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The Right Way to Follow Up After an Interview
Adobe Stock / The Right Way to Follow Up After an Interview
Kayla Heisler
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You sent out an incredible resume, wrote a killer cover letter, were selected for an interview — and you’re pretty sure you rocked it. But the journey isn’t over just yet! Following up with a potential employer after your interview is as important as any of the steps that lead up to securing the interview. 

The way that you follow up with a potential employer says a lot about you to them and can reaffirm their decision or sway it — for better or worse. While it may feel like an interview is the end point in the job-seeking process, it’s actually just the beginning of your personal relationship with your employer.

Keep things friendly but professional.

Your tone should not come across as robotic, but you should also avoid being overly casual. Recall specific details that stood out in the interview and show that you remember unique moments that simultaneously acknowledges that you don’t see them as any other employer and that you are not just any other candidate. 

Keep your tone light and positive, even if you choose to fill in information gaps at some point in your note. While you may have addressed your cover letter to a generic title or opened with “To Whom It May Concern,” your follow-up should address your interviewer (or interviewers) by name. Express that you enjoyed meeting with them and that you look forward to hearing from them in the future. 

You can fill in minor gaps. 

Even the most confident among us is subject to experiencing interview jitters, so if you’ve found yourself so nervous that you neglected to answer a question to the best of your ability, a follow-up may be a great time to gently mention a skill that you may have blanked on. They key is to keep your acknowledgement short and sweet. You may include a reference by name if you feel that another area should be mentioned that you feel that they can speak to.

Make their job easy. 

Those in charge of hiring want you to be the right person, so prove to them why you are. You’re the solution to their problem, and a follow-up can help confirm that. Maybe you were a clear stand-out, and no other candidate holds a candle to you. Maybe the choice is between yourself and one other person, or maybe it wasn’t exactly your best interview performance. 

Remind them why you’re a great fit by mentioning how skills and preferences that you have align with company values. Use information that you were given at your interview. Remind them of your qualifications and how they connect specifically with the duties expected to be fulfilled by the role that you’re seeking. 

How long should you wait after an interview to follow up? 

Hiring decisions can happen fast, so the popular consensus is that sooner tends to be better than latter. Send a thank you note follow-up within 24 hours of being interviewed. If you haven’t heard a decision after seven to ten business days (especially if you were told you would have a decision before then), it’s acceptable to send a second, polite email following up.

Mistakes to avoid:

  • Stay away from negative words in any form in your follow-up. This includes using phrases such as “anxiously awaiting” or mentions of “feeling nervous” during or after the interview. While you want to convey honesty, you should also portray yourself in a positive light. If you do feel like you want to correct something you said, don’t draw unnecessary attention to your previous mistake. Don’t give excuses, either. If you were late and apologized, don’t feel the need to reiterate in writing. 
  • Don’t make yourself sound like a gameshow host by pitting yourself against other candidates. While you can mention why you want to work for the company and why you would be a good fit for the role, never use a phrase that invokes other candidates such as “I should be head and shoulders above other applicants” or “no other candidate will do the job as well as I will.”
  • Remember, expressing your interest is not the same thing as looking desperate. Don’t give your interviewer the impression that you’re trying to guilt them into hiring you. Including vague or extreme language like “getting this job would mean a lot to me” or “I’ve wanted to work for you for a really long time” can lead you to come off as overbearing and raise a red flag for interviewers.

How do you know if you got the job after an interview? 

  • If the interview went on for a long time: Interviewers are often busy people, so when they decide a candidate is probably not going to be the right fit for their company, interviewers often tend to cut the meeting short to avoid wasting time. On the opposite end of the spectrum, if you’ve been speaking to someone for a significant amount of time, that should increase your confidence that you will experience a positive outcome.
  • If the interviewer mentioned positive aspects about the job: If you get the feeling that your interviewer is really talking up the position, take that as a sign that things are going extremely well. Interviewers are unlikely to espouse the positives of the position if they don’t intend to offer it to you. 
  • If you receive a response to your follow-up emailWhen a potential employer sends an affirming note in return, you should feel good about the interview. If your interviewers choose to stay in touch with you after the initial interview, that’s usually a good sign.

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Kayla Heisler is an essayist and Pushcart Prize-nominated poet. She is an MFA candidate at Columbia University, and her work appears in New York's Best Emerging Poets 2017 anthology. 

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