How to follow up after a job interview

Keep your name fresh in an interviewer’s mind without going too far.
By Eddie Huffman

Your job hunt is in the home stretch. Your prospective employer has your résumé, and you've completed the interviews. What's next? Do you sit back and wait or follow up immediately? Is a handwritten note the best approach, or would an email or a phone call make more sense? Should you get creative or play it safe?

Start with a follow-up email, advised Diane Gottsman, a national etiquette expert and owner of the Protocol School of Texas based in San Antonio. Email is an appropriate way to keep your name fresh in the interviewer's mind in the evolving world of business etiquette. "Before, we would say an email is impersonal, and it's not as professional, but the reality is we are in an electronic world," she said. "We live digitally and quickly. I don't suggest a text, but I do suggest a quick response."

Gottsman is the author of Pearls of Polish: An Etiquette Guide for Today's Busy Woman, as well as the forthcoming book Modern Etiquette for a Better Life (to be published in March 2017).

She recommended sending a handwritten thank-you note after an interview, as well, but only after sending an email. "By the time the handwritten thank-you note gets there, it's going to be multiple days—and several emails from other candidates—later," Gottsman said. Follow-up communication should be short and to the point, regardless of format, she said. Thank the other person for considering you, and reiterate your interest in the job.

"Don't play it too cool," she said. "We want people who want to work for us."

Mandy Ward, CPA, CGMA, is a tax supervisor in the Greensboro, N.C., headquarters of accounting firm DMJ & Co. PLLC. She recommended following up with everyone you interact with during a job interview. They will all have input into the hiring process. Ward was part of a search committee for a business affairs manager in a previous job, and the emails she got after interviews made a positive impression on her.

A prospective intern stood out from the crowd by emailing a brief video after interviewing with Ward. "It was not like a canned one that he sent to everyone," she said. "He said my name and thanked me and pointed out something in our discussion that he appreciated."

Hold off on a follow-up phone call until after the time you were told a decision would be made, Gottsman advised. At that point, it's OK to call to see where an organization stands in the hiring process.

And if you don't get the job on the first try, be sure to keep your communications polite and professional despite any disappointment. "Just because you are not selected the first round doesn't mean that they will not consider you in round two," Gottsman said. "Sometimes that first candidate does not work out, and if you handle it poorly, if you handle it inappropriately, if you do not act gracious, you won't be the first call they make."

Eddie Huffman is a freelance writer based in Greensboro, N.C. To comment on this story, contact Chris Baysden, senior manager of newsletters at the AICPA.

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