The Art of the Follow-Up

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There’s a deliciously satisfying feeling you get when you complete a successful job interview — you nailed every question, felt a rapport with the interviewer and fully expect a call any day asking you to come back for round two.

So you wait. And you wait. Nothing. The phone never rings, leaving you second guessing and wondering what went wrong. Actually, you may have sabotaged your candidacy by not effectively following up on the interview.

“Many people think of the interview as an end to the job application process, but it’s not,” said Bonnie Ellis, a professor at the University of Phoenix Detroit Campus and CEO of executive search firm Management Dimensions. “It’s the person who follows up after the interview that usually gets the job.”

Plan your follow-up strategy before you leave the interview. Ask about the timing of a decision. Collect business cards from everyone you meet, and then as soon as you get home, send thank-you notes.

Erinn O’Connor, former executive recruiter and founder and CEO of job search site HiredMyway.com, advises sending a handwritten note to each person with whom you met. “Society is so Internet-driven,” she said. “A handwritten note is personal. It makes an impression.”

Your thank you note also gives you another opportunity to highlight your high points and skills. You could even include a link to a personal/professional profile, such as those found on business networking sites like LinkedIn.

“This gives the hiring manager another view of you and your qualifications,” O’Connor said. “They’ll get to see who you’re linked to and the kinds of groups you belong to. That kind of information helps them see the whole person you are.”

It goes without saying that your thankyou note should be well-written and error-free. “A poorly written follow-up can do more harm than good,” Ellis said, cautioning interviewees to double check the spelling of people’s names.

Experts advise candidates to wait approximately five days after the interview before calling to check on the status of your standing. O’Connor advises politely asking if the person is still in the process of interviewing candidates and if you’re still in the running for the job. If the answer is yes, ask when you should call back for another status update — and then do it.

“Once a week isn’t too often to call,” O’Connor said. “Be mindful of the person’s time. Call first thing in the morning or at the end of the day and keep the calls brief and polite.”

Don’t become a pest. Calling every day is a no-no as is being demanding or belligerent, she added.

Consistent follow-up is a way to keep your name in front of the interviewer. When it comes time to make a decision, your name is top of mind. “Following up consistently shows your interest and your persistence — qualities that many employers are looking for,” Ellis said.

The process can take a while so don’t get discouraged, advises O’Connor. “Don’t expect a quick turnaround in this market,” she said. “Employers are inundated with resumes, and they’re reluctant to make a bad hire. It may take a few months before they make a decision.”

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