Interviewing is a lot like dating. There are so many unwritten rules you’re supposed to just know, but you don’t sometimes until you do something wrong. One of the most difficult parts of the job search is the etiquette surrounding contact after the interview. You don’t want to appear desperate, but you want your potential manager to know you are interested. A rule of thumb is when in doubt, ask. Don’t leave your job interview without knowing the hiring manager’s immediate plans for communicating with you about the job. That being said, some obligatory post-interview communications may put you ahead of the pack of hungry job hunters.
As soon as your interview wraps, send an email thanking each person involved in the interview. Soon means whip out that smartphone in the elevator on the way out. Interviewing is time-consuming and grueling for all parties. Show your appreciation for rising to the top of the resume slush pile and for perfect strangers opening up their schedules for you. Thank the human resources professional for selecting you for the interview. Thank the hiring manager for taking time away from her busy day to talk with you. A complete class act even thanks the receptionist for kindly calming your nerves and getting you some tea when you walked in shaking like a leaf. You did get his name or spied it on his desk, of course. How great it will be when he gushes about your note to that hiring manager.
The Same Day
You’d be surprised at how few people are courteous enough to send a thank-you email. A CareerBuilder survey revealed that it’s an important part of contact after an interview. Twenty-two percent of participating hiring managers of the 2011 survey said they might not even hire someone who failed to send one. But you shouldn’t rest on your laurels with that thank-you email. Send a real, old-fashioned thank-you card the same day. Be revolutionary and actually hand write a thoughtful note detailing why you’re perfect for the job or clarifying anything missed during the interview. Say something substantially different than what you said in your email. Time management tip: before your interview, map out the nearest post office to the job you want and head directly there after the interview to mail those cards you’ve conveniently pre-addressed and carried with you.
After a While
If you haven’t heard back in the time your interviewer told you to expect, it’s time to exercise good judgment. See if you can get some inside information. After two weeks from the time you expected to hear back, inquire by phone with human resources as to whether the position is still open. You don’t have to say who you are, but if you do, get a new timeline and an update about how much contact you should have if you don’t hear back again. Follow the counsel you get, and in all your contact, politely remind the hiring manager of the timeline she gave you. Have something new to discuss each time you make contact. For example, pass along a study on a topic you discussed at the interview or follow-up with an answer you promised to provide after conducting a little research.
In the Meantime
Although you may be positive this is the absolute perfect position for you, as in dating, you’ve got to keep your options open. The best way to avoid stressing over hearing back from one job is to actively pursue others. If weeks have passed, accept that the company is just not that into you. Move on. The soft, periodic contact strategy is enough to keep your name fresh on the mind of your betrothed hiring manager, but all it takes is one superfluous contact to annoy him, make you look clingy, and send your resume to the trash can. Don’t be that person.
When You're Hiring
It’s easy to forget you were once a job candidate yourself when you’ve got 400 resumes and 20 interviews to complete to fill an open position. However, going mute on your job candidates is rude, nerve-racking, and in an age of social media, can negatively affect other recruiting efforts. Obviously it takes some time to interview, check references, do background checks, and think about who’s right for the job. Make the process less painful by asking your assistant or human resources to immediately acknowledge all resumes, and personally thank all interviewees. Your competitors may also be pursuing your top candidates, so you need to provide them with more information more often. As soon as you’ve decided you’re interested in one or two, write them within a week to let them know what your plans are and when you will be back in touch. Invite them to stay in touch and ask them to let you know as soon as possible if they accept another offer.
- Hcareers: Post-Interview Phone Call Do’s and Don’ts
- CareerBuilder: More Than One-in-Five Hiring Managers Say They Are Less Likely to Hire a Candidate Who Didn’t Send a Thank-You Note, Finds New CareerBuilder Survey
- CNN Living: 10 Things to Do after a Job Interview
- Forbes: 4 Non-Annoying Ways to Follow Up After an Interview
Angela Ogunjimi has been a prize-winning writer and editor since 1994. She was a general assignment reporter at two newspapers and a business writer at two magazines. She writes on nutrition, obesity, diabetes and weight control for a project of the National Institutes of Health. Ogunjimi holds a master's degree in sociology from George Washington University and a bachelor's in journalism from New York University.