Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Art of Post-Interview Follow Up

Walking out of the interview inspires the most cooling relief. Sure, we’ll start to analyze and nitpick, weigh our best answers against the hour’s few imperfections. But it’s over. Now for some celebratory food at the café next door.

And yet, the reliving-the-interview stage isn’t all a waiting-game. There are plenty of steps we can take to start deciphering the firm’s hiring agenda and, in the process, keep our names fresh, memorable and in-the-hiring-loop.

1. Send a Thank You Email!

While thank-yous were likely exchanged post-interview , it’s important to formalize your appreciation in a tangible email after the fact (within a span of 24 hours). Remember to send a well-crafted email to every employer you conversed with. It’s polite, conscientious, and--an interviewee perk—often stores your name in more than one employee mailbox. But rather than copy and paste, try to differentiate your emails according to each individual conversation. This shows you were tuned into the current of each encounter, personalizes your exchange, and of course avoids the humiliation of the revealed “mirror email.”

2. Follow up with an Email or Phone Call

Along with clarification of the hiring timeline, the interview follow-up is a way to reinforce your eagerness and curiosity. Use this brief contact, whether through email or via phone, not to gurgle out standard clichés, but to relate specific tidbits that attest to your fortified excitement (not just, well, uh, everyone needs a job…?). Reference an enlightening fact about the field, a conversation fragment from your interview---specific evidence why your one-hour introduction to the firm only heightened your interest.

Depending on your contact’s receptivity, the follow-up might also be a good opportunity to add any information you “missed” in the actual interview. Important: this isn’t ‘market yourself part two,’ an assertive “reminder” of what you related last week. That’s what your resume is for. Instead, phrase your additions as relevant and pertinent to them, particularly in light of information you gained about the firm’s values and ideals during your interview. If you briefly chatted about the blogging phenomenon, for instance, you might pass along any additional blogging stories inadvertently buried in the question-exchange.

3. Subsequent Follow Up

Contact after your initial follow-up is certainly case-dependent, relying on your past interactions and what you gauged from the first exchange. If you know the hiring deadline, for instance, it might be a bit pushy to contact your busy-at-work hirers with additional questions and assertions. Follow-up in this case is most successful if you are still in the dark a week or so after the proposed deadline, as opposed to any time before.

Say you aren’t as clued in to the hiring agenda, though, and you felt a warm, quasi-inviting vibe from your employer. You can plan for subsequent follow-up by alluding to the possibility in your first exchange. Asking something like “Would you mind if I contact you with any additional questions?” is a good way to leave the door open for future contact by getting permission from the employer in advance. If you do take advantage of an employer’s willingness to chat again, have a specific set of questions and/or conversation headers to assure the follow-up is productive and worthy of the employer’s time, as well as yours.

And then of course there’s the chance you can’t get in contact---the all-too-common unanswered emails and voicemails. It can be a tenuous line, but there are subtle ways to convey persistency and interest without coming across as too abrasive. One approach is to switch-up how you’ve been attempting contact. If an email goes unanswered, wait 5-7 days and follow-up with a friendly phone call, and vice versa. If you encountered an answering machine upon your first initiation attempts, why not see if email elicits better luck? Every firm is different, and the one way to see what mode of communication works best is to dabble in a few of them. And trust me, this totally beats 15 or so missed calls flashing up with your number.

Oh the job process. Just when it feels over, there’s always more to be navigated and done, especially during that scary in-between. Reinforcing your interest with sustained contact, when done well, can be the very thing that distinguishes your application and results in a more careful look. Of course, walking across that needle-thin tightrope of a fine line is tough. Every field, firm, and individual employer is a specific entity all its own, making it impossible to pin down a uniform method for tackling the post-interview battleground. Instead, regard this information as a guideline, a smattering of useful hints and strategies to parse through when you feel the timing is right.

As always, contact Career Services to talk with someone about the particulars of your follow-up strategy.