Mastering the art of the follow-up

Thank you typewriter

A smart, well-timed follow-up message can make or break your quest to land the job you’re seeking. In a 2017 survey by TopResume, nearly 70% of interviewers said that receiving a thank-you note helped them determine their final candidate. Here are some tips for making the most of this opportunity.

1. Start the follow-up process before your job interview concludes.

Before you shake the interviewers’ hands and exit the building, ask some questions to facilitate future follow-up. First, inquire about next steps. Will there be another round of interviews? If so, when will the company contact applicants about this? Also request business cards from everyone who interviewed you so you can send individual thank-you notes.

2. Make some notes immediately after the interview.

Moira Kelley
Moira Kelley: Radiate professionalism.

Post-interview notes can help your thank-you messages shine. Summarize what happened in the interview, noting anything you didn’t cover but might want to mention in future communications with the employer. Also brainstorm what to highlight in your thank-you notes. Did one of the interviewers mention a job-related interest that you share? Do you belong to any of the same professional organizations? These details can go a long way in personalizing your thank-you messages.

3. Gather other details you might need for your thank-you notes.

Did you forget to request an interviewer’s email address? Don’t sweat it: You may be able to find this information on the company’s website. If that doesn’t work, ask another interviewer for the address when you thank him or her.

4. Be concise.

Remember, a thank-you note isn’t a report or even a cover letter. Restate your interest in the position and thank the interviewers for spending time with you. Then briefly elaborate on a point you made in the interview or mention a detail you didn’t have a chance to share in person. If possible, personalize the note by highlighting something the interviewer said that resonated with you. For ideas on how to close your letter, visit the interviewing section of Vassar College’s career website.

5. Send thank-you notes promptly.

While paper thank-you notes used to be the way of the workplace, email is usually preferable these days. Paper notes can get lost or arrive after the company has decided which candidate to hire. Email a thank-you message to each interviewer within a day or so, and then follow-up with a paper note if you feel it would enhance your efforts.

Finally, be strategic about additional follow-up. If a week goes by and you haven’t heard from the employer, it’s fine to reach out. Expand on a topic you covered in the interview, politely ask how far along the company is in the hiring process, and see whether the interviewers would like additional materials from you. Radiate patience and professionalism, and this note could show the employer you’re the right person for the job.

Moira Kelley is a senior career counselor in UW–Madison’s Division of Continuing Studies. Contact her at moira.kelley@wisc.edu. This article originally appeared in the Wisconsin State Journal.