How to follow up after an interview

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Q:  I have been told repeatedly to “follow up” after an interview.  But how?  Should I mail a thank-you note?  Snail mail seems old-fashioned.  Do I send an email?  Or place a phone call?  What do you recommend?  I have had more than one recruiter ask me to “follow up” with them?  But honestly I am not sure what that means.  Thank you Job Doc.

A:  Following up after an interview is essential.  Candidates who follow up after an interview demonstrate interest and show a commitment to the process.  Alternatively, candidates who do not follow up are perceived as less interested or less serious about the job opportunity.

I recommend candidates ask about how to follow-up before the interview ends.  For example, Marie is interviewing with ABC Company on Tuesday, February 14th.  Before she leaves the interview with Tamara, the hiring manager at ABC Company, one of her final questions should be: “Tamara, can you explain to me the next steps in the selection process?”  Marie will hopefully learn more about the process.  Marie might learn when they hope to fill the role, how many interviews are part of the process and how many other candidates are being considered at this point.  This is helpful too because it can set expectations as to how long each step might take.  If a company explains that they intend to ask candidates to interview two or three times at ABC Company, then that may take several weeks.  If a company explains that they expect to have a decision by Friday February 17th, that is a very different timeframe.  Marie can also ask “how do you prefer that I follow up with you?”  Tamara may offer several options – by phone, with an email or she may offer a specific date.  When we handle recruitment for our clients, I will often ask a candidate to email me by a certain date.

Additionally, always send a thank-you note.  Email is typically the best way to send a thank-you note.  Make sure you email it within 24 hours of an interview.  In the email, you again want to reiterate your interest.  It is also an opportunity to demonstrate professionalism and can serve as a sample for your writing skills.

Pattie Hunt Sinacole is a human resources expert and works for First Beacon Group in Hopkinton, an HR consulting firm. She contributes weekly to Jobs and the Boston Sunday Globe Money & Careers section.