You wrote the perfect résumé. You quickly landed a job interview. You nailed the meeting — and you're pretty sure they loved you.
But you can still screw it all up.
Your follow-up plays a bigger part in the process than you may realize, says Lynn Taylor, a national workplace expert and author of "Tame Your Terrible Office Tyrant: How to Manage Childish Boss Behavior and Thrive in Your Job."
"The quality of your follow up can underscore a successful interview, or sabotage it."
Not sending a thank you email quickly enough (or at all!), for instance, can seriously hurt your chances — as can checking in excessively.
"Following up with hiring managers is tricky to navigate because it's not always easy to gauge your standing; and a lot is at stake," Taylor says. "Sometimes, if the chemistry is right, you can flat out ask where you stand, but that's a big 'if.'"
You want to come off as interested — but not too rambunctious, desperate, or impatient.
So, how can you strike that perfect balance?
Taylor says the follow-up process will look different depending on your specific situation — but here are some general guidelines on how many times you should check in after the interview:
Check-in #1: The initial follow-up
"A thank you email should go out that afternoon if you interviewed in the morning, or by first thing the next day if you met with them late in the afternoon," she explains. "Hiring managers are gauging your enthusiasm, and by being prompt, your action speaks volumes. It also shows respect for their time. Given two equally qualified candidates, the one who is more responsive (within reason) is usually considered a better prospect."
Also, they may have met with a handful of candidates today. You want to stay on their radar, so sending a stand-out thank you note is one easy way to do that.
"The thank you note can and should be a very empowering part of the interview process for you," says Taylor. "For instance, by mentioning what intrigues you about the department and/or company after having met the key players, you're demonstrating your listening abilities, how you process information, and how you apply it in selling 'the fit.' It's your opportunity to market yourself and demonstrate how well you fit the corporate culture."
Just remember to keep the thank you note concise and avoid rambling. "Make every word count," she says.
Check-in #2: A couple of days after they said you'd hear from them
Hopefully you asked, "When can I expect to hear from you again?" or "When do you expect to make a decision?" in the interview. If you did, and they mentioned a specific day or time frame ("By the end of next week" or "By Monday," etc.) it's acceptable to check in a few days after that date passes.
Check-in #3: When they ask you to check-in again
Perhaps their email said something like, "We are still interviewing candidates and should be making a decision soon. If you don't hear from me by Thursday, please feel free to follow up." If so, go right ahead and do just that!
Check-in #4: If, and only if, they still seem very interested in you
"If you've received positive feedback each time you've talked to the hiring manager, or are asked to keep them apprised of your job search progress, you have the green light to keep the lines of communication open until told otherwise, e.g., 'We will get in touch with you,' or get no response," Taylor says.
If you aren't getting any feedback, then be careful not to pester the hiring manager or HR. You don't want to appear desperate; there's a fine line between enthusiasm and being too aggressive, she explains.
"The squeaky — not screechy — wheel gets the grease," she says. " This is a litmus test of your emotional intelligence, which can override your credentials. Your handling of follow up can confirm that you're courteous, respectful, reliable, and a team player. Or, you can appear disinterested or disorganized by not responding on a timely basis."
Check-in #5: If weeks or months go by and they still haven't made a decision
If the job opening lasts for a couple weeks or months — and they still seem interested in you — there's no harm in keeping in touch and sending another email or two. "But vary your messages," says Taylor. "You might send links to interesting articles; let the hiring manager know of a relevant industry webcast or seminar; keep them apprised of any kudos you've received at your current job; a charitable project you just completed, and so on."
Check in #6: If you didn't get the job but want to thank them again for their time and consideration
Hopefully you do get the job and don't have to send this "thank you anyway" email. But if you don't, it's smart to send one last (non-bitter!) email thanking them for their time and consideration — and asking if they might be able to share any feedback. You can also say something like, "If you think I might be a good fit for any roles that open up in the future, please don't hesitate to contact me. I'd be very interested in exploring other opportunities here."
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