Ask DFS: How Do I Make My Interview Follow-up Stand Out?

Dear DFS:

I’ve been on a few really great interviews lately, but I’m never quite sure how to follow up afterwards.  I’ve read countless online articles and received numerous tips from friends about following up with potential employers, but each piece of advice seems to contradict the last. Do I shoot them an email, send them a thank you card, keep it formal, or be more conversational? How many follow up gestures are appropriate, and how soon after the interview should I reach out to the employer? I’ve heard that following up can make or break an interview. How do I make my follow-up stand out from the rest?

Confused in Cleveland,

Jessica

Dear Jessica,

Your questions regarding after-the-interview protocol are excellent.  I can see how the information you gathered from a various sources may be confusing.

First of all, you can occasionally get a clue as to your follow-up approach at the close of the interview. Simply ask, “what is the next step?” or “when will a decision be made?” You may also ask, “May I contact you in x amount of days?” (Five days is usually appropriate.) This may give you the timeframe from which you can operate. Be sure you get the interviewer’s business card, so you have the correct address, email and spelling of his/her name.

If by chance you learn at the interview that you will not be a candidate for the job, it is still important to follow-up with a thank you. You never know what the future may hold in store. As the old adage goes, “never burn your bridges.”

Regardless of your post-interview approach, immediately follow-up with a thank you note.  It can be an email, but a hand-written note may set you apart from the other applicants. Emails certainly are the means of communication used by most professionals today, but nonetheless, follow-up with the written note. A rule of thumb is to send an email within 24 hours of the interview and the written thank you by the end of the day after the interview.  Be sure to use professional-looking stationary and note cards for your follow-up correspondence.  This type of writing material is inexpensive and can be purchased at many convenient locations or online at places like Walmart or Thirtyone Gifts.

In all written correspondence, whether electronic or on paper, use a formal greeting, such as Mrs., Mr., or Ms. as a prefix to their last name. For women, it’s good to use Ms., as you may not know their marital status.  Your note should begin by expressing your appreciation for the opportunity and name the position for which you interviewed to help them remember you. This should be followed by 2-3 sentences that express why you believe you would be a great employee. Include the strengths you discussed in the interview. Close the note by thanking them again and that you look forward to hearing from them. This sets an expectation. Use a closing such as Sincerely, Respectfully, etc.  It’s also a good idea to list your contact information under your signature to make it convenient for them to reach you.  Before you press send or drop that letter in your mailbox, always check for spelling, punctuation and grammar errors.

As to additional follow-up, this is where it might be a bit tricky.  Remember, at the close of your interview you learned when a decision would be made. Therefore, don’t call in a couple of days when you were told it would be a week or two weeks.  You must remain patient.

The thank-you can be considered your first follow-up.  Contact the interviewer again when you were told a decision would be made.  If you don’t hear about the job, reach out one more time a week or so later. This could be by telephone call, email or written note.   Any more than three follow-ups and you may be considered a “pest.”

Some common considerations when making a follow-up telephone call are in order.  Try to get through to the individual who interviewed you.  Leaving a message with a receptionist will not allow your follow-up objectives to be accomplished. But, never be pushy with a receptionist.  Always be on your best behavior. Once you reach your interviewer, begin by politely reminding them of whom you are and the position that you applied for. Ask if the position has been filled.  If it hasn’t, ask whether or not you are still in consideration. Should you be told you are still in the running, avoid launching into a long conversation about why you are perfect for the job. Instead, express your continued interest in the position and your enthusiasm for working with them. Do so in a straight forward, polite and brief manner. You may ask when a decision will be made. Regardless of the outcome of this conversation, always conclude with a thank you.

Good luck in your job search!

Judy Chambers

Executive Director

Dress for Success Austin

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