three times. After that, keep your search moving, and they’ll call you when they call you. No matter how well your interviews went, your job search isn’t over until you start the first day of your new job, so it’s best to continue applying.

More Interview Follow Up Tips

  • In your follow up correspondence, reiterate what specifically excites you about the job and why you think you would be a strong candidate—but remember, don’t ramble!
  • Be strategic about your time of day and week for your follow ups. Don’t send the email on a Saturday or late at night. Tuesday or Wednesday mornings are good times because the hiring manager/recruiter could get back to you the same day and is less likely to be on a vacation.

Sample Follow Up Email

Dear XYZ,

I really have enjoyed meeting the team over the past couple of weeks and discussing the Marketing Manager position. I believe I would be a great fit, given my financial industry experience, my success with running marketing automation platforms, and scaling marketing programs over the last four years. Are there any other questions about my experience that I can answer for you or the team? I’d welcome the opportunity to move forward in the process and I’m also happy to share professional references if you’d like.

All the best,

[Your Name]
[Phone Number]
[Email—even though you emailed them and you know they have your information!—make it easy!]

It’s Not You, It’s Them

After your second follow up without a response, you can put a timeline on it and say, “Would you like me to follow up next week in case we aren’t able to connect?” That will show your persistence, and asking a question elicits a response.

It’s easy to get in your head, but most of the time, it’s not about you. On their end, a number of things can happen that have nothing to do with you. Sometimes people really do get busy, or they make an offer to a candidate who declines, they change the requirements of the job, the hiring manager gets promoted or leaves, funding they anticipated falls through…most of the reason for the silent treatment is unrelated to your interview performance.

Remember – you don’t need a ton of job offers…just the right one. Also, if you don’t like how the company communicates with you during the interview process, maybe it’s not the right place for you anyway. Ultimately, the job search is about understanding yourself, your needs, what will make you happy, and finding an employer who shares those same values.

To learn more about how to excel in the job search, register for the AMA Chicago’s, Career Connections, at noon May 13. This event is designed to help jobseeker move their careers forward.  Then agenda includes LinkedIn Lunchbreak Branding with Tom Powner and Unintentional Insertion of Bias in Resumes with Dr. Cheryl Minnick.

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