Knowing how and when to follow up with an employer after an interview can be a tricky business. Should you send an email or a handwritten thank-you note? Do you chase them up if you haven’t heard back after a week? Contact them the wrong way and you can seem rude. Don’t get in touch and you could miss out on a great opportunity. Get it right every time with our guide to interview follow-up etiquette.
Always ask about timelines
In order to follow up the right way, you need to know what the next steps are.
“A good employer will inform you about the recruitment process. For example: ‘We are seeing three more candidates and will let you know by next Monday who we will invite for second interviews.’ This reply gives you a timeframe to work with,” says career coach Ruth Winden of Careers Enhanced.
Don’t leave the interview without knowing how you are expected to communicate. If the interviewer doesn’t volunteer the information, ask for it. “If you are genuinely interested in the job, say so,” adds Winden. “Then, ask about time frames and next steps. You need to know where you stand, so these are all legitimate questions.”
Remember to say thank you
After the interview, it’s good manners to thank the hiring manager for seeing you. But should you send an email, a handwritten note, or make a phone call? James Field, senior trainer at Debrett’s, which runs courses on office etiquette, is firmly in favour of email.
“Thank them for their time and express how interested you are in the role. If you discussed a specific project during the interview, and the hiring manger was keen to know more, it’s acceptable to attach a presentation. Just keep it short,” warns Field.
Picking up the phone is a bad idea. “This can create awkwardness, and in most cases it is likely that you will not be able to reach the person who interviewed you via phone,” says Field.
Send a handwritten note
If you want to stand out from the crowd, Winden advises sending a handwritten note.
“A note on quality paper, or even a personalised card, differentiates you from other candidates,” says Winden. “An email can get overlooked, whereas a handwritten envelope on someone’s desk will get attention. I recommend this approach to all my clients, whatever their industry. It might feel odd or even slightly cheesy, but it works and people do remember. Who remembers an email?”
If you do decide to send a handwritten note, post it straight after the interview. Alternatively, take the card with you and write it before you leave, then ask the receptionist to forward it on.
When to ask if you got the job
Under normal circumstances, you should wait at least two weeks after the interview before following up, according to Field.
If you enquire about time frames during the interview, you will have a better idea of when you should expect to hear back.
Winden suggests waiting a day or two after the deadline has passed before reaching out: “Hiring is just one thing on a busy manager’s long to-do list. Delays are common, often for reasons job seekers are unaware of. It’s easy to get frustrated and feel affronted. Be polite, don’t assume anything and find out at what stage your application is. In the meantime, don’t stop applying for other jobs.”
Again, it’s best to follow up via email rather than phoning, which can be seen as intrusive.
What you shouldn’t do
While there will always be stories of candidates who broke the rules and impressed an employer with their audacity, dropping into the company’s premises is a particularly high risk approach.
“There is a fine line between showing eagerness and coming across as over-enthusiastic. Unless you have a good reason for being in the building, it is best not to show up uninvited,” warns Field.
Another no-no is contacting the employer direct if you have gone through a recruitment agency.
“If you are dealing with a recruiter as an intermediary, it is the recruiter’s role to liaise with you and keep you informed. Approaching an employer directly to speed things up will make you unpopular – with the employer and the recruiter,” says Winden.
Follow the rules and behave with professionalism and you will be remembered for the right reasons – and more likely to get the call back you’ve been waiting for.