7 Days to Mastering the Art of the Interview

Module 7:   How to Follow-up After the Interview - Effective Follow-up tactics

Following-up After the Interview

Never walk away from an interview telling yourself that the whole job thing is now out of your hands. That's how unsuccessful job hunters think.

What takes place after the first interview — when the ranking of candidates takes place — decides who has the inside track on winning the job.

Your follow-up may be the tiebreaker with the job going to you over other promising candidates. And even if the employer already planned to offer you the job, your follow-up creates goodwill that can silken your success when you join the company.

Follow up vigorously. It's your caring that counts.

Your basic tools are
• E-mail
• Letters
• Telephone calls
• References
• E-mail follow-up

What's the merit of e-mail versus telephone follow-up to job interviews? One human resource professional was strongly in favor of e-mail: "It saves time, I don't have to call back, I don't have to look up his files, and so forth. Ten years ago we didn't have e-mail technology, and follow-up calls were necessary. No longer."
Not everyone agrees that telephone calls are dead, however. At times, the telephone follow-up is much stronger, especially with employers whom you suspect are traditionalists (they like phones, and they like paper).

But e-mail does have its charms:

• Use e-mail when you're over age 40 to underscore a contemporary image.

• Use e-mail when you hope to start or continue a dialogue with an interviewer. E-mail is more conversational and easier for a quick reply (but, on the other hand, it's also easier to say no in an e-mail message than on the telephone).

• Use e-mail when quick action matters. The job could be filled while you're waiting for postal mail to be delivered.

• Use e-mail if that's the way you sent your resume and especially if the employer requested electronic communication in a job ad.

• Use e-mail when you are dealing with a high-tech firm; the firm's hiring authority probably doesn't remember what paper is and may think voicemail is a bother.

Construct e-mail messages differently than you do letters. Keep your e-mail follow-up short and send it in plain text (ASCII), not as an attachment. Limit the message's width to three quarters of the screen. Use appropriate business language. Don't forget your contact information, even though the interviewer can push the reply button and get back to you with ease. One more point: Remember to complete your subject line with sales pizzazz: "Thank you for reviewing my qualifications: Sales, 6 yrs, autos."

Write a thank-you letter for the interview within 24 hours to strengthen the good impression you made in the interview. You need not stop with one letter — if the employer has left you dangling in the wind waiting for a hiring decision, try to think of new facts to add in a second or third follow-up letter (fax, postal mail, or e-mail). After the third letter, try to include a relevant news clipping or even an appropriate cartoon. The interviewer knows what's going on, but at least you're keeping your name before the decision-maker.

Telephone calls
In the call-back-once-a-week era before the mid-1990s, search experts correctly told job seekers to keep calling interviewers as long as the interviewer didn't threaten them with a kneecap job if they didn't stop. Today, business has put on running shoes because the ranks of managers are sparse. Managerial survivors are far too busy for a constant, interruptive series of telephone calls.

If you call interviewers too often now, you waste their prime work hours, annoy them, and probably jeopardize your opportunity for the job. Space your follow-up calls — once a month is probably plenty. Fill in the slack with e-mail or letters.

Once upon a time, all that job callers had to worry about was getting past gatekeeper assistants. Now, voicemail has joined human gatekeepers in throwing roadblocks in front of job seekers who try to set up interviews or follow-up interviews.

The big voicemail question for job seekers is — Should I leave a message on voicemail? Opinions vary, but, as a practical matter, you may have to leave a message if you don't connect after the first few calls. You won't get all your calls returned, but your chances improve when you say something interesting in a 30-second sound bite: "This is (name). I'm calling about the (job title or department) opening. After reflecting on some of the issues you mentioned during our meeting, I thought of a facet of one problem you might like to know (create intrigue). My number is _____.

Opening the conversation
Here is a sprinkling of conversation starters:
• Is this a good time to talk?
• I think you'll be interested to know _____.
• I understand you're still reviewing many applications.
• I forgot to go into the key details of (something mentioned during the interview) that might be important to you.
• While listening to you, I neglected to mention my experience in (function). It was too important for me to leave out, since the position calls for substantial background in that area.
• I was impressed with your _____.
• I appreciate your emphasis on _____.

Keeping the conversational ball rolling
Try these approaches to maintain the conversation:

• Remind the interviewer why you're so special, what makes you unique (exceptional work in a specific situation, innovating): "Let me review what I'm offering you that's special."

• Establish a common denominator — a work or business philosophy: "It seems like we both approach work in the (name of) industry from the same angle."

• Note a shared interest that benefits the employer: "I found a new Web site that may interest you — it's XYZ. It reports on the news items we discussed . . . Would you like the URL?"

References can make all the difference. Spend adequate time choosing and preparing the people who give you glowing testimonials. What they say about you can be more convincing than what you say about yourself. Call your references and fill them in on your interview.

I want to hear your comments on how you follow-up after a job interview