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  • Carol Adams

Beyond the Thank You: How and When to Follow-Up

If the interviewer didn’t mention a time frame for making a hiring decision — or you didn’t ask — you have a couple of options. The first is to wait a few days (more than 3; max of 7) and then reach out to inquire.

How should you follow-up? Unless the interviewer stated otherwise, a phone call is usually the best method. Try to reach the person directly; only leave a voice mail if you can’t reach them after a couple of tries.

Before making the call, use some of the following strategies to make sure you come across as confident, not desperate. Research shows that in phone conversations, your voice accounts for 84 percent of your effectiveness. Here’s how to warm up for that call:

Stretch. Stand up, with your legs slightly apart from each other. Reach up towards the sky (or ceiling) with your palms flat. Breathe out slowly. Repeat 2-3 times.

Smile. When you smile when you’re on the phone, the listener can “hear” that. If you can, place a mirror where you can see yourself talking. This will remind you to smile.

Stand up. Stand when you call the interviewer. When you stand up, it increases your blood flow, which gives you more energy. That energy comes through in your voice.

If you’re following up directly with the interviewer, don’t say, “I’m calling to see if you made a hiring decision.” Instead, remind him or her of who you are (including a 5-second blurb to help the interviewer remember who you are — “I’m the candidate who helped plan the President’s visit to Acme Company”), and say, “I just want to reach out to you and make sure you have everything you need from me in order to consider me for the (job title) job. Do you need anything else from me at this time?”

That makes it easy for the interviewer to say, “No, we have everything we need” (which will be the usual response), but it can lead you into your follow-up questions. These can include:

• Am I still a candidate for this job?

• Have you decided on candidates for the second interview yet?

• Has the time frame changed for making a hiring decision?

• Is the next step still (whatever the interviewer previously told you was the next step)

• Would it be okay if I checked back in with you on .... (be sure to ask WHEN)

If the interviewer did mention a time frame — and that time and date has passed — don’t panic. It is extremely common for the hiring process to take much longer than the interviewer anticipated. People get busy with other work, get sick, go on vacation, and have family emergencies. Sometimes the company’s priorities change, and an urgent hiring situation may become less urgent. All of these can lengthen the hiring time frame — and may not necessarily be communicated to you.

Even if you’re waiting to hear back after a second or third interview, the opportunity may not be lost. The company may be checking your references, and it’s not uncommon for it to take several days — or even weeks — to reach references. Or the job may have even been offered to another candidate, but the job offer was rejected. Second choice doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve finished last!

This is where persistence comes in. Follow up with every job application — and interview — until you are told the position has been filled. Then you can mark it as “closed” on your job tracking worksheet or database. But until you hear that it’s been filled, keep following up.

“But I Don’t Want To Be A Pest!”

During the interview, if you established permission from the interviewer on how and when to follow up — by asking if it’s okay to check in (and if he or she would prefer you to do so by phone or email) — they’ll expect you to follow-up. They may even note it if you don’t follow-up, since they gave you permission to do so.

In that situation, he or she will be expecting your call. When you call to check in, you can say, “You said to call today.”

Sometimes, however, the hiring process will go on longer than the hiring manager or recruiter initially told you. After calling to follow up two or three times, you may wonder if your follow-up is being seen as “too much” or “too aggressive.”

The longer the process goes on, the less frequently you should reach out. In some cases, the hiring process may take months; in that situation, calling weekly would make you a pest, unless the hiring manager has actually encouraged you to reach out each week.

The key is to ask the interviewer when he or she would like you to make contact again. It’s perfectly fine to ask that question — but then make sure you don’t follow-up more frequently than you were told. Sometimes the hiring manager will tell you they don’t know a time frame. In that case, it’s fine to ask if you can check back at a specific time — for example, in a week. And remember to ask about how they’d prefer for you to contact themby phone, or email? Some hiring managers don’t want phone calls, but will respond to emails.

If the process is taking a long time — and you’re not getting any information from the person you interviewed with — reach out to your network and see if they can help you determine the reason for the delay. This is when having a contact at the company can be extremely valuable. If you don’t already have a contact at the time you conduct the interview, use your existing network of contacts to see if you can identify a friend-of-a-friend who works there.

LinkedIn can be a good way to determine this, because it allows you to see these types of second-degree connections. Search for the company on LinkedIn, and then look who comes up as employees who you have “Shared Connections” with. Click on the “Shared Connections” link and it will show you existing LinkedIn contacts you have in common with those employees.

If you haven’t heard back after you’ve reached out a few times (left voice mail messages or sent email messages that weren’t answered), it’s probably time to move on to other opportunities. You may still hear back from the company, but your time is better spent on following up on other jobs you’ve been applying for in the meantime.

Remember, even if you aren’t selected for the position you were interviewing for, many companies do keep your application and résumé on file, and you might be contacted later about another opening.

The Process Doesn’t Stop With the Job Offer

Even if you have a job offer in hand — even a written offer — things could still change up until you actually start the job. So until that day comes, act like you’re still between interviews. Keep interviewing, keep following up on your applications, and keep working on developing your skills.

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