In a competitive job market, your follow up skills can make a big difference. Part strategy and part common courtesy, good follow up skills can separate you from the crowd and position you for a job offer. Here are the steps to take:
First, follow up after applying. I know many jobseekers whose resumes probably missed the cut, but who got interviews based on their follow up phone skills. A quick call expressing your interest in the position and pointing out a key skill can have an impact. It may prompt the screener to seek out your resume in the stack and take a second look – doubling your chances at getting an interview.
Second, ask about the process for the decision while you’re in the interview. Ask about next steps and a timeline while you have the interviewer’s attention, and listen carefully to signals about how to follow up. Your instincts will tell you whether you’re getting a “don’t call us; we’ll call you” message or a sign that the company would like to continue the dialogue.
Third, write a note after the interview. A handwritten thank-you note expressing your continued interest is always nice, but an email is more immediate and will have the same effect for a busy interviewer. Mention something you learned about the company or took away from the discussion, so the message seems fresh. And be sure your email is spelled and punctuated properly – don’t let down your attention to detail at this critical point.
Fourth, call when you think the time is right. Based on information from the interview, you should know when the next step is due, whether it’s a second interview or the decision to hire. If you are the candidate of choice, the company will definitely be calling you, but don’t presume silence means you’ve lost the chance. Sometimes, the process gets stalled; a key manager may be unavailable for an interview, or changes in the department may delay the decision. The least intrusive follow up is a brief after-hours message for the interviewer (call in the early morning or before 8:30 p.m.; a 2:00 a.m. call sounds desperate.) Simply express your continued interest in the job, and state that although you are exploring other opportunities, you still look forward to hearing from the company. If you’re a hot ticket and in the running, you’ll get an update call. Continued silence probably means the company has moved on, and you should, too.
Fifth, when you learn that the company has selected someone else, you can really position yourself as a class act with another note. Thank the interviewer for her time, and let her know that if anything else comes up in the future, you’d like to hear about it. You never know how close you came to getting the job, and a gracious thank you note may make you the top candidate for the next opening, or if the company’s first choice doesn’t work out.