Once a job interview ends, the waiting game begins. But before candidates consider the hiring decision out of their hands, they should complete one final task: sending a follow-up message. You want to thank the interviewer for her time, while also offering a final snapshot of yourself as a potential employee. Though seemingly straightforward, candidates shouldn’t underestimate the power of a properly written follow-up note. A convincing message can reinforce a strong interview; the lack of one can cause employers to reconsider.
NerdScholar asked experts to weigh in on when and how to follow up after an interview. In order to cinch a job (or a second interview), job seekers should consider the following advice.
[Want more career advice? Check out our Job Search Guide for Gen Y.]
1. Thank your interviewer within 24 hours of the interview.
More than anything, a follow-up message should express gratitude. “You should always thank anyone who has taken time from their schedule to speak with you about the position or provide you with a service,” says Alane De Luca, executive director of the Center for Experiential Learning at Saint Anselm College in Manchester, N.H. And the sooner the better, experts agree. “If the interviewer had a lot of people to interview, they are likely to forget who exactly you are if you wait too long, says Dr. Luz Claudio, a professor at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City. For the most part, our panel discouraged sending notes through the mail. “A handwritten note is great, but if mailed may take three to four days, which contradicts the first rule of freshness,” says Rich Lewis, a marketing professor at New York University.
2. Send more than one message.
Candidates should thank each interviewer with whom they made a strong impression, says Bob Makarowski, a technology programs instructor at Baruch College in New York. “Hiring decisions are sometimes made in committees and you want to have as many allies as possible within that convocation,” he adds. But candidates shouldn’t simply copy and paste their message into different e-mails, advises Lou Lamorte, director of career and employment services at La Salle University in Philadelphia. “I recommend that the content be essentially the same, but with minor changes based on what each interviewer was focused on,” says Lamorte. Taking the time to send an e-mail to each interviewer sends a positive message, says Judy Samuels, the associate director of career development at McDaniel College in Westminster, Md. “When you reach out to everyone it shows your attention to detail and reaffirms your interest in the job opportunity.”
3. Keep it short and sweet.
The interviewer already has your resume and cover letter and her notes from the interview—there’s no need for a lengthy follow-up message. “The note should contain about three or four sentences,” says Makarowski. At its most basic level, the message should simply get across three main points: “You will want to thank the interviewer for the opportunity, reiterate your interest in the position and end with your hope to hear from them soon,” says Samuels. A long message runs the risk of repetition, or appearing too desperate. It’s best to keep it short and sweet.
4. Consider tone as much as content.
As important as what you say is how you say it, and follow-up messages are no exception to this rule. “Candidates should articulate professionalism and confidence, while not appearing boastful—a little humility can go a long way,” says De Luca. Professional doesn’t have to mean dull, however, especially after you’ve met the interviewer face-to-face. “Follow up communications should be less formal,” says Makarowski. “Realize you met the interviewer and got a feel for who they were.” Of course, this doesn’t give candidates permission to write too casually, Makarowski adds, advising that candidates not “get chatty” or “use slang.”
5. Personalize your message.
Since the follow-up message is often the last chance for candidates to make an impression, it should include personalized details. “Rather than just writing the usual, ‘It was great to meet you. I know I’ll fit in at ABC Corp.,’ you want to reference something that was said in the meeting and then take it to the next level,” says Lewis. “For example, ‘I was thinking about what you said about marketing snake repellent and I believe there’s an untapped market in National Parks.’” The follow-up message is also an opportune time to reiterate a key strength that the candidate offers. For example, Claudio suggests writing a short sentence along the lines of “As I mentioned, I am a good candidate for the research assistant position because I am proficient in data analysis.” In order to keep the message short, candidates should only choose one key asset, which can remind an interviewer of the candidate’s complete application.
6. Emphasize your enthusiasm.
In addition to a quick recap of their qualifications for the position, candidates should say why they want it, too. “At this point in the search process, expressing your genuine enthusiasm for the job is paramount,” says De Luca. This can come across through a short personal detail or the use of an exclamation point—though, De Luca adds, candidates should be careful not to come across as too “pushy and eager.” In general, authenticity and simplicity wins. Candidates should truly consider why they want a given position and then convey that notion concisely.
7. If rejected, ask for feedback.
If ultimately you’re not selected for the position, there is still opportunity for growth. Candidates should thanks employers for their consideration, and then ask for advice for future interviews. “Some employers prefer not to offer suggestions for improvement, but I have found that many are willing to share some pointers,” says De Luca. “Many [students and recent grads] are not experienced at interviewing and may be making the same errors consistently.” Upon learning their mistakes, candidates should schedule a mock interview to practice, De Luca advises, so that they can be prepared next time.
Louis Lamorte is the director of career services at La Salle University in Philadelphia. He has over 35 years experience with career services, experiential education and higher education.
Alane De Luca is the executive director of the Center for Experiential Learning at Saint Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire. She is passionate about cultivating and expanding experiential learning opportunities beyond the classroom
Richard Lewis is a professor at New York University and a marketing strategist. He has just written his latest book, Why Hire Jennifer? How to Use Branding and Uncommon Sense to Get your First Job, Last Job and Every Job in Between.
Dr. Luz Claudio is a professor at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City. She has mentored about 280 graduates of doctoral programs for over 20 years and has interviewed hundreds of applicants for fellowship and employment positions.
Bob Makarowski is a technology programs instructor at Baruch College’s School of Continuing and Professional Studies in New York City. He is a certified netware engineer and a Microsoft certified professional and has also written procedure manuals, quick reference guides and produced educational videos.
Judy Samuels is the associate director of career development for McDaniel College’s Center for Experience and Opportunity in Westminster, Maryland.
Image of student courtesy of Shutterstock.