Job-hunting is never easy, so the fact that you were invited to an interview was bound to cause a leap of excitement. Let’s say, after your thorough preparation, the interview seemed to go well. You were on time, answered all the questions the panel threw at you, asked intelligent interview questions in return, and overall presented yourself as a professional and motivated candidate.
You leave the interview feeling slightly elated, but also cautious. Maybe two of the three interviewers seemed friendly, but the third sat, stony-faced and hardly talking. They didn’t give you any hints as to whether you were suitable, just said they’d be in touch.
So, there’s nothing to do now, except wait and see. Or is there? In this guide, we’ll take a closer look at how the recruitment process typically works, and take you step by step at what you can do to navigate it successfully, and how to go about job interview follow up.
Understand the hiring process
It’s perfectly understandable to want an answer immediately. It’s simple: do they want you to join, or not? Did you perform well and answer the interview questions correctly, or not?
However, unless you have applied to a small company where such decisions are typically in the hands of the owner, it rarely if ever happens in that way.
The key is to look at the situation from the point of view of a recruiter.
In a medium to large company, recruitment will probably be handled by a team, dedicated to sourcing, selecting and on-boarding new recruits. It is never in the hands of one individual.
The person who dealt with your application will have been liaising with the hiring manager, i.e. the person who is recruiting someone for his or her team. They may have interviewed you together or separately.
After the interview, various others may become involved: possibly the HR manager or HR Business Partner; the hiring manager’s manager. All of these people have multiple priorities so the decision making process can be placed on the back burner.
In addition, you may not have been the only candidate. Some companies will only interview the top two or three, others will work their way through a list of ‘possibles’. If you were the first of, say, six candidates to be interviewed, and two had to postpone their meeting for any reason, the interview process could take weeks before all candidates were seen.
All members of the hiring panel have to be available, ideally at the same time, and their schedules may not be easy to synchronize.
An additional factor that sometimes needs to be taken into consideration is the possibility of one or more internal candidates applying, even after interviews have started. Most companies tend to prefer appointing from within, so that existing employees have the opportunity to develop their careers.
An internal candidate will understand how the company works, and already have built their reputation, so represent less risk than an outsider. So, additional interviews will need to be scheduled, and this takes time. So you need to keep in mind all these aspects while you’re thinking about job interview follow up.
After that, maybe second interviews for the top one or two candidates will take place before job offers are made to them.
If you happen to be the third choice, it is unlikely that you will be contacted with a definitive answer until the post is definitely filled. If neither of the ‘first choice’ candidates accepts the company’s offer, they may want you to still be available and waiting patiently.
A fast response is not always a good sign
So, although it’s not a hard and fast rule, a prolonged period of silence after you’ve been interviewed is to be expected, and is not always a bad thing. If you’re unsuccessful, you’re more likely to be informed immediately.
If, after your interview, a decision is made that you’re clearly not the person to fill the role, you’ll probably receive what is known in the HR world as a ‘regret letter’, typically via email, thanking you for your interest. And they will explain that your application won’t be taken further. This will probably arrive within a few days.
This quick response is partly made out of courtesy, and partly so that you won’t keep following up with the recruiter and asking them for feedback. This door is closed, and now you can move on.
Now that the internal hiring process is clearer, let’s move on to consider what steps you should take for job interview follow up.
Step One: Analyse your performance
Let’s consider what you should do, ideally one to two hours after the interview, when you’ve had time to get over your initial response to the experience. Take some time, sit somewhere quiet, and carry out your personal job interview follow-up by reflecting on what happened. This is equally valid as phone interview follow up. Make notes as you go along.
There are three reasons for doing this:
- You’ll be more objective about how the interview went.
- You’ll be able to remember more of the questions, and your responses
- You’ll be able to use your notes to improve any areas where you didn’t perform so well, in the next interview
- How did I present myself? Confident, over-confident, motivated, professional, unprepared?
- What did I do well, that impressed the panel?
- Did I make sure I highlighted the hard or soft skills they listed in their job advert or position description?
- When they asked: “Do you have any questions you’d like to ask us?” Did I have relevant questions prepared for them?
- What impressed you about your potential employer? What concerns do you now have?
- Did I ask them: “When can I expect to hear from you?” (In reality, few candidates actually ask this important question):
- If I had the chance to repeat this interview, what would I do differently?
With this self-reflection you can learn any lessons you need, in preparation for the hoped-for second interview. Or, if that doesn’t happen, it can provide some interview tips, leading to an improved performance in your next interview with another potential employer.
Step Two: Send a follow up email
The second step you should take, as job interview follow up is to send a brief email to the recruiter, thanking them for giving you the opportunity, and confirming your continued interest in the position. This should be done within 24 hours:
- Use the name of the person you’re emailing
- Mention the names of the other people on the interview panel
- Thank them for the opportunity
- Say how much you enjoyed meeting them
- Express your excitement at the possibility of joining the company
- Let them know you’re available for any follow up
Say you’re looking forward to hearing from them soon.
I just wanted to send this quick note to thank you for giving me the opportunity to attend the interview yesterday, for the position of Drilling Engineer.
It was a pleasure to meet you, Lorena and Hans. I was fascinated by the discussion, and I am now more excited than ever at the prospect of becoming part of such a professional team.
Should you require any more information from me at this stage, please don’t hesitate to let me know.
Thank you once again and I look forward to hearing from you soon.
Sincerely/ Best regards
The same approach can be used as follow up after a phone interview.
It’s not advisable to follow up by calling the recruiter or hiring manager at this stage, as until the decision-making process is complete, there is really nothing they can tell you.
In the same way, if you ask for feedback on your performance in the interview you will place the recruiter in a difficult position. You may only want to know so you can improve your interview skills. However, if they praise your performance, you may mistakenly get the idea that the job offer will be yours. I
f they were to offer suggestions about where you could have improved, it could open the door to a pointless discussion about what you really meant to say. It is better to understand that it is not a recruiter’s job to give you career advice.
There are three possible responses to your ‘thank you’ email.
- A brief acknowledgement
- An update on the next steps, when you’re likely to hear something
If you received either of the first two responses, you could reply in turn. For example:
Many thanks for the update. Do you have an idea yet of when the decision-making process will be complete? Since my interview I’ve been highly motivated to join your team. However, I understand that these things take time, and I don’t want you to feel I’m chasing you for news.
Regardless of which response you received, take action and move to Steps 3 and 4.
Step 3: Continue your job search
Until the day you sign a job offer, you should continue with your job search.
Even if you’re confident about how well you performed in an interview, and are sure that a job offer will be on its way to you, be cautious.
Many things can happen before that offer is made. After the decision-making process is complete, it may be that:
The position will no longer be filled, due to financial constraints.
An internal candidate has been selected.
The position is put ‘on-hold, so no decision is made.
So, while waiting for news, it’s the time to contact other potential employers. Your recent interview should have given you lots of interview questions which can help you with your job search.
Step 4: Follow Up again
Even if you didn’t receive a response to your follow up email, it may be worth getting in touch again after 1 -2 weeks. This will let the recruiter know that you’re still interested, and prompt them for an update.
If you don’t receive a reply, although it’s hard, the best thing to do is be patient. Repeated follow-ups won’t make the decision-making process move any faster, and you may just give the impression that you are needy and desperate.
Perhaps you are being considered by more than one company. If that’s the case, it can be very tempting to write something along the lines of:
- “I have other job offers”
- “I need to know so I can decide which job to take”
- “The other company is pressuring me to make my decision. I’d prefer to work for you so please let me know if you’re going to make me an offer”
Above all, resist that temptation. It will do you no good in the eyes of the hiring manager, and may be seen as an attempt to pressure or blackmail them into making you an offer.
Unless the employer is needy or desperate, this approach simply won’t work, and will only damage your reputation as a professional candidate who is genuinely focussed on gaining the position they were interviewed for.
Step 5: Continue your job search
While you wait, the most productive action you can take is to keep on with your job search. Don’t keep applying with the attitude that you hope to find a ‘second-best’ option in case you’re not successful after your interview with your first choice employer.
Instead, approach it with the attitude that, armed with your recent interview practice and new insights into your industry or field, you are going to identify an even better opportunity. You can ensure that this time, you will be offered the position without hesitation on the part of any potential employer.
Apply for multiple openings, but, as always, be sure to use a targeted approach:
- Tailor your CV and cover letter for each application.
- No ‘one size fits all’ applications, as these are unlikely to get you the interviews you’re looking for. Don’t waste your time with them
- Use the information in each job posting and job description to extract key words. Then use them on the CV and cover letter
- Research each company your applying to, thoroughly, using a wide variety of sources
- Ensure you have the key data at your fingertips
When you obtain interviews:
- Return to the notes of the self-analysis you carried out after your previous interview. Looking back, you should be able to glean some useful interview tips. What lessons can you now apply?
- Give each interview 100% effort. Even if you realize this is not the job title or job offer you are hoping for, you should have the courtesy to express interest in the position, and prepare your interview questions professionally.
- Do not mention that you are waiting for a response from another employer. That would mark you out as a candidate who is looking for a job, but is not deeply concerned about who they work for. Only a desperate employer would make you an offer on this basis.
- After each interview, be sure to follow up correctly. First, with a thank you email, then with a follow up. Even you aren’t offered the position, or don’t wish to accept an offer, it is important to leave behind a positive impression. We never know where life will take us in the future.
Step 6: You receive a response
The wait will eventually come to an end and the email you’ve been waiting for is in your inbox. Most likely you will receive one of three possible responses:
- A polite message explaining that you haven’t been successful.
- An invitation to a second interview
- An initial job offer (we’ll address this one in Step 7)
Let us look at how you can best respond to each of these in turn.
You haven’t been successful.
Now, at least you know. Respond with a short email (3 or 4 lines maximum), thanking the sender for letting you know, and for considering your application so carefully. If you would like to be considered for any further openings which may arise, mention this. Wish the recruiter and her colleagues all the best, and sign off professionally.
Now continue with Steps 3 and 5.
You’re being invited to a 2nd interview
Great news! Hopefully, you’ll be informed about the job titles and names of the panel who’ll be meeting you this time.
You may still be in competition with one or two other candidates, or it may be a case that more senior managers want to meet you before a final decision is made.
Prepare carefully. Return to your notes from the first meeting, which should provide some interview tips to help you to perform even better in the second one.
- What do you need to research before the meeting?
- What questions do you need to be ready to answer?
- What questions should you be asking the panel at this stage?
If you’ve received the interview invitation by email, be sure to respond promptly. The panel will have tentatively blocked their time for the meeting, so if you can’t make it or need to reschedule, it is courteous to let them know as soon as possible.
If you’re accepting the invitation, by responding immediately, you’ll signal your enthusiasm and professionalism.
However, the job offer isn’t on the table yet, so be sure to continue your job search.
Once you’ve had your second interview, go back to the beginning of the process and follow Steps 1 to 5.
Step 7: You receive a job offer
Congratulations, your hard work has finally paid off!
Of course, the first thing to do is to thank the writer or caller for the job offer and express your appreciation for their confidence in you.
After that, you need some more details before accepting.
A written offer letter with some basic details. Start date, salary, other remuneration and entitlements, annual leave, etc.
The job offer should also confirm the name and job title of the person you’ll be reporting to.
You should receive a full job description at this point
There may be a deadline (typically 7-14 days) by which you need to accept.
The full employment contract may be provided at this point, but often it is sent after your acceptance.
If there are any details which you cannot accept, let the writer know by phone or email. For example, if you have a notice period with your current employer, or have holiday booked, you may need to ask for the start date to be amended.
However, providing all is as you need it to be, give your response as soon as possible.
Once this is done, you can start to prepare for your transition into the new company.
Contact your manager-to-be, letting him or her know how excited you are to be joining the team, and how much you appreciate the opportunity. Ask if there are any (non-confidential) documents, such as policies or marketing collateral that you could start to review. When you finally start work, this background information will help you to hit the ground running.
Ask your recruiter to let you have an online copy of the company’s employee handbook, so you can start to familiarize yourself with the way things are done.
Continue your research into the company. Review any marketing literature they have as well as their websites and any press releases to ensure you have the latest information.
Prepare your documents in advance of your start date. If you’ll need to provide copies of your licences, qualifications, medical certificates, etc. make sure you have them ready.
If any have been lost or misplaced, it could take time to obtain replacements. Providing everything required, promptly, will help you to feel at ease with your new employer, and you (and the HR team) can focus on other things.
We hope that the hints above will help you use the time between an interview and a response in the most constructive and professional way. While it’s not necessarily the most comfortable period, it can be a great opportunity to learn, not only about the way companies make their decisions in respect of new hires, but also about yourself.