How To Follow Up After An Interview

I recently read an article about all sorts of subtle ways to communicate after an interview—the writer presented an array of ideas and really was trying to convince the job seeker that he or she needed to mount a campaign to build presence and interest. I’m not sure what they call that in your neighborhood, but in mine, an ongoing campaign to demonstrate interest is called STALKING!

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The answer to the question of interview follow-up etiquette is really answered with common sense. After you meet with someone, should you, can you, write to them to thank them for their time and relate your interest in continuing the process? Of course. But you only get one shot at that, so be careful—and be smart. You cannot write a stronger letter next week if you don’t hear back from them. You can’t become that stalker that they want to avoid.

So, after the interview, take the time to organize your thoughts. Start with the basics. What did you hear that was exciting and not expected? What did you hear that frightened you or that you were unsure of? Take a sheet of paper out and construct a good old Franklin T: pluses on the left and the minuses on the right. Take off your sales hat—stop selling yourself to you for a moment—and figure out, if you were evaluating those pluses and minuses, would you see the balance on the plus side and be interested, or is the weight on the minus side and it’s time to surrender?

If you are still convinced that you want this job, and deserve it, and that if you were the hiring manager, you would hire you, then send a note to the person you interviewed with not only thanking them but also building a general reminder of what you discussed and what you learned. Tell them why, based on what you learned at the meeting, you are an even stronger candidate than you thought you were before you went in. Tell them that you are interested in learning more, and that the strong potential for a win-win opportunity here makes moving forward in the process worthwhile. Share with them something you learned at the interview, and comment on it, or find out something interesting from their web site, and relate it to what you learned on the interview. 

Read more from Don Zinn with his advice on interview etiquette for both candidates and interviewers.

Remember, as in all business writing, your letter is a writing sample, so don’t shoot yourself in the foot. Don’t be too comfortable, but be sure to show energy and passion about the opportunity. It may sound simple, but make sure your grammar is correct and that you check your spelling.

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If you don’t hear anything within a couple of weeks, check in gently—very gently— to signal that you remain interested and ask if your previous letter was received. Ask if a decision has been made, and if not, can you come back to convince them of why you are the right person for the role. If you get a response, great. But if not, leave it alone. 

Companies often lack social graces and while I would advise every client to communicate with every candidate, few do. We at Exigent Search try to let each candidate know the good news, or the bad news, as soon as we hear it, but not all in the recruiting space live by that standard, and it is far easier to just ignore the people being passed over. That is unfortunate, but accept it with grace since there is nothing you can really do. Move on to the next opportunity. There is a big world out there…

Of course, if you are working with a recruiter, the first thing you should do is call the recruiter and give her/him your feedback and listen to the instructions you get. Working with a recruiter changes the balance and the process—and that is the topic of a future blog.

Don Zinn is a managing partner of Exigent Search Partners Inc., which provides employee search services for early- and mid-stage small- and medium-sized businesses, family businesses, and other companies that are growing rapidly and need to pursue the talent that will help them scale to the next “operating level.”

The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Westchester Magazine editorial staff.

Don Zinn, managing partner of Exigent Search Inc.

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