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Twelve. The Interview Follow-Up

Sending the interviewer a follow-up letter ensures that you remain in the forefront of his or her mind. It also positions your candidacy ahead of the others, who haven't sent such a letter. Though sending a thank-you letter is a simple task, the majority of job seekers fall into the "no follow-up trap," for the following two reasons:

1. Fear of rejection. Worried that the answer is no, jobseekers often would rather wait it out than send a letter that will yield a negative response quicker. Most want to hold on to the hope, to the possibility of a yes. However, the sooner you know the interviewer's intentions, whether negative or positive, the better off you are, since knowing will allow you to focus your efforts on other opportunities, if need be.

2. Do not want to appear pushy. Most job seekers mistakenly believe that, if the interviewer is interested, he or she will call. Furthermore, a common misunderstanding is thinking that sending a letter smacks of desperation. On the contrary, the opposite is true. Following up on the interview demonstrates your unwavering enthusiasm for the position. This sentiment leads the interviewer to take your candidacy more seriously than someone else's.

A survey, "How to Get in the Front Door," was sent to more than 650 hiring managers. The results were as follows:

Nearly 15 percent of hiring managers reject a job candidate who neglects to send a thank-you letter after the interview.

32 percent said that they would still consider the thankless prospect, but that their opinion of him or her was diminished.

With statistics such as those, it is in your best interests to follow up and put aside any qualms you may have for doing so. The CareerBuilder's survey also indicated that, although most hiring managers expect to receive a thank-you note, the format preferences differ. One in four hiring managers prefer to receive a thank-you note via e-mail only; 19 percent want the e-mail followed up with a hard copy; 21 percent want a typed hard copy only; and 23 percent prefer just a handwritten note.

Following-Up Pointers

The purpose of the interview is not to ask about the job. It is to express your interest in the position. With this in mind, consider the following additional pointers about handling the follow-up:

Do not assume the worst. Depending on the number of candidates interviewed, the hiring decision can take longer than you would like. However, it is best to never assume the worst. Unless you have inside information, you will never know what is going on behind the scenes. Playing a guessing game will cause unnecessary distress.

Keep your industry in mind when choosing to either call or send an e-mail. As an example, a salesperson's assertiveness may be acceptable, whereas for an accountant, whose profession is more laid back, assertiveness may not be welcome.

When interviewers do not get back to you, let go. From your point of view, the interviewer should take the time to either offer you the job or let you know that another candidate was chosen. Unfortunately, interviewers dislike informing candidates of negative outcomes, for two reasons: First, when they do reach out, many candidates begin to ask questions, requesting another opportunity; some even become hostile. A phone call that should take less than a minute becomes a fifteen-minute conversation. And, second, even when the phone calls are short, multiply that by hundreds of applicants and you can see that these calls take a huge chunk out of an interviewer's day. Though it is nice to receive acknowledgment, it is easier for interviewers not to return phone calls or e-mails.

Give your thank-you letter a twist by providing additional information. Along with your letter, include an informational piece, such as an article or a Web site address that is relevant to the interview. Depending on your line of work, you can submit writing samples or graphics based on your conversation. Sending such pertinent information gives you another chance to interact with the interviewer and keep your name in the forefront. However, this step can come off as insincere, so use it only when you are truly earnest about the job.

Know when to let go. When an interviewer has decided to hire someone else, you will not change his mind, no matter how many times you call.

Stick to traditional follow-up methods. Online social networks such as Facebook or MySpace are not follow-up avenues you should use. Those methods are too informal. E-mail, a letter sent through regular mail, or a phone call are better.

Ask for a second interview. With every interview the interviewer conducts, the criteria for the position change. You may have had a great interview and raised the stakes. If you were one of the first interviewed, yours may not measure up because later candidates each brought something new to the situation. Asking for a second interview will put you back on the same playing field.

Competency-Based Follow-Up Letters

There isn't a standard follow-up letter to use as a guide. So, to determine how best to focus the letter, take the time to complete the following postinterview assessment. The results can serve as a roadmap for your approach.

The first step in the assessment is to collect your thoughts right after the interview. Write down your initial impressions while your memory is fresh. If you feel the need, share your perspective with a friend—an objective opinion may shed light on aspects you overlooked. Writing down or sharing the circumstances of the interview has a way of unclogging your thoughts.

Points to consider when evaluating an interview include the following:

1. Name the reasons you remain interested in the position.

2. List three questions you believed you answered well.

3. Identify five core competencies that the interviewer focused on the most.

4. Give three reasons the interviewer may be reluctant to hire you.

5. List the questions you would have answered differently if given another opportunity.

6. Did you deliver the key points you wanted to get across?

Once the assessment is completed, begin working on the competency-based follow-up letter. For each of the following types of letters, there is a sample that can serve as a guide when writing your own correspondence.

Core Competency Focus. Determine the top three core competencies that were stressed during the interview and write a thank-you letter that touches on each (Figure 12-1).

"Story Telling" Follow-Up Letter. Present the interviewer with a story regarding your experience (Figure 12-2).

SOAR Cover Letter. Compose a letter using the SOAR concept (described in Chapter 2). Choose three recent challenges and outline each (Figure 12-3).

Listing of Core Competencies. Simply list your proficiencies and/or personal attributes (Figures 12-4 and 12-5).

Job Description Focus. Before leaving the interview, request a copy of the job description; most interviewers are happy to oblige. Read through the job description and choose three points to expand upon in the follow-up letter (Figure 12-6 gives a sample job description, Figure 12-7 is a letter example).

Regardless of which option you choose, be sure to convey your enthusiasm for the position and for working for the hiring organization.

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