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Best Practices for Applicant and Interview Follow-Up

Today most job candidates know that a “thank you” note after an interview is virtually an expectation. But should that note be hard copy, electronic or both? Who should it be sent to? What should it say? What other steps should candidates take—and are there things they should not do?

Here’s what HR pros, recruiters and hiring managers have to say.

“Thank You” Follow Up: A Must Do

A follow-up thank-you is a must-do say the experts, but opinions on whether it should be electronic, hard copy or both vary. Surprisingly, a very small percentage of applicants use them! Robert Half research on the topic of thank-you notes, for example, indicates that while 80 percent of HR managers take thank-you notes into account when deciding who to hire, they report receiving such notes from applicants only about 24 percent of the time, says Bianca De Rose, senior public relations specialist.

Michael Steinitz, executive director of Accountemps, recommends sending a note within 24 hours of the meeting. “The safest bet is to use email since it’s quick, unobtrusive and accepted by most managers,” he says. “Consider the company culture before deciding to follow up through another medium such as mail, phone, social media or text.”

Importantly, he adds, be cautious about coming across as desperate. “One or two emails is acceptable, but you don’t want the hiring manager to associate your persistence with peskiness. Be patient during the process.”

It’s also important, say recruiters, to add a little something personal and specific to the job and your interview. “Thank you notes should always reference something pertinent to the conversation like ‘I really enjoyed learning more about the role, and I’m particularly encouraged by Company X’s strategic direction in the areas XYZ as we discussed,” says Mary Pharris, director of business development and partnerships with Fairygodboss, a career community for women to share their workplace experiences. This shows, she says that “you were paying attention and are enthusiastic about the company and role.”

A Follow-Up Template

Matthew Kerr, a career adviser and hiring manager at ResumeGenius, offers a “tried and true formula” for writing an impactful thank you note in about four paragraphs:

Paragraph 1:

  • Introduction, context, and purpose: State that is was a pleasure to meet the interviewer, when you met them, and thank them for taking the time to interview you and considering you for the position.
  • Personal connection: Mention something that impressed you about the company.

Paragraph 2:

  • Expand on something said during the interview: Give more details about a specific skill or example you mentioned and how you can use it to benefit the company.

Paragraph 3:

  • When sending an email, add value with a link: You can link to something specific on your target company’s website that impressed you or that was mentioned in the interview. You can also link to things related to your past work.

Paragraph 4:

  • Gently remind the interviewer when they said they’d respond: Don’t set a deadline, but say you’re looking forward to hearing back from them by the previously agreed upon time.
  • Reiterate your gratitude and interest: Thank the interviewer again and mention your strong belief that you would be a great fit for the company.

Going Above and Beyond

Debra Boggs, MSM, is cofounder of D&S Professional Coaching emphasizes the importance of sending individual follow up to everyone you interacted with during the interview process. “This includes any administrative staff that arranged your meeting or travel,” she adds. “Administrative staff often have influence and should not be neglected.”

If sending hard copy follow-up notes, she also recommends preparing in advance, particularly if traveling. “Make sure to pack envelopes, notecards and stamps and pre-address them before your interview. Then you can simply fill them out and drop them in the mail locally before departing.”

Laura Poisson is president of ClearRock, a career transition, outplacement, leadership development and executive coaching firm. “Many job-seekers follow up too little, some persist too much—and far too few people persevere just right,” says Poisson. “Those who follow up in the right ways are exhibiting leadership and decision-making qualities.”

Poisson offers a variation on the follow-up letter or email: pick up the phone! “The telephone is a greatly under-utilized form of communication in our world of texts and emails,” she says. But, she adds: “Plan ahead on not connecting with your interviewer, and leaving a voicemail message when you call. Have a short message composed in advance.”

Finally, just as every good salesperson knows, don’t be shy about asking for the job. Clearly convey your interest in the position and enthusiasm about the potential to work for this company.

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