Following up after a job interview

For several weeks I’ve used this blog to provided suggestions about how to prepare for, and perform during, a job interview. This entry will talk about what to do after the interview is over. The most important thing to remember is to write a thank you note (see specific advice about this in Tip 47 Be sure to send a thank you note within one week of an interview), but once that’s been done, job seekers are often unsure of when (or if) to connect with an employer following an interview. An article on, “5 Expert Tips for Following Up After a Job Interview,” provides advice from recruiting professionals, which I will summarize here.

1. The consensus is that “Yes, You Should Follow Up.” A thank you note is a good way to reinforce the impression you made, but, as discussed last week, you can actually start “following up” before you leave the interview by asking about the hiring process and the schedule for making a decision. Obtaining that information will help you know when to follow up: If they’ll be making a decision tomorrow, you know to contact them in two days if you haven’t heard anything. If it’s going to take a month, you can wait a week before contacting them with some type of reminder (but also see suggestion #3 below). The article has an excellent suggestion, which is to send a short email message if you see the organization mentioned (in a positive way) in the news. Congratulations about an award, a new contract, an expansion, or any other positive news  demonstrates that you’re interested in the organization.

2. The article tells you to “Communicate in a Timely, Professional Manner,” but it doesn’t go into much detail about what they mean by this. The main piece of advice is that you use the same medium for your thank you note as the most recent communication you had from the employer/interviewer. I’m not sure I completely agree with this as I have read (and heard) elsewhere that a handwritten note will make a stronger impression. However, the article does warn that you should be sure you follow any instructions that you may have been given in the interview with regard to following up. Apparently there are organizations that ask you not to send any type of thank you note or contact them in any way until they contact you. Ignoring these instructions might result in having your name taken out of consideration.

3. Next the experts tell you to “Tastefully Follow Up When You Haven’t Heard Back.” So first you write a thank you note, then you wait until you have reached the date when they said they would make a decision. And then you wait a little longer. The experts quoted in the article say it’s okay to send one more follow up note, but not to specifically ask why they haven’t gotten back to you. The suggestion is to say something like, “I know you mentioned you were hoping to make a final hiring decision by the end of the month, and I wanted to follow up and see where you are in that process.”

4. It’s always good to “Learn When to Move On.” If you’ve contacted them twice and still haven’t heard anything, you’re not going to help yourself by contacting them again. If they don’t respond, you just can’t know what’s going on within the organization—an emergency with a crucial client, a budget cutback, a change in direction—that may be affecting the decision. Or it could just be that the interviewer doesn’t handle confrontation well or is averse to delivering bad news. So focus your efforts on other opportunities and try not to take it personally.

5. The last piece of advice is “Don’t Make Assumptions With References.” I was a bit surprised to learn that some people assume that if they’re asked for references the job is theirs. In my experience, interviewers will ask for references from all the candidates who are strong contenders. If you weren’t aware that asking for references is a common practice, be forewarned that it doesn’t mean you got the job!

While the article gave five pieces of advice, I’ll add one more: Don’t stop looking for a job just because you had a great interview. It isn’t easy to find the perfect (or, sometimes, an acceptable) job, so keep looking. As I say in Tip 49, Treat your job search like a job.If it turns out that you put in more effort than you needed to, you may wind up with more than one offer (and that’s always a good thing).