After a Job Interview: Why You Shouldn’t Follow Up Too Soon or Too Much
"It's only Thursday morning, is there something that you would like to tell me about your situation that might impact the timeline, otherwise we don't expect to have a decision until next week." That's a real reply from a hiring manager to someone who followed up after her interview, but BEFORE the earliest date by which she was told the company would make their decision. Ouch!
A story of following up too often and too soon
The job seeker had a good interview and was lucky enough to be given a tentative timeline by the hiring manager. But, as so many of you can understand, each day she waited seemed like forever. So she decided to try to push for some feedback on her own timeline. When she didn't get any response to her call, she emailed the company. And the response she got was the one above. Now she was worried that she hurt her chances by seeming too eager.
Besides risking being annoying, she also risked showing that she didn't listen even when informed of the process, and that can be a big turn off to a prospective employer. Is this what she'll be like as an employee? Still, to be fair, if you are by far the employer's top choice, one small eager-beaver move probably won't lose you the job. But it could, especially if you keep at it … and that's a good enough reason to think carefully about the style and frequency of your post interview contact.
What it feels like from the employer's side
I know how long each day you wait seems. It's kind of like dog years. One day feels like many days and a week feels like forever. But from the employer's side, the first week can fly by. So can the next week. And the one after that. In most cases, people involved in the hiring process have a lot more to do than just think about how long a job candidate is waiting. They pretty much assume you know that it's a process that has more steps to it than just interview one person and get back to them right away. The employer has to get through ALL the interviews and decide if they have enough good candidates to choose from.
Even if they feel good about one of them (aka YOU), sometimes they may look for more resumes to satisfy internal policies or simply make sure they've done a good search. More time. And after that, they have to coordinate schedules for the second round of interviews if needed. More time. If the final round of interviews are complete, there are more discussions and then possibly background / reference checks, sign-offs and an official package to put together. And throughout all this you may or may not hear from them. (Sorry.) But if you are a candidate they feel good about, rest assured that they have NOT forgotten you!
How patience can do more than you think
What you don't want to be remembered for is being the person who keeps calling and emailing to try to get them to move along. It shows that you don't understand or respect how busy they may be, how full their inboxes get, and that they are moving as quickly as their process and schedules allow. It really is their call. Don't try to push them to meet your timetable – and then be angry at them if they won't.
Look … I know it's easy for me to say "be patient", and that it's not easy for someone waiting to hear back after an interview to do that. BUT, I'd like you to think of it as a chance to practice something that will serve you well in your career. As people move up in the ranks, the one thing that helps them succeed is learning how to wait for what they set in motion to happen, especially when other people are involved. So you could think about every day you wait as succeeding in something that will help make you stronger in the long run.
But what if they think I'm not doing enough?
One of my readers wrote to ask: "Should I follow up with HR or be patient a few more days? I have got the impression that they're pretty deliberate, but I still want to be assertive too." He's not the only one to wonder whether NOT following up aggressively will hurt them. I addressed this in my last post:
"Employers know how hard jobs are to come by and assume you're interested. You convey that best in the interview by your attitude, enthusiasm, listening carefully, and answering questions as best you can.
After the interview, by all means send a thank you note, even though that too is not mandatory. Just keep it short and polite. Maybe mention something discussed in the interview that stood out for you. And if you don't hear anything back in a couple of weeks (although the process can take far longer), by all means send a short follow-up note.
But you don't NEED to do any of this for them to think you are interested."
Some final thoughts
I know I've written about this a lot lately. It's because so many of the comments I get are about the pain of waiting and not knowing what to do – or not do. You can twist your brain into a knot trying to figure out what an employer does or doesn't want from you. And the truth is, there is no one right answer.
But I can assure you that a bit of patience will serve you well during this process. It can go on far longer than you or the employer wishes. And if you try too hard or too soon or too often to show THEM the right way and push for an exact timeline or decision, you are only showing them that you might not be the person who can handle a job where delays and frustrations can happen all the time.
So by all means follow up in a way that makes sense for the job and shows you've thought about the employer's side as well as your own. But try not to sit and seethe if you don't hear back as soon as you'd wish. It's often the norm. Use the time instead to keep looking, just in case. Plus it's always nice to have two jobs to choose from!