After the Interview: Follow-up Makes the Difference
by Tom Washington

During his third interview with Microsoft, a candidate for a marketing position learned that a final hiring decision would be made in two days. So that very night, the eager candidate spent hours producing a marketing proposal based on what he’d been told of the software company’s product expansion plans.  The next day he had his proposal delivered by a courier service, and on the following day he received an offer. The first comment was, "We knew you wanted the job."

In job hunting, being remembered by employers is crucial. That's what makes follow-up and sending thank-you notes so critical.

Follow-up begins the same day as the appointment or interview.  That evening write a brief, typed or handwritten thank-you note. The five minutes it takes to write a thank-you note could be the most valuable time you spend in your search.  It will cause an important person to think favorably of you once more. A successful job search includes doing all the little things right.

“The thank-you note is essential,” says Jack Porter, an engineering recruiter in Sammamish, Washington. We’re in a tough economy and when two people are judged to be equal, the little things do make a difference. That’s why I have all my clients send a thank you note.” Porter and many others favor a handwritten note sent through the postal service, but emailed notes are acceptable, especially when speed is critical. Porter goes on to encourage candidates to follow up with a phone call after it is almost certain that the employer has received the note.

Indeed, thank-you notes are perfect little devices. Since most job seekers never bother with them, making the extra effort to send one will show that your interest in the organization is genuine. It will cause an important person to think favorably of you one more time. The thank-you note is also a common courtesy and can significantly increase the number of second interviews you receive.

The note can range from three sentences to several paragraphs in length.  A note to a person who agreed to meet with you although no openings existed, might read like this:

Dear Mrs. Eckersly:

Thank you so much for seeing me today.  Our conversation confirmed what others have told me – that Dracon is an exciting company to work for.  Of course, when I first called you, I did not expect you to have any openings.  I am confident that should any positions open up in your accounting department that I could be a real asset. Through my internal auditing background I am certain I could contribute significantly to the continued growth of Dracon.

I will stay in touch to check on any developments.

Sincerely,

Daniel Sagobian

A note to a person who has interviewed you for a specific opening might read like this.

Dear Mr. Johanson:

I really enjoyed today's interview and I appreciate the fact that I was invited from among so many candidates.  I just wanted to say again that I am quite excited about the prospect of working for Sentry, and especially within your department.

Sincerely,

Rozlyn Warneski

Either of these letters could have been longer, but that is usually unnecessary.  Write a longer note if you have a definite purpose in doing so.  For instance, you may want to write a proposal describing a problem you discovered during the interview, along with your proposed solution. 

Or, if you did not have an opportunity to make an important point during an interview, a letter provides you with an excellent opportunity to cover it, even if it extends the letter's length beyond one page. 

If an objection was raised during the interview, and you didn't handle it adequately, or you simply want to approach it from another angle, you can do so in a letter.  Unlike shorter thank-you notes which may be handwritten, proposals or longer letters should be typed.

Everyone you interview with should get a thank-you note, so whenever you have multiple interviews or a panel interview, ask for their business cards or write their names down when you meet them. You can also ask the person who is coordinating the interviews to supply you with the names and titles of the people you’ll be meeting.

If you are meeting with employers who do not have current openings, the process of following up with them can last weeks or even months.  Three weeks after your first appointment, call to ask if there have been any developments.  Don't worry about bothering the person; you'll only talk for a minute.  When you get the person on the phone, introduce yourself, indicate when you met, and briefly describe what you talked about. Do not assume the person will remember you.  He or she may have met 40 people in the last three weeks and will likely need a reminder.

Odds are there are still no openings.  In closing, emphasize your interest in the company, and perhaps bring the person up to date on your efforts, particularly if you have contacted any of the people you may have been referred to.

A follow-up call might go like this:

Bob: Hi, Mr. Benson, this is Bob Phillips.  We met three weeks ago when I came in to talk about microprocessors and the directions Microdata is taking.  I just wanted to find out if there have been any new developments in your marketing department.
Benson: Bob, I remember you and I still have your resume, but there haven't been any openings.
Bob: I really appreciated your taking time to see me.  The more I hear about Microdata, the more excited I get.  I did call Mr. Jensen at Datasoft.  He was very helpful.  Thanks again.

When making your follow-up calls, you will frequently talk to an administrative assistant if the person with power to hire is out or unavailable. You will generally be asked to leave a message and your number so the call can be returned.  Instead, ask when a good time to call would be.  In that way you maintain control of the situation – thereby avoiding those embarrassing situations when someone calls back days later, and you no longer remember who they are. Just in case, you should keep a list handy of those people you have met or who may call you.

If you call three or four times unsuccessfully, and suspect the administrative assistant is brushing you off, try to get him or her on your side.  Explain that you met the person three weeks earlier and that you just need to talk to him or her for a minute to ask a couple questions.  No matter what, maintain your composure. If the admin has been brushing you off, maintaining your composure and being friendly can only help. On the second or third call, ask the assistant’s name.  You may talk to this person six or seven times, so you'll want to maintain a friendly relationship.  Seek to get to know this person through brief small talk and pleasantries.  Cause him or her to want to help you.

If your contact asks you to speak to the administrative assistant in the future, that's okay as long as the person will know of openings as they occur. One advantage to you is that the assistant will be readily available.

After your first follow-up call, call about every five weeks for the first four months.  Then you would typically call every six to eight weeks unless you get the impression that you should call less frequently.  Try to create and maintain enough interest so that if any openings occur, you'll be notified.  Even if they don't call you, you're never more than a few weeks away from discovering the opening through one of your calls.  While some jobs open and close very quickly, if you apply for a job within six weeks of its posting, most jobs will still be open.

Another method of follow-up is to send a note accompanying an article the person may find interesting. This would usually occur after you’ve made a couple follow-up calls.  When possible, select an article from a publication the person is unlikely to have seen.

The two following examples readily demonstrate the importance of follow-up.

Ron came in second for a job he would have liked. He was impressed with the organization and the person who would have been his boss. He sent a letter to that person after he learned he would not get the offer. He indicated his strong interest in the organization and told the person he would very much like working for him in the future. Six months later an excellent position opened up and Ron was one of only three who were interviewed for the position. Ron got the job and felt certain that his follow-up made the difference.

Sandra had submitted a resume for a position which seemed well suited for her newly minted engineering degree, but two weeks later she received a rejection letter. Choosing to ignore the letter, she called the hiring manager and briefly sold herself over the phone. The manager asked her to hold while he checked into the situation. He came back several minutes later saying that they would like to interview her and that she should ignore a rejection letter that had been sent by "mistake." Sandra got the job. She had probably been rejected initially by an HR clerk who did not fully understand the position. Sandra's tactful assertiveness got her the interview and the job.

Both of these people used follow-up efforts to obtain jobs which could easily have gone to another candidate. In a job search there is no substitute for follow-up. Offers come to those who are willing to do the little things right.
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