How to follow up after a job interview

By Dawn Wotapka

You aced the job interview. What's next? This is just one of many questions that have baffled accountants of all ages and experience levels for decades. How often should you reach out? Should you do it via phone or text? How do you know when it's time to move on?

You're not alone if you're uncertain about what to do after an interview. Here's how recruiters and career experts recommend that you proceed:

Follow up quickly. The first step is to contact each person you met during the interview process. "Timing of follow-ups is a key indicator of a candidate's interest," according to Wayne Pinnell, CPA, managing partner of Haskell & White LLP (one of Southern California's largest independently owned accounting firms). "In today's world, email is the easiest and should be sent within 24 hours."

Matt Erhard, managing partner of global recruiting firm Summit Search Group, adds this: "If you forgot to ask any questions during your interview, now is your chance."

Before you hit "send," be sure to triple-check spelling and grammar, Pinnell advised. If possible, have someone else read the note. Remember that "this is another impression — good or bad — that you will be making with the interviewers."

Reiterate your interest. In the message, thank each person for their time. Express continued interest in the job with a phrase such as "this sounds like an intriguing opportunity," said Joni Holderman, a career coach and résumé writer based in Myrtle Beach, S.C.

Then, bring up something that only the interviewer would know. "I love to see the candidate share a specific detail from our conversation to show that they were paying attention," said John Broadfoot, director of recruiting for TJT, one of the largest North Carolina-based CPA firms. "It should be a detail that only comes from the interview, not from the firm website."

Don't be exclusive to snail mail. For years, job seekers were advised to send a written thank-you note to help stand out, but the digital age, globalization, and, more recently, working from home changed that. Thank-you notes are "not necessarily the best choice for every company," Erhard said. "This is especially the case for hybrid or remote workplaces, where a physical thank-you note may not reach its recipient if they don't work in that office regularly. The same goes for large, multi-location businesses, where the hiring team you interviewed with may not work out of the location where you interviewed."

Pinnell considers the notes passé, but not pointless. "They are, quite frankly, too slow of a communication method these days," he said. "That being said, a handwritten note can still set you apart from others, so perhaps send an email, followed by a personal handwritten note."

Complete deliverables. In the meantime, be sure to promptly complete any actionable next steps that you were assigned or that were suggested, said Angelo Argentieri, CEO of AKA Search Group in Greenville, S.C. This can include sending résumé updates or work samples and finishing behavioral or workplace assessments.

Check in strategically. For many candidates, the frequency and consistency of following up is the most vexing part of the process. Pinnell recommends doing this once a week to show continued interest, even if you don't receive a response. "Do not reach out daily," he advised. "You do not want to be perceived as annoying or desperate."

In most cases, email is the preferred option. However, texts or phone calls may be suitable or even desired. "Listen for the cues from the recruiter or interviewers first and foremost to understand how they prefer to be contacted," Pinnell said.

Broadfoot, for example, prefers that candidates email him. "Calling should be avoided unless there is a specific, immediate issue," he said. "Texting is OK, but email usually covers the bases."

According to Holderman, when in doubt, assume that the way the recruiter first contacted you is their default mode of communication. Regardless of how the person wants to be contacted, be sure to follow any feedback and timelines. "If at any point the employer says, 'You don't need to call me for three weeks because ...,' then honor that request."

If you've been given a date when you should hear back, wait until this has passed to send further inquiries. "If you don't have any timeline, I recommended sending a second email about a week after your first thank-you email," Erhard advised.

Remain courteous. Although you may be eager for a final answer, companies work on their own timelines, and you should remain polite and patient. "I have rejected qualified candidates simply because they were impatient, rude, or demanding during follow-up," Holderman revealed.

Know when to walk away. It's not uncommon for job candidates — even those who have completed multiple interviews — to never hear back. If you've followed up twice and haven't received a reply, "my advice would be to move on," Erhard said.

"This kind of extended silence likely means they've decided you're not a candidate they want to have move forward," he said. "[Although] it's possible that the hiring team is simply disorganized or struggling with other issues, that kind of extended silence is not a good sign about the company's respect for you as a candidate, and it's a sign that you shouldn't invest further energy into pursuing that position."

You may find yourself juggling follow-ups with multiple people for multiple roles. "A mistake [that] job seekers make is essentially halting the job search after one good interview," Holderman explained. "Employers are considering hundreds of candidates, and you should be considering scores of employers. Continue to apply for openings and network at the same lively pace until you have started work."

Dawn Wotapka is a freelance writer based in Georgia. To comment on this article or to suggest an idea for another article, contact Courtney Vien at Courtney.Vien@aicpa-cima.com.

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