As someone who spent many years doing interviews and leading the hiring process for my department, I remember well the follow-up calls and emails from hopeful applicants, each wanting to help influence their chances. But do employers really want you to follow up? Is it something we like when it happens? Does it actually help?
I’m glad you asked. An employer’s attitude toward your follow-up efforts depends on the situation … and more importantly how you go about it. While in most cases the effect is probably neutral to your chances of getting an offer (though in some cases it can be a plus), just know that you can also open up a can of worms if you’re not careful.
How did I feel about those follow-up calls, notes, and emails?
I can’t tell you everyone feels this way — in fact I’ve heard some people expect you to take action. I mostly found them unnecessary, although not unwelcome if done with respect and understanding there’s a process even we can’t always control. Still, on occasion they were just plain annoying.
I was once in the middle of a meeting at my desk when an applicant called. She kept pushing and pushing, even though I politely explained I couldn’t offer any information at that point and was in a meeting. Clearly she had no sense of when to back off — or how to leave a good impression.
Not exactly the same thing, but in another case a person who was the top candidate wrote a handwritten follow-up note that was a bit scary. When I did his reference checks, I dug deeper than I normally would, uncovering incidents that my colleagues were grateful to find out about. Obviously, he did not get the job.
So should you forget about following up???
No. I don’t want to leave you with that impression. Most times it is perfectly fine to follow up — and even times when it can do you some real good. But, although I get that you want to keep your name in play and also are simply eager to know what’s going on, make sure you think about the other side and what might be going on for them that’s NOT about you:
You just need be aware of any ramifications when you follow up. Even if that voice inside is saying “write them now,” you want to play it smart and only take actions that will do yourself the most good — and not turn them off!
REMEMBER: Everything you do from the very first moment you contact an employer creates a lasting impression — and reflects on what you’d be like to work with day in and day out. That includes speaking with receptionists.
Just a reminder why you might not hear back from someone. Yes, it could simply be the company policy. But you might be surprised that some people can get HUNDREDS of emails a day. So yours might get lost in the mountain of mail. What to do?
- Most important thing is to make sure the Subject of your email clearly identifies why you’re writing. If there is a job title or description, include it — along with your name.
- Keep your emails short, polite, and to the point. They not only get tons of email, but they also have to do something with them. Workdays are especially full during hiring and/or when short staff. Long emails often get put aside or lost.
- Make sure you have the correct email address. May seem obvious, but jobs have been lost for stupider reasons.
- Wait until Tuesday or Wednesday to follow up. Mondays can be especially swamped!
What’s the right way to follow up?
I’ve been asked questions and written about this a lot, so let me point you to one of the articles people find most helpful:
My basic take on this is that the employer usually doesn’t need your help. That said, a short, polite thank you note right afterward and some occasional follow up, especially if you offer new relevant information, can leave a nice extra impression.
But the employer still needs time to proceed with each stage of your interview process. Hard as it is to wait, it can take weeks (or more) to hear back, even if you’re a top candidate. And there is a line between active participation in the process and stalking!
Does the type of contact matter?
How you follow-up might depend on who you’ve been dealing with primarily. The basics are the same, but each type of contact has a slightly different agenda and flavor — and might therefore offer more or less availability:
Third-party recruiter – They usually get some feedback pretty soon after your interview, even if they don’t know anything for sure yet. A good recruiter will keep you informed. They make money if you get the job, so don’t be shy about asking how things went if you don’t hear from them.
Internal recruiter – They are often in charge of managing the process inside the company (as I did) or at least responsible for keeping things going. But even they are subject to company policies and may not be able to give you any information until ready for the next steps. If you do contact them, it’s good to ask how soon you may follow up again.
Human Resources – They’re often least forthcoming about how things are going, since they’re frequently bound by strict internal rules. But they do know where things stand, even if what they know is they’re waiting for other parties to be ready. As with all, be friendly and keep in touch every 2 or 3 weeks (see post below), unless advised otherwise.
Boss or member of the department / team – Often, if you feel especially connected and approach carefully, you might get them to keep you posted more often — unless bound by company policy. Still, the basic rules apply about not overwhelming them or pushing too hard. It really does take time.
=> Interview Follow-Up Dos and Don’ts (plus links to email samples)