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What to Say When Following Up on a Job Interview

Alison Green

Things seemed to go well at your job interview, but you haven't heard anything back - and now you're trying to figure out how to follow up without being a pest.

If you're like most job seekers, this stage of the job-hunting process can cause a lot of stress: What should you say? How can you be sure that you're striking the right balance between interested but not desperate? And what exactly should you ask for, since presumably you'd know if they'd already decided to hire you?

Ideally, you planned ahead for this moment by asking in the interview itself what the employer's timeline was for next steps. If you did that and the timeline you were given passes, then you have a ready-made reason for following up politely. In this case, you can write a quick email saying something like this:

"Hi Jane, you'd mentioned that you were hoping to be ready to move forward on the Communications Manager position by the end of the month, so I wanted to check in with you. I'm very interested in the role, even more so after our last conversation, and would love to know what your timeline looks like moving forward."

Now, if you didn't think to ask for a timeline in your interview, you can still send a similar email. Wait about two weeks from your interview before checking in, and write something like this:

"Hi Jane, I wanted to touch base with you about the Communications Manager position. I'm still very interested in the role. Do you have a timeline you can share for the next steps in the hiring process?"

Note in both these examples that you're not simply asking for an update on how the search is going. That's because doing so isn't as likely to produce the information you're really interested in, and it's also easier to ignore, especially if the hiring manager doesn't have anything definite to share yet. You're also not just asking, "Did I get the job?" (After all, if they've decided to offer you the job, you'll know - because you'll be contacted with an offer.) Instead, you're asking for something quick and easy to provide, and something that will give you a better sense of what to expect next: an updated timeline.

Other things to remember when writing your follow-up note:

--Keep it short. Hiring managers are generally busy, so don't send three paragraphs when a few short sentences will do. Be friendly and polite, but get straight to the point - and remember that you're demonstrating your communication skills here just as much as you were in your cover letter and your interview. Be direct and concise. (Plus, you're more likely to get a response if the recipient doesn't have to wade through long paragraphs of text to find out what you want.)

--Be conversational. You want the hiring manager to be able to picture working with you, so write the way you'd write to a colleague. Your tone should be warm and not overly formal or stiff. (Don't go overboard in that direction, of course; you still need to be professional. But there's no need to take on the overly formal tone of an old-fashioned business letter.)

--Don't be demanding. You might be frustrated that you haven't heard anything back, especially if the employer's own self-imposed timeline for getting back to you has passed. But don't let it show. Hiring takes time, and other work often gets in the way. Sounding annoyed or pressuring the hiring manager to make a decision before she's ready to is a good way to have that decision be "no."

Alison Green writes the popular Ask a Manager blog, where she dispenses advice on career, job search, and management issues. She's also the co-author of Managing to Change the World: The Nonprofit Manager's Guide to Getting Results, and former chief of staff of a successful nonprofit organization, where she oversaw day-to-day staff management, hiring, firing, and employee development.

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