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Advice for Following Up After Your Interview

Your interview is now over and you can finally relax….or can you?

Not quite. You still have some items to take care of to ensure you had the best interview possible.


Do An Immediate Debriefing with Yourself

As soon as your interview is over, sit down somewhere quiet and debrief yourself while you can still remember everything. If you wait even a day, you’ll have forgotten much of what happened. Shoot for doing this within a couple of hours after your interview.

What you want to do is write down those things, both positive and negative, that will help you should you make it to the second round of interviews. This will also help you in future interviews you may have for other positions.

The first thing to write down, unless you did it during the interview, is the first and last names of all members on the interview panel, along with their titles. If you don’t do this soon after the interview, you won’t remember many of the names. If you wait a day or two, you will likely not remember most of the names.

One way to make sure you have the names right is to stop by HR on the way out and ask them. Very few candidates do this and HR is usually happy to give you the information.

Once you’ve written down the interview panel names, write down everything you can think of, both positive and negative, about how you felt you did in the interview. Did you feel prepared enough? Did your research allow you to relate your experience and accomplishments to the job requirements? What did you learn about the company?

Were there questions you feel you stumbled on? Be sure to write them down so you can develop better answers for future interviews.

And last, write down additional information about the job and the organization that you learned during the interview. This will help if you make it to the next round of interviews.

It’s critical to do all of this the same day after your interview, preferably within a couple of hours. You’ll lose a lot of valuable information and insights if you wait more than a day.

Send Thank You Notes

Again, this is something you should do the same day after your interview. It shows good business etiquette, good follow-up, and good attention to detail. Your thank you letter should at least go to the Hiring Manager (if they were on the interview) and ideally to everyone on the panel.

Is it acceptable to send the thank you note by email? This is a question I’m frequently asked. This answer is definitely yes!

In fact, the expectation is that you’ll email your thank you letter. It’s a perfectly acceptable way to communicate today and has the rather large advantage of being delivered immediately. 

If you send it the same day as your interview, there’s a good chance it will be received and read before the end of that day. This will ensure it gets read before any further hiring decisions are made.

U.S. mail is simply too slow for something like this and you won’t know exactly when it will be delivered. It may even get there after the hiring decision is made, making your effort for nothing.

There is an additional alternative that I’ll share with you. If you write and print your thank you note, you can put it in an envelope with the person’s name and then deliver it yourself to HR that same day. They will almost always get it to that person quickly.

I’ve had a few applicants do this and I was always impressed with their initiative.

If you decide on email, be sure to give it the same time and care as you would give a printed letter, NOT the way you send other emails, with abbreviations and incomplete sentences.

It’s important to use proper grammar, run it through a spell checker, use proper tone, etc. In other words, write it just like you would write any other business letter.

Here’s another tip. Send the email, so that it arrives immediately, and follow that up with another one sent via U.S. mail. This gives you two chances to get my attention and shows that you’re thorough. Very few candidates do this and I remember the ones who do.

For any paper copies you may send, my last piece of advice is to never handwrite it. There is some out-of-date advice out there that says a hand-written note shows a “personal touch”. Don’t believe it. This is outdated advice. 

Today’s Hiring Managers expect a hard copy to be well written and printed. A handwritten letter simply shows you didn’t take the time to use a computer to craft and print a well-written letter.

When Should You Follow-Up If You Haven’t Heard Back?

Most large companies can take up to two weeks to get back to you after your interview. This is because they are usually interviewing several, perhaps many, people for that position. It can frequently take longer than two weeks.

This is especially true if you were one of the first to interview. Normally, they will conduct all interviews before getting back to anyone. If they had quite a few interviews scheduled, it can easily take two weeks to finish them all.

This means you should not be concerned if only a week has passed. But still, a week can seem like forever when you’re the one waiting! So if you are really anxious to know the status, it’s perfectly acceptable to contact HR by phone (or whoever originally contacted you to schedule the interview if that person is not in HR).

It’s imperative that you NOT attempt to contact anyone other than HR about the status of your interview.

All you need to do is call them and politely ask as to when you can expect a decision to be made. If they say interviews are still being done, you should relax. No decisions will be made until all candidates are interviewed.

Or, they may give you a specific time frame in which they expect to make a decision, in which case all you can do is wait until that time has passed.

If you’re considering other positions, by all means, pursue them while you’re waiting. You don’t want to have wasted that time in the event you aren’t chosen.

What if You Hear Nothing?

A worst-case scenario is when you felt you aced the interview but it’s been a long time and you’ve heard nothing. It’s unfortunate but true that some companies simply never bother to get back to all applicants. 

So you’ve been left in limbo, wondering what to do. Should you keep waiting? Should you call them? If so, who should you call? It’s frustrating to not know what you should do.

Your initial response to hearing nothing should always be to call HR – and only HR. They will know the status of the hiring process and where you stand. I can tell you with certainty that the Hiring Manager, along with everyone else on the interview panel, does not want to speak to applicants outside of the interview.

The main reason is there can be several people being interviewed and it would be overwhelming to have all of them calling repeatedly for a status check. Or, worse yet, to try to take that opportunity to further sell themselves.

Plus, there’s another reason why, as a Hiring Manager, I don’t like when candidates call me directly. If they aren’t the ones I’ve decided to hire, it’s a pretty awkward call. And if I haven’t yet made a decision, they should already know that by calling HR before calling me.

You are expected to channel all communications through HR and that’s what you should do. When you call HR, it shows you are respectful of people’s time and know the proper etiquette for applicants.

There is one exception. The company may be too small to have a dedicated HR department. In this case, calling the Hiring Manager or whoever interviewed you is your only option. Just be aware that they will still likely resent the call.

Instead of waiting indefinitely for a callback, call HR if it’s been two weeks. They will not mind and field these calls all the time. They are the ones who handle the administrative work for the Hiring Manager and will know the status of that job’s hiring decision.

Having read all this, if you still feel you simply must try to follow up with someone outside of HR, do it by email. This allows the recipient to respond when they have time.

Another reason to use email is that it makes it easier for the recipient to respond if the answer is that you didn’t get the job. We know this is not the response you wanted and no one wants to give you this response on a phone call.

When inquiring via email, here’s a unique way to approach it. Instead of straight out asking where you stand, tell them that as a result of the interview you wanted to give them an interesting article. Make sure it’s relevant to the job and/or their company and attach it to the email.

Close by stating you’re looking forward to hearing from them. This is a subtle and tactful way to inquire about your status and the Hiring Manager will appreciate it.

I know some feel that regardless of everything I’ve recommended, they simply have to speak to the Hiring Manager. If I can’t convince you otherwise, I can at least recommend the best way to approach it.

Email a polite note in advance that explains you’d like to schedule a phone call as a follow up to the interview. Then give them three suggested time and days. Ask if they can fit one into their busy schedule and if they can’t, could they please give a day and time that’s convenient for them.

You have perhaps a ten to twenty percent chance of getting a reply. If one isn’t received, that’s a good indicator that you should not make the call, as it will not be well received.


In Conclusion

While thank-you letters and other follow-up actions are good and should be done, I have to also tell you that I’ve made up my mind about you by the time the interview is over.

If you have all the qualifications and performed better than any other candidate, I’ll offer you the job whether or not you send a thank you letter or anything else.

I can’t think of a single time that I, or any other Hiring Manager that I know, declined a candidate based solely on the fact they didn’t send a thank you letter. Strange, but true!

We’ve almost always decided to hire you – or not – before we ever receive a thank you letter.

The bottom line is don’t attach too much importance to these post-interview actions, but make sure you do them.]

Just in case!

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