In my BLISSS tips newsletter earlier this week, I shared the #1 thing you must do after a job interview: send a thank-you note. I promised to expand the list with this blog post. Before diving in, let me address the people who dismiss thank-you notes as old-fashioned. You’re wrong. I don’t know any other way to put it. Every career coach I know agrees: sending a thank-you note after a job interview is a no brainer. You must do it.
Richard Bolles, best-selling author of What Color Is Your Parachute?, has a firm stance about the post-interview thank-you note. “This should be sent, without fail, to everyone you talked to at that place, that day.”
I stopped offering free advice on Indeed career forums because people crucified me for recommending thank-you notes. The nicest comment I received was “out of touch with reality.” The other responses ranged from rude to mean. I kept thinking if this is what these people are like online no wonder they’re not landing jobs. Employers don’t want to hire bitter people. Be happy and stay classy. Know what I mean?
Above all, you must do these three things after a job interview.
1. Send a thank-you note.
- Send a thank-you email within an hour after the interview. Keep it short. Thank the person for their time and consideration. You may or may not mention you will mail a note as well. (I never do because I like to surprise people.)
- Mail a thank-you note within 24 hours (preferably 12 hours) after the interview. Do not type the note! Write it by hand and mentioned something that went well in the interview. What was that golden nugget? That moment when things clicked. That’s what you want to add in the note. Again, thank the person for their time and consideration.
- Mail the thank-you note from a U.S. post box or post office. I don’t know about you, but I’ve had the worst luck with postal workers. Even if you have the best postal worker ever, your thank-you note is guaranteed to arrive faster if mailed from the post office.
Many clients ask me about thank-you note cards. They want to know what to buy. Is there a right or wrong kind? The simple answer is no. The beauty of thank-you note cards is you are showing you have good manners. And you can display your personality. Note cards with your initial(s) are a safe choice. Note cards with photography or art are a more interesting choice. The photo in this blog post is an example of both: a note card with my initial by a local artist.
2. Follow up within one week.
Follow up within one week, or within the time the person suggested. Yep, that’s the last question you should ask at the end of the interview. “What is the best way to follow up with you?” Make sure you get the person’s business card so you know how to follow up and to where to send the thank-you note. Usually following up within one week is a safe bet, but sometimes, the interview process is longer than one week, especially at a large business or university. No matter what, follow up, follow up, follow up. Sometimes the mere act of following up will get you another interview. It’s happened to me.
3. Ask for feedback.
The last thing you should do after a job interview (after you know you did not get the job) is ask for feedback. Now, this is tough. You have to be in a place where you are open to constructive criticism. By asking for feedback, you are gaining a learning opportunity. Think about it. You got the interview. You went through the process. But you didn’t get the job. And you’re left wondering why. You would be surprised. Many times, it has nothing to do with you or your interview.
By asking for feedback, you will find out what happened. You may think you blew the interview, but most of the time, that’s not the case. Some employers may not be comfortable providing you with feedback because so few people ask. But every time I have had the guts to ask for feedback, I have gotten it. By asking for and receiving their feedback, I strengthened my relationship with that person.
Recently, I did a digital interview for a job I would’ve liked. Though I don’t want to work for someone else, sometimes a job comes along that sounds too appealing to pass up. (Plus, I like to test my cover letters and resumes on a regular basis.) I got a call to do a digital interview. It wasn’t on Skype; it was through HireVue, a company that specializes in online interviews. It was a bit nerve-racking, even for seasoned professional like me. There were nine questions, and eight of them were on camera. After you were shown a question, you had 30 seconds to think about it before the camera began rolling.
I wasn’t feeling well when I did the digital interview. I thought I had a terrible cold; later, I discovered I had the flu. During the entire 30 minutes of the interview, I was fighting back a cough. I could feel a tickle in the back of my throat, and it was killing me. Even though I put on a brave front, I thought I had blown the interview. When I didn’t get the job, I asked for feedback.
If I had not done my homework and had not made connections on LinkedIn before landing the interview, I would not have known whom to ask for feedback.
- All the communication was over email.
- I had not spoken to anyone over the phone.
- I did not meet anyone in person.
However, I had the phone number of the recruiter who arranged the digital interview. I contacted her and left a message on her voicemail. Not once, but twice. I was friendly and outgoing. I emphasized how thrilled I was for the opportunity to interview with a company that I admired. I explained I was sick during the interview and concerned it affected the outcome. I said I would appreciate any feedback she could give me.
Finally, she called me about two weeks later. She apologized. Turns out she had been sick as well. Guess what? I had not blown the interview. In fact, she said I had performed one of the best digital interviews she had ever seen. She had no idea I was sick. I had nailed it. So why didn’t I make it to the next level, I asked.
Her feedback was specific.
- Although I fit 70% of the job description (aka the sweet spot), I knew the 30% I did not fit might be a problem. I was right. While my cover letter and resume got me the interview, the company wanted someone with that specific 30% experience. They should have listed it as required instead of preferred on the job listing.
- In the job post, they wanted people who had experience working in schools. What they failed to specify was they wanted people who had experience in administration (e.g., principals). I applied because I have 10+ years of experience teaching in primary and secondary schools as well as in colleges. I don’t, however, have administrative experience.
- There was more competition than they expected in Alabama. They received many applications from people who had that specific 30% experience I did not have and who were current administrators in schools. There was no way I could compete with them.
The point is I didn’t do anything wrong in the interview, and I did a lot of things right.
- By maintaining a friendly, gracious tone throughout the call, I created a good relationship with her.
- I thanked her for the valuable feedback and for connecting with me on LinkedIn.
- I said I would be in touch if I saw any opportunities that better matched my experience.
- She said don’t hesitate to reach out. (Believe me, I will!)
Why you must do these three steps
Two months after a job I did not get, the COO called me and offered me a job that she had not listed yet. Why?
- I had sent a thank-you note.
- I had followed up and connected with her on LinkedIn.
- I had asked for feedback. I knew I had nailed the interview so losing the job had nothing to do with me. They went a different direction.
When she approached me with this other job, she gave me more feedback. She didn’t think I was the best fit for the previous job (i.e., medical editor) even though I was qualified. She thought I was a perfect fit for the company. Our values aligned well, and she liked me. More than I realized.
She wanted to put me in a role where my personality could shine and where upward mobility was available to me. By hiring me, she was investing in the company’s future. I was flattered.
She was disappointed when I turned down the job that she was handing me on a silver platter. In an odd reversal of roles, I provided her with feedback about why I rejected the position. Though I liked her, the company, and the job, I wasn’t going to be able to fulfill one of the main requirements due to a prior personal commitment.
I have not heard from her since our last email. I hope she realizes my declination of her offer was not personal.
Remember … Good manners never go out of style.
Be happy. Stay classy.
Also published on Medium.