Interview advice is not exactly rare (check out these posts for my insights: [Ace An Interview, Best Answers to Common Interview Questions]) but most advice stops with the interview itself and there is not a lot of information available on what to do after. This post will provide interview follow-up steps including what to do if you do (yay!) or do not (don’t panic!) receive an offer. I will also address some common questions on what to do after the interview is complete.
Let’s assume the interview went well; you did your homework and prepared great answers to common questions, you focused on results and related how you will leverage them to the position for which you interviewed, and (crucially) you asked for the job (hopefully by using the widow-maker). Great job! Now let’s focus on next steps, in order of when you should do them:
Send a succinct thank you note within 24 (ideally 4) hours.
Take the thank you note seriously and make sure you are professional in your communications. Just last week I had a great interview with a candidate but decided NOT to hire the candidate because the thank you note was a train wreck (terrible grammar, over-the-top comments like “I would be deeply honored to work with such a profound leader like yourself–you inspire business people everywhere.” Seriously? After knowing me for ½ hour? But I digress…). A good thank you note has 3 attributes:
– It’s short–just a few sentences will suffice.
– It thanks the interviewer for their time and consideration.
– It reiterates your interest in and qualifications related to the position for which you are applying.
That’s it. An example script is below:
Thank you for taking time from your busy schedule to interview me for the XXX position. I am confident my experience driving results [insert example you discussed in the interview] make me a valuable addition to your team. Do not hesitate to reach out if you have additional questions or require further information.
You will want to send a thank you note to each person who interviewed you (remember to get a business card or ask for an email address). You get bonus points for personalizing the note to your interviewer by referring to something you talked about in your interview.
Also, email is fine! I know some “experts” will disagree with me and say you should provide a handwritten note, but I generally meet with the other interviewers within 24 hours after the interview for a debrief so a handwritten note will almost certainly arrive AFTER a decision on the candidate has been made. Thus, speed is important so the sooner you send the note the better.
Reflect on what you have learned and have an honest conversation with yourself about your fit for the role.
I strongly feel that most candidates misunderstand the purpose of the interview process. An interview is about fit, and is a lot like dating. When dating, both people need to make sure it is a good fit. Ask yourself the following questions:
– How has my understanding of this opportunity change during the interview process? Knowing what I know now, am I more or less excited about this role?
– Now that I have met the team, are these people I would be excited to work with?
– Is this role a good fit for my strengths?
– Will this role and company help me achieve my career goals?
– What is the culture? Is this a culture in which I will flourish?
Be honest with yourself! It is not good for you (or the company) if it is not a good fit. It’s OK to back out of the process if the role is not right for you. I have done this many times myself and I have had it happen to me. Trust me, a talent mismatch doesn’t help anyone.
At this point, all you can do is wait for one of the following three things to happen so you should prepare for each possibility using the tips below:
1. You get called back for more interviews.
The more senior the role the higher the likelihood this will happen. Companies (rightfully) get more selective the higher you climb the corporate ladder, so be prepared for this option. I had 11 interviews in total for my last position across five rounds of interviews, which is not uncommon. The good news is that the advice and preparation is the same for each interview, so research, practice, and focus on results and you should be fine.
2. You get a job offer.
Congratulations! But stay calm, there is still work to do. Offers should come directly from the hiring manager through a phone call. There is a surprising amount of etiquette to follow for these calls as outlined below:
- Express gratitude and thank them for the offer.
- DO NOT ACCEPT IMMEDIATELY and DO NOT NEGOTIATE. Say this is a big change, you would like some time to think about it and ask for a day or two to respond.
- Ask for the offer and details of benefits in writing.
- Ask who you can reach out to if you have any questions on benefits, etc. (will generally be the hiring manager or someone from HR).
- If you are working with a recruiter, reach out to him/her with the details of the offer. At this point, the recruiter will be a major asset as they can provide advice on compensation, how to negotiate, etc.
If you decide to negotiate make your requests reasonable and backed up with data. For example, let’s say if you take the position it will be the middle of the year and you would walk away from 50% of your accrued bonus for the year. Work with HR or the hiring manager (schedule a call) to walk through the math to justify your request.
3. You do not get an offer.
Again, take a deep breath. Yes, it is okay to feel disappointed, but most people take this rejection way too personally. Remember, the interview is about fit and, if you were judged to not be a fit for the position you probably would not have been successful or happy in the job even if you got it. It’s like a puzzle: as a hiring manager, I am looking for a very specific puzzle piece to complete my team. The role of the interview process is to see if you fit the shape of the missing piece or not. If you are not what I am looking for, it is not your fault, you may simply not be the right fit. Most rejection communications will be sent through email or through a recruiter. Some thoughts:
- Be gracious and respond to the email by thanking them for the opportunity to interview.
- If you feel you are a good fit for the company and are still interested in career opportunities say as much in your response and ask if there are any other open opportunities where you may be a good fit.
- Don’t expect a response. Every company I have worked for had a policy of not providing interview feedback to candidates. Sadly, this is due to liability issues, so do not expect any response or feedback. One exception: if you are working with a recruiter they may be able to provide some direct feedback from the hiring manager.
Finally, I want to address some common questions I get regarding what happens after the interview process:
“The interviewer said they would get back to me shortly, but a week has gone by. When is it appropriate to reach out?”
Make sure the last question you ask in your interview (after asking for the job) is what are the next steps. If the interviewer gives you a firm date (“we will get back to you early next week”) wait until the entire period is over before reaching out (e.g. wait until the end of the next week before sending a note). Honestly, though, companies move very quickly after the process, so if you don’t hear back within a day or two, it will probably be bad news. Try to be patient with the with the process. Delays happen all the time and you don’t want to come across as needy or insecure. Think of it this way: knowing the answer sooner will likely not change the answer.
“It seemed like everything was going well, then I got a random rejection letter/I was “ghosted” (the process just stopped). What gives?”
Unfortunately, this happens more than you might think. Large corporations, especially public companies, can “freeze” open positions due to restructuring, being below plan business performance, having a rough quarter, or filling the open role with an up and coming internal candidate. Frankly, this sucks but there is nothing you can do about it. The good news is that it almost certainly doesn’t have anything to do with you as an individual, rather, you were likely the victim of bad timing. Don’t give up!
“Is social media really that important?”
YES! Your social media presence can be very powerful–in both good and bad ways. Recruiters spend a lot of time on LinkedIn so make sure your profile is complete, up to date, and you check it regularly. You can also look for jobs on LinkedIn, network, and do a lot of research into corporate positioning and culture. It’s a fabulous resource. Facebook (and other social media) is much more likely to hurt you. ALWAYS keep your social media presence as professional as possible. I check social media for pretty much every candidate that comes my way and I know it is common practice in HR as well. You would be surprised at how often you get what looks like a rock star, professional, buttoned up candidate on LinkedIn but their Facebook is full of wildly inappropriate comments and pictures of drunken nights on the town. Think of yourself as an ambassador for your company. If you are salaried, your mindset should be that you are ALWAYS representing the company, even on nights and weekends (this is more important at more senior levels in the organization). Make sure your social media helps you achieve your career ambitions by always being professional, mature and respectful.