How to Follow Up After an Interview

handwritten thank-you note with blue penOnly 10 percent of people follow up with potential employers after an interview – make sure you’re one of them! Follow-up has the potential to set you apart from other candidates. In this post, I’ll talk about reasons to follow up, what to avoid, and different formats and timelines.

Reasons to Follow Up

Appreciation

Follow-up provides a way to express your appreciation for the time the interviewer took to meet with you. It is a polite gesture, and some research suggests that hiring managers generally like when candidates thank them.

Strategic advantage

It goes without saying that you thank the interviewer in person before you leave. It is just as important to do so afterwards. When there are a number of top candidates, each with various strengths, your follow-up (if done correctly) may provide you a strategic advantage and reassure an employer that you are the best choice.

Restate your interest and understanding of requirements

A note provides a vehicle to communicate your interest in a position, and an opportunity to:

  • supplement or clarify anything discussed during your interview
  • reiterate that you understand what the employer said and seeks in a candidate — and how your qualifications fit that need
  • discuss key points about your background that you may have forgotten in the interview
  • restate information about the organization that you learned during the interview
  • express your enthusiasm for the position

Demonstrate by doing

Follow-up demonstrates that you have the personal and professional qualities of dedication, tenacity, follow through, and attention to detail. This idea is similar to the adage “actions speak louder than words.” Remember that a letter provides another writing sample for the employer, so be sure to proofread.

Networking and advice

Even if you are not extended an offer, you can bring an interviewer into your professional network. Use your social judgment, but know that it is possible to ask an interviewer for additional referrals or contacts after a job rejection. It might be appropriate to ask an interviewer what would have made you a stronger candidate. Again, you have to use your judgment — this has to be tactful and socially appropriate given interactions you’ve already had with an employer.

Side note: It’s just as important for networking to follow up with your references as your employers. Here are some examples of how to thank your network.

Opportunity for information

Further information may be needed from you after the interview. By following up, you can learn if additional information or steps are necessary.

Avoid These

When following up, be sure you don’t:

  • come across as desperate
  • have misspellings or grammatical errors (even in emails)
  • use the incorrect name or title of the person(s) who interviewed you
  • put all your eggs in one basket — be sure you keep looking for other opportunities
  • forget to provide follow-up materials requested at the interview
  • shy away from asking if a decision was made, especially if it is past the deadline discussed
  • follow up so often that you “cross a line”
  • stop by the company for a visit

Formats

It matters more that you send a thank-you than whether it is handwritten or emailed.

Traditionally, a thank-you note is handwritten, though that is not to say that all hiring managers prefer this. The most common format is email; however, phone calls and a handwritten note are perfectly acceptable. Accountemps surveyed finance and accounting managers and found that phone and email were preferred; however, managers did not view texting positively.

As you decide on format, consider the audience who will get the message. Is it a partner in an old-fashioned law firm? Are you writing to an innovative and tech-heavy IT company? You might lean toward handwriting in the former and email for the latter.

You probably want to give some thought before opting for social media (e.g., how well you really know the hiring manager, the public nature of social media). That said, if you plan to work in advertising or PR where social media skills are required, this might be an appropriate way to demonstrate your social media skills.

If you’re wondering what to say, here are some examples:

Timeframes

There are two timeframes to keep in mind:

  1. When to send your thank-you letter
  2. When to assess your standing as a candidate after you have already sent your thank-you

When to send your thank-you letter

  • Email: send by the end of the day of your interview. If the interview was late in the day, your message needs to be in the interviewer’s inbox within the next day.
  • Handwritten: send it within two days of the interview.

Let me insert a caveat — quality is just as important as speed. A written thank-you is a writing sample, so treat a follow-up document the same as a cover letter or résumé, with attention to grammar, spelling, and typographical errors.

When to follow up about the employer’s decision

Start by positioning yourself at the end of the interview, for example, by asking when you can expect to hear from the employer and what the best format for follow-up is. This establishes an initial timeframe and tells you how the employer would prefer you to initiate contact. If you pass the initial timeframe, give it a couple of business days.

Most career professionals advise that, at this stage, you want to reaffirm your interest and ask how the hiring process is going. Stay focused and know there could be a possible second interview. Often, there are no “hard and fast” rules that apply to all situations. If you are unsure, please reach out to Penn State World Campus Career Services for some assistance.

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