How to follow up after an interview – without looking desperate

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April 11, 2021

How long should you wait and what should you say? Follow up professionally after an interview with these 3 easy steps - templates included!

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So the interview has gone well. In truth, secretly, you actually think you might have nailed it. 

Sure there were a couple of occasions where you had to work hard to remember your prep you did on interview questions but over all you are confident.

But then the nervous wait begins. And it goes on, and on and on.

Now you are doubting yourself, wondering where you went wrong, and wondering whether you should follow up after your interview or just accept you haven’t got the job.

After all , their silence is the answer right? Wrong!

Yes , of course it might be the answer because we don’t get offers from every interview we attend.

But there are so many things you can do – which your competition may be doing right now – that can make the difference between losing out or getting the job you deserve.

But do I really need to follow up after an interview?

Before we get into how to follow up, it’s probably a good idea to cover why you should follow up.

You may be thinking modern recruitment processes should be professional and robust enough to handle what happens post interview and that, if you are the right person for the job, you will automatically get the job.

Here’s the harsh truth – please don’t shoot the messenger!

This is absolutely true if you are in the right place, at the right time, and with the right skills.

For example, I am currently helping a tier 2 civil contractor in Australia with their recruitment strategy for the next 6 months. There are certain engineers that are in high demand, namely Site Engineers, Project Engineers, and Project Managers.

When we find a good one, we are doing all the chasing. We want them on board right now, no follow up from them required.

However, most times when you apply for a role you have huge competition and therefore you need to adopt a more proactive approach.

You can of course choose to do nothing after your interview and just wait to see what happens but, if you make the effort to follow up after your interview, you will greatly increase your chances of progressing to the next stage or being offered the job you deserve.

Three steps for the perfect follow up after an interview

It may seem like following up is just random and based on luck and yes, of course that plays a part, but there is a proven system to follow to ensure you are doing all you can post interview to get the job you really want.

Let’s go through these 3 steps now plus some exceptions to this rule.

Step one: Thank you email

Without exception, as a minimum you should always send a thank you email as a follow up after an interview.

Here are three compelling reasons why.

 1.  Communication skills

Most interviews will involve questions probing your communication skills. I am sure you have said they are excellent. Well now is the time to prove that by being professional and appreciative of the time they spent with you by sending a thank you email.

2.  Likeability

Recruiters and hiring managers are busy. Super busy if they are recruiting multiple roles simultaneously. Even though saying thank you is a common decency, it is not very common to actually receive a thank you from a candidate after an interview. Put yourself above your competition by showing you are a true professional with integrity. Remember, people recruit people they like and believe in.

3.  Turning up for interview isn’t convincing enough

Recruiters are always worried about forwarding the right candidates. If they get it wrong, they may not be asked to recruit for that company again. Hiring  managers are also nervous about making the right hire. If they get it wrong and choose someone who isn’t truly invested in their company and moves on in six months, it will cost them a lot of money and they will need to re-recruit again from scratch. A thank you email reassures them that you really want their job and you are taking this opportunity seriously.

You need to send a thank you follow up email after an interview direct to the interviewer and copy in the recruiter.

Then also send one direct to the recruiter thanking them and saying how you felt it went.

The key to a great thank you email is to make it short enough so that they can easily read it in just a couple of minutes but also long enough to ensure you have reassured them that you are a great fit for their role.

How to write a great thank you email after an interview

You may be wondering what subject line to use for your thank you email? That is a valid concern if the recruiter or hiring manager is very busy and their inbox is full.

The best way to write a subject line for a follow-up email is to simply reply to the latest email thread (that was used to schedule the interview) and leave the previous subject line.

For example, let’s say that this was the previous email subject line:

“Interview on Monday 12th at 9am”

 You should hit “reply” and then the subject line will look like this:

“Re: Interview on Monday 12th at 9am”

Continuing with the existing email thread and leaving the subject line as-is will boost your email’s chances of getting opened faster.

The recipient will open your follow-up email because it’s clear what the email is about (and it’s clear that you’re not a stranger or someone cold-emailing them).

If your interview was not confirmed by email, you can use this:

“Interview follow up [role] [date]”

Here’s a format you can copy for the body of your email.

Hi [interviewer's name]


Thank you so much for taking the time to meet with me today. I really appreciated the chance to learn more about you and the company.


Based on the key points we discussed today, I feel I would be a great match for this job because [ give specific reasons but be careful – just the top 2 or 3 – don’t bore them or rehash the entire interview and don’t make it more than a couple of sentences or they won’t read it at all]


This is an exciting opportunity for me at this point in my career and I look forward to hearing any updates as they’re available.


Please don’t hesitate to reach out to me should you have any queries or require clarification on any points we covered in our meeting today.


I look forward to talking with you again soon.


[your sign off]

Step two: Follow up email 1

Assuming you have sent this first vital email within 24 hours of your interview the big question is, how long should you wait before you follow up again so that you don’t look desperate?

The answer is that it should be based on what you learnt from the interview itself.

At the end of each interview you should always say something like this.

“Thanks for your time today.

After finding out more about the opportunity, I really feel we are a great fit, and I want you to know that I am very interested in this position.

I would love to know what the next step would be.

Who is going to contact me and by when?”

You need to ask this so that you know when to follow up.

If they say “I don’t know” just say  “what would normally be the next step when you have interviewed people in the past?

“Will it be someone from [company name] or the recruiter?”

Next, “when do you think you will have a decision?’

This is absolutely vital and let me tell you why.

Every day you are waiting for ‘that call’ will feel like a month to you because you are anxious to hear back.

But every day the recruiter or hiring manager doesn’t make ‘that call’ will feel like 5 minutes to them because they are juggling lots of jobs and deadlines.

It’s all about perspective and how busy they are.

If you follow up too soon you run the risk of them being frustrated and feeling that you are pestering them.

By finding out the likely progression and time line for a role you can navigate around this problem.

For example if they tell you that the General Manager doesn’t return for 2 weeks and they will need to be involved with selecting a short list, then you know you need to wait.

In a case such as this you should send your thank you email to reassure them of your interest and add that you look forward to hearing from them in two weeks as discussed.

This also shows you were listening and gives them the feeling that you are ‘part of their team’ rather than an outsider. This is subtle but it is very effective.

Generally speaking though, if they say next day, give them a grace period of three before following up.

If they say one week, give them two.

If they say two weeks, give them three.

The period of grace you give them should be in synch with the amount of time they tell you.

If however, you couldn’t get anything out of them, leave it a week.

Here is a template you can use for that first follow up email after an interview.

Hi [interviewer's name],


I hope you’re having a great week. I just wanted to follow up about the [job title] role.


I really enjoyed meeting you [and the team/other person's name] [last week or whenever it was], and I’m still very interested in the opportunity.


I appreciate how busy you are but I was wondering if you are able to give me some idea of when I will get some feedback on the progress of my application?


If there’s any further information I can provide during your hiring timeline, just let me know.


Many thanks,


[Your sign off]

If they come back to you and  say “I’m not sure because we still have others to interview” just send the following:

Hello [interviewer's name]


Thank you for the update. I really appreciate it.


Given the interviews you have scheduled, when would be an appropriate time for me to check back in?


I’m excited about the opportunity and want to stay in touch, but I know these things take time so I don’t want to follow up too often.


Any information that you can share about the process would be great.


Thank you,


[your sign off]

Step three: Follow up email 2

Your second follow up email should again be in synch with what you know about the time line for a position.

If you are applying for a lot of roles, it would be a great idea to use a job tracking system of some kind. That way you can add notes regarding when to send follow ups.

You might think you don't need one because you will remember but trust me on this. 

Once you have multiple applications out there with lots of different companies and situations, you can easily forget.

Fortunately setting one up is a lot easier than you might think. Here's a guide that shows you how to do this.

Job application tracker

Why every job seeker needs one plus how to set it up.

Here is a template  you can use if you got a specific date from them:

Hi [Interviewer’s Name],


I thought I’d check in as you mentioned that you would likely be making the final recruitment decision for the [the name of your position] by [the established deadline].


I am still very keen on this opportunity so if you could give me an update I would really appreciate it.


If there are any additional details I could provide you with to facilitate the hiring process I would be more than happy to do this for you.


Many thanks


[your sign off]

And here is one if you didn’t get any dates from them:

Hi [Interviewer’s name]


I just wanted to follow up again, make sure you saw my last email, and ask whether you have any status updates regarding the [JOB TITLE] position that I interviewed for on [DATE].


I’m looking forward to hearing back about potential next steps when you have a chance.


Thank you so much


[your sign off]

Exceptions to the three step rule

As with all rules, there are exceptions so here are few variances from the 3 step rule that you may come across.

How to follow up after a second or third interview

The biggest difference between a first and second or third interview regarding follow-up emails is detail. The deeper your run in the recruitment process, the more specific you should be in your messages.

You’ve probably discussed particular plans and challenges or the details of the position.

After a second interview or third interview, your follow-up letter should make reference to these and could also provide information on how you would tackle them where appropriate.

This is a great opportunity to act like a team member rather than an outsider by proving you understand their core deliverables and challenges and, ultimately, that you would be part of the solution if they hired you.

Another difference at this stage is that you may have interviewed with several people. If that is the case, ensure you send separate, personalised emails to each of them.

Here’s a template you can adapt to fit your circumstances.

Hello [Interviewer’s Name],

 

Thank you for the opportunity to come and chat for the [second/third] time. Now I am even more certain that working with [the team name] would be exactly what I would like for my next career move.


I started to think about the [project] that we discussed—I have some ideas on how we could make it successful. I describe them briefly in the attached presentation.


Let me know what you think. I’d be happy to explain the details and hope to get the chance to discuss them with you later.


Thank you again for your time.


Looking forward to hearing from you.


[your sign off]

How to follow up after a phone interview

Should the follow up after a phone interview be different?

Possibly because oftentimes phone interviews are used to screen applicants to short list them for an actual interview.

In fact you should always assume that any conversation with a recruiter or a hiring manager is just that – an interview.

For general advice on how to handle interviews by phone, here's a handy guide.

Phone interview tips:

What to do before, during, and after.

Although a phone interview or ‘casual chat’ is different, the same process rules apply.

Ask the interviewer about the process going forward to ensure that you know when to follow up then edit your thank you email and your two follow up emails accordingly.

How to follow up if you get another offer

As time passes you may find yourself in the tricky position of being offered another role.

If you truly would still prefer this first role to your new job offer, here is a template to handle this situation:

Hello [Interviewer’s Name],


I have a bit of a dilemma.


I have been offered a position with [company name/or say one of your competitors/or just say another company ]. My deadline for accepting or rejecting is the [date].


Whilst this is a good offer, I’d be happy to turn it down if you decided to choose me as your new [the name of the position].


Can you please let me know if you’re likely to reach a hiring decision before this deadline passes?


If you need any additional information from me, please let me know.


Many thanks for your help with this.


[your sign off]

 

What if your follow up after your interview gets no response?

It is very tempting to shoot off an email from the heart not the head when you get no response but avoid doing this – even if you really want to.

There may be many things going on within a company that you are not aware of so don’t burn your bridges by sending a ‘speaking your mind’ email that you may well regret later.

Reasons you may not had a response

The obvious one is that you haven’t got the job and they couldn’t be bothered to tell you but there could be so many others things at play.

  • The recruiter/hirer is waiting for an internal event to happen first that they have no control over – eg a project being awarded, someone retiring/being promoted/being fired.
  • You may be a great fit for a new role but they need to get approval for it first so they can’t talk to you about it yet.
  • Perhaps they have offered it to someone else but you were a close second so they want to see if they accept first.
  • Maybe a staff member is off sick and the process has slowed down.
  • Or perhaps they are firefighting an issue or bottleneck that is more important to resolve right now and will come back to recruiting at a later date.

Whatever the reason, if you don’t get a response after the three step process, just move on.

Don’t waste your time continually emailing but instead be proactive with your job search.

Further, don’t judge a company by their lack of response to any particular job you apply for.

If you see another great job with them, still apply.

Just because a recruiter or hiring manager may have been neglectful with their feedback it doesn’t mean the whole organisation is the same.

It could still be the right company to work for and have your dream job in the future.

Amanda Datchens

Follow me here

About the Author

A career coach, headhunter, and entrepreneur, Amanda has founded and been involved in developing multiple companies known for innovative HR and recruitment solutions. Originally from London but now in Queensland, Australia, she is the co-founder of Real Life Career Advice and the Hi Vis Hub.

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