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Simple Truths About Following Up to Close the Deal

Simple Truth #3: Strive To Stay Alive And Remain Top-of-mind

The simple truth is that after the interview, if you haven't yet received an offer and still wish to pursue the target position, your objective is to keep your name in front of the interviewer without becoming a nuisance. It's vital to be top-of-mind while the hiring authorities work through their decision-making process.

Your initial thank-you to the interviewer serves several purposes. First, it expresses your genuine gratitude for the opportunity, and for the interviewer having squeezed you into what's likely a very full schedule. Second, it clarifies any points needing clarification, and fills in any blanks that struck you as needing to be filled in. Third, it continues the “conversation” that began with your initial cover letter and was carried through into the interview.

The follow-up phone call

Most job-search experts agree that, in general, it's best to wait no more than five days from the date of your interview to place a follow-up phone call—that is, unless the interviewer specifically asks that you not call at all, or unless you have other instructions from the target employer. The interviewer should have already received your thank-you letter (or card or e-mail) by now, and this is your opportunity to take another step in continuing the dialogue.

It's absolutely vital that you prepare carefully for this phone call. A simple, “So, how's the search going?” is wholly inadequate. It's unprofessional and, worst of all, doesn't ask for the precise information that will help you stay in the running. Be prepared to leave a voicemail message. Be sure to have your notes in front of you, and make sure you're in a quiet place without likely interruptions. (You may wish to review the section on telephone interviews in Chapter 6.) You will be making another impression on the interviewer that can either help you ace the situation or destroy your chances of getting a job offer.

After you have identified yourself and reminded the interviewer of the position you're pursuing, consider opening with something similar to this: “As you move through the search process and interview other candidates, I imagine the requirements of the position may be evolving—are you still looking for the skills we discussed in our meeting last Wednesday? Or have your expectations for the position changed at all?” This is a subtle way of letting the interviewer know that you're a savvy pro who understands the dynamics of hiring the best. This approach also gives the interviewer a chance to acknowledge that the target employer's needs for the position may have shifted. Notice how you're continuing the dialogue—again, by making a connection with the interviewer, and by expressing that you recognize the dynamics of the process.

Remember to have your resume and success stories spread out in front of you as you make this phone call, and be prepared to think on your feet. If the interviewer admits that, yes, there are some new expectations that have cropped up for the position, you had better be prepared to demonstrate that it's just fine by you. In fact, you're excited or thrilled to hear about these new requirements because you realize that you didn't have a chance to talk much about your experience in one of your previous jobs, in which you were accountable for [insert the new area(s) identified by the interviewer]: “You'll note on my resume that not only did I streamline the process for efficiently disseminating new information on existing products to our sales force, but I was a key contributor to reducing costs for sales collaterals by more than 15 percent.”

Before the phone call concludes, be sure to ask if there is any other information you could provide that would be helpful. Then you may inquire about the timeline: “When do you think you'll be making a decision?” Depending upon the tone of the discussion up to this point, you may also consider asking, “When may I check back with you?” Be guided by the interviewer's responses in planning your next steps. Depending upon the timeline stated, calling once a week may be appropriate. If the hiring horizon is longer, perhaps once every two or three weeks would be best.

Thoughts on reaching the interviewer

In many organizations, voice mail has replaced the receptionist or executive secretary as the ultimate gatekeeper, fostering or hindering direct contact with the interviewer. It's impossible to overstate the importance of being prepared with a smooth, coherent message should you encounter voice mail. You may consider experimenting with calling early or late in the day, on the theory that things may become busier during the middle of the day. Some experts recommend placing follow-up calls before the official start of the business day or after 5 p.m. Others contend that busy decision-makers who are on the job that early or late would not be pleased at the prospect of having their “quiet time” interrupted. Again, learning as much as possible about the culture and timeline is your best bet to help ensure direct contact. Just as you were prepared for incoming phone calls starting from the moment you sent out your first cover letter and resume, be sure that everyone in your household remains on alert for such calls if you leave a follow-up message.

If the interviewer has stated flatly that follow-up phone calls would not be welcome, consider sending a letter or e-mail in one of two different forms:

  1. The nudge. Your initial follow-up letter (the letter that follows your thank-you letter) should focus on these simple truths: You're still enthusiastic about the job and want it; you understood the information shared during the interview; and, based on that understanding, you're even more convinced that your unique value would significantly contribute to the target employer's mission and its success. In subsequent letters, consider including a news clipping that's especially relevant to the industry or job, or even a thought-provoking, tasteful cartoon.
  2. The non-rejection. If you are notified that another candidate has been selected for the position that you were pursuing, you have a terrific opening to demonstrate yet again that you're gracious, professional, and still interested in other opportunities with the organization. Sending a letter at this time will definitely set you apart from the average job seeker, and most interviewers will appreciate and remember the gesture.

Additional topics

Job Descriptions and Careers, Career and Job Opportunities, Career Search, and Career Choices and ProfilesJob Search, Job Interview Questions, & Job Interview TipsSimple Truths About Following Up to Close the Deal - Simple Truth #1: Become Part Of The Hiring Process, Simple Truth #2: Timeline And Culture Are Key