Landing an interview is half the battle in a job hunt, but then making a lasting impression after your interview is vital to closing the deal. We spoke with two professionals trained in the art of interviewing about effective strategies for follow-up and how staying top of mind with career professionals is incredibly important. We’ve turned to Rita Izaguirre, HR director at Jackson Spalding, a marketing communications firm based in Atlanta, and Stacy Johnson, a Chicago-based recruiter with Nemar Solutions to help us decipher the right ways to stay in touch as part of the job search equation.
1. Now or Later
When it comes to hitting send on a follow-up email or adding a stamp on a thank you note envelope, timing is everything. Izaguirre says candidates who send an electronic follow-up should do so within 24 hours, and a handwritten note should arrive to the recipient within seven days. In Johnson’s opinion, it’s best to follow up within a half-hour or hour of speaking to someone, as the interview is still fresh in mind. The bottom line: Don’t wait. Follow up as soon as possible to avoid potential procrastinating or getting lost in the shuffle.
2. Snail Mail or Email
Every career counselor touts the importance of the sacred handwritten note. They say it’s the mark of personalization or thoughtfulness, but that’s not necessarily true. In Johnson’s experience, handwritten notes aren’t fast enough, as her clients typically move quicker than the U.S. Postal Service. By the time the interviewer receives the note, they might have already made a decision. But that’s not to say there isn’t a place for your monogrammed stationery. Izaguirre says the management at Jackson Spalding prefers handwritten notes (that Southern hospitality and all) but just know that each situation is different. If it seems like the process will be a lengthy one and there’s time for a note, send one in addition to an immediate electronic follow-up. Suffice it to say that in both forms, it’s the content that matters.
3. Be Thoughtful and Personalize
Hiring managers and recruiters know a generic, impersonal note when they read one. Not to mention if candidates interview with multiple people, they compare notes. When composing a follow-up message, Izaguirre says, “Take the time to notice something about the agency and tell me why you want to be here, not why you’re perfect for us.” Being honest and pulling something directly from the conversation shows interest in the position more effectively than solely thanking the interviewer for their time. Johnson suggests going beyond the canned follow-up and get creative with your thoughts. But remember, in addition to just saying, “I really thought about what you told me regarding x, y and z, and I’m really excited about that opportunity,” candidates should take a more personal approach. Johnson has seen interviewees reference a conversation about restaurants or travel in a follow-up, asking about the interviewer’s recent trip to San Francisco or recommending a restaurant they thought the interviewer might like. Johnson says, “Taking something personal is an attention to detail that shows they really listened and were interested. It’s very unique and I don’t see that a lot.”
4. Proofread. Proofread. Proofread.
It should go without saying, but the prevalence of misspellings and improper grammar in follow-up notes warrants a second look. And a third. Nothing turns off a hiring manager more than misspelled words, or worse — a misspelled name. Believe it or not, it’s the most common mistake encountered with potential candidates. Izaguirre believes spelling and grammar errors flag larger problems in the candidate’s skills, as most jobs require strict attention to detail. She says, “We’re particular about misspelled words and things like that because a lot of what we do for clients is detail-oriented. You don’t want to send a press release and find out it had 27 errors. That’s unconscionable.”
5. Continue the Conversation
Remember, your job hunt isn’t over if the dream job slips away; a persistent pursuit garners the best result. Both Izaguirre and Johnson said they keep a separate file of candidates who impressed them, (even with their follow-up) in case another opportunity arises. Those are the first people they call when a match presents itself. Izaguirre checks in with the people on her short list every once in a while to see how they’re growing in their current job. She also appreciates those who reach out to her. Doing so shows they are still interested in working for the company and are working on the skills or experience they didn’t have at interview time. Johnson sees candidates all too often that do the opposite. She says, “I’m always amazed that people will easily burn bridges if they don’t get the job. There are so many things that go on internally, and it’s not a personal reflection on them if they don’t get the position, but some people get very upset and they feel rejected. The whole process of being appreciative and asking to stay in touch is just huge.”
Tell us, do you have your own strategies for the follow-up after an interview? Comment below with your success story.