When to Follow Up After the Interview

A job interview includes more than just the time you meet with the potential employer. It includes how you conduct yourself throughout the entire interview process. The employer must learn about you and how you work through limited interactions during this process. As I discussed in my Interview Strategy posts, you can often impress during this time based on what questions you ask rather than how you answer. But often things such as arriving on time, being flexible about interview scheduling, or following up after the interview can give good insight to the hiring manager about what kind of character and initiative you have.

There is a balance between taking initiative and staying on top of things and appearing desperate or demanding. The key is to present yourself as professional and polished. You want them to know you’re not desperate, but are not afraid to follow up and ask where you are in the process if you need to. The mistake most candidates make, is that they underestimate the amount of time it sometimes takes for companies to get all the candidates through the interview process. You might be at the top of the list, but due to a reporting deadline or the president of the company being on vacation, the hiring process might not move forward on your time frame.

So what should you do when you feel great after the interview but never hear back?

Send a thank you email after each interaction. As I covered in Interview Strategy, one of your homework items is to always send a Thank You email to the hiring manager to thank them for their time and communicate your interest in the opportunity. This will open the line of communication and remind them your still interested. If nothing else it will remind them that you are still expecting to hear back from them in case you may have been lost in the shuffle. When should you do this? I’m not sure it matters too much but it’s best either the day of (showing you are prompt) or the next day (prompt but not too needy). It’s kind of like the whole 3-day rule when calling after the first date – it’s a game and we all hate it, but playing it well usually works. In this case I’d say you have a 1-day rule – 3 days is too long.

Ask the recruiter for feedback. This is where those of you going through an independent recruiter (not a recruiter in the HR department) have a real advantage. Usually when the hiring manager is using an independent recruiting firm he or she will follow up with the recruiter immediately after seeing you in the interview. Usually the recruiter will also get your feedback and relay it back to the hiring manager. Because recruiter’s paychecks depend on you (or another one of their candidates) getting hired, they will stay on top of things and ask the hiring manager good questions like, how many other candidates are in the mix and when he or she thinks the next round of interviews will be. Recruiters can ask direct questions like that and it doesn’t appear desperate or demanding, just part of logistics and business. Many times they relay just enough of this information back to you to keep you interested. So if you are curious, ask the recruiter for more info.

Wait at least 2 to 3 weeks then reach out. This is another area where having a recruiter will help you. A recruiter won’t let the job search go on that long without hearing back. They will hound the hiring manager sometimes asking where things are in the process. This is kind of expected as recruiters’ paychecks depending on placing candidates. But if you haven’t heard back on anything in at least 2 or 3 weeks then I think it’s reasonable to follow up with the hiring manager and ask if he or she is still interested. You might even frame it like you’re starting to pursue other opportunities and you just wanted to reach out to them and see if they were still interested before you move on. However you communicate it, don’t relay frustration or negativity. Understand that sometimes things take time in the corporate world and something might have happened to throw a wrench in the process. Also realize that if you are second pick (which sucks but might be true) then they are likely waiting to reject you until after they have secured their first pick with a signed offer letter and drug test. Remember though, being second pick when something falls through with their first is still OK if it results in you getting the offer. Don’t be offended you’re not first pick. If you want, just blame it on the inefficiency of the interview process, because if they really knew you clearly you would be first!

Mark it off your list. If you get no response after your email and it’s been 3+ weeks since the interview there is a problem. Either the company is horrible at communication and follow up, they are completely unorganized, they have found someone they like better, or they aren’t sure if they can still hire for the position. Either way there should be red flags going off everywhere in your head that say you should just write this one off as good interview experience and move on. I would go as far to say that if for some reason you do get renewed interest from them after 3 weeks of no communication, you might not want the job anyway. Maybe if they can resolve your concerns and make you feel comfortable that the circumstances were reasonable that they couldn’t get back to you, it’s salvageable. Again, not too sure it’s worth it at this point for you to mess with, but it doesn’t hurt to ask them what happened.