Reading Your Hiring Manager: How Much Follow-Up Makes Sense?

Maximize Your Success Rate with Some Do's & Don't's

Posted Feb 03, 2011

Sometimes acing a job interview is like playing poker - you have to know how much to reveal, how much to conceal, and when to call for all cards on the table. If you play them correctly, then you might win the game. But how can you play your cards right when you're sitting across from an interviewer with the world's best poker face?

Even before you leave the interview, you can tactfully ask for feedback, as long as you are subtle and the interviewer has a somewhat open style. For example, if the hiring manager is conversational, before leaving, it might be appropriate to say: "This position sounds very exciting to me, and feels like a position I could contribute a lot to. May I ask if you have any initial thoughts on my suitability for the job?" You might also ask where the interview process stands: "Do you anticipate filling this job in the near future - or feel at all comfortable letting me know where you are in your hiring process?"

Watch for verbal as well as non-verbal (body language) cues before getting too inquisitive, or you could seem too aggressive. This is where your good interpersonal skills will come in handy.

Fine-Tune Your Follow-Up Strategy

After you've left the office, how soon and how often should you follow up? Try to gauge the reaction you're getting at every step of the way, and consider some of these follow-up tips:

Do:

• "Thank You" E-Mails. Ideally, that same day or next, send a "thank you" e-mail. This is an opportunity to restate your interest in the job and company and reinforce your strenghts. Good old-fashioned manners go along way in any relationship, and this practice is no exception. Your note can be a subtle sales tool, but should primarily: a) reinforce why you're a good match for the position; b) demonstrate your enthusiasm; c) clear up any possible misconceptions in a positive way; d) indicate something positive about the future, such as, "I look forward to hearing from you."

• Information E-mails. If you find an article about a new development in the industry or information that pertains to the job or company, e-mail it to the interviewer with a note - "I thought this article might be of interest to you." The information may also be about major local industry event or seminar with a renowned speaker. Calls are typically irritating, and too much e-mailing will take you out of the running. But useful information that helps them in their job shows that you would be supportive of your prospective boss, not to mention mindful of the industry in general.

• Subtle Reminder E-mails. Marketers know that frequency counts. To be a standout, you must ensure that your "product" - meaning you - is always in view, especially in today's unemployment market when companies are still inundated with applicants. If you don't hear back in a week, send a friendly follow up inquiry (ideally with a useful article link or embedded article text).

Keep follow-ups informative, varied; upbeat; and enthusiastic. Briefly remind the hiring manager why you're the perfect candidate for the job and how you will be advantageous to the company. "I really enjoyed our interview and feel that my background in X would greatly benefit the company and your goals for the coming year."

Don't:

• Be Too Clever. Keep your follow-up "thank you" e-mail professional. No multiple colors, mixed fonts, or smiley faces. Don't be tempted to "stand out" by sending something unusual or "overly creative" to your interviewer. For example, a friend of mine interviewed a candidate who sent a follow up plastic shoe full of goodies - and the candidate attached a thank you note saying she thought she could really be a shoe in for the job. If you're groaning reading that, just think what the interviewer did.

• Overplay Your Hand. I have received thank you notes that were very long-winded sales pitches after the fact. There's a time to sell yourself and a time to stop. An endless sales pitch will only raise more questions, particularly about your level of confidence.

• Bug Them. There's a difference between being persistent and being a pest. Showing up in-person is one sure way to get your résumé deleted. Sending them a barrage of communiqués - notes, e-mails and daily phone calls - will also ensure that you'll end up "folding up your hand."

• Overload Them. Sending a follow up article of interest is one thing. Sending them a weekly spam series of thinly veiled, "All About Me" e-newsletters, is another.

• Play Hardball. Your interviewer has probably heard it all. If you try the old ploy: "I have a few offers pending right now, so please let me know immediately" - you'll likely hear back, "Well don't let me stop you if you have a great offer pending."

To Win, Get Good at Poker

Not literally, of course. But you can succeed at the interview game if you're good at reading people; that is, sensing how much or how little communication is right with the particular hiring manager. Watch for signals and the feedback you're getting, or not getting.

All in all, nothing ventured, nothing gained in the follow-up process. With some finesse and an upbeat approach, you can beat the odds in the interview game.