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Q: I recently interviewed for a position I’m really interested in. I sent them a thank you after, but I still haven’t heard back from them a week later. Should I follow up? And if so, how should I properly follow up?
A: First, congratulations on sending a thank you letter. Many candidates forego this part of the interviewing process with the assumption that it is not important. Etiquette is always important, and the job search is no exception. After you’ve sent the thank you, it is important to reconnect with the people that were involved in the interview process. Talk to the recruiter if this is how the interview was arranged. Thank the administrative or support person who handled the logistics or greeted you. And connect with the interviewer. Following up is a gentle balance of using positive persistence while making sure you don’t turn into a stalker. Your goal is to follow up consistently without irritating the organization or the person you’re trying to follow up with.
One of the best ways to avoid being put into position where you feel unsure is by negotiating the follow-up time before you even leave the interview. At the end of your interview, you would start the communication by saying something along the lines of: “I really enjoyed talking to you about this opportunity. Do you have any concerns about my ability to be successful?” This allows you to overcome any objections that they may have, and it also reinforces your interest in the position. After emphasizing your interests, you can continue with the conversation and ask them what the right time would be to follow up. You could say, “Tell me more about the next steps and timing, so I know when we will be speaking again.” They should let you know, and you can respond: “Ok great, and if I don’t hear from you, should I plan to call you the next day by the end of the day? And is this number the best way to connect?” In doing this, you’ve created a commitment on the interviewer’s part. They will feel more compelled to have a second conversation as they have agreed to make that happen.
When it comes to your follow-up, let’s hope they take the call or respond to a carefully worded email. You could start off the conversation or message by saying: “It’s great to talk to you, and as we agreed, I am following up to find out the status of your search process. I am still very interested in the position, and I wanted to learn more about where you are in the process and/or if there is anything else I can provide.” If you still don’t hear back, another alternative you could take would be finding an administrative person (who you hopefully connected with during the interview process). Let them know you’re trying to follow up with your interviewer and you would like to connect. Until you connect live, it is recommended that you go back and forth between sending an email (letting them know you’re interested in the position and would like more information on status) and three days later, leaving a voice mail if you can’t speak to someone directly. You can also be very honest and say, “I don’t want to bother you, but because I am so interested in this position, I want to make sure we speak live about the opportunity.”
The best way to turn a positive interview into an antagonizing relationship is counting the number of follow-ups you’ve made that have been neglected. No one is going to want to respond to an email that says something like, “This is the X number time I’ve reached out to you, and I have not heard a back.” Make sure to take care of your own frustrations personally and leave them outside the interview process. You don’t know what is happening internally that may be causing a delay (a lack of staff, changes in the company, or sadly you could be second choice – which might be ok!). Focus on the positive aspects of your interview and let the organization you’re applying to see that optimistic side of your personality.
Some people ask whether or not they should follow up at all. They worry about pestering people, about being a nuisance, or about creating some sort of disruption that will cause the organization to look at them negatively. But you should always, always follow up. If you decide you are absolutely not interested in the position anymore, you can send a thank you email and withdraw your candidacy. However, if you are at all interested, you need to do a follow-up and once is not enough.
And a heads up for hiring organizations: if a candidate has had an interview with you, they deserve a response. Be a telephone call or an email, you should follow up with your candidate within a week of the interview. If you have not made a decision yet, simply give them a response, such as: “Thank you, Candidate’s Name, for taking the time to interview with us. We have not yet made a decision, but we wanted to reach out to you to thank you for your patience. We will be getting back to you by Specific Date or end of week. If you do not hear back from us then, please feel free to reach us at Telephone Number and Email Address.” Not giving the candidate some sort of answer is only to your detriment, as they will likely find opportunities elsewhere. And as they have given their time, it is critical you return the gesture.
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