Follow-Up Is Good Form

By Donna Cardillo, RN, MA

Congratulations! You got through the interview. That’s a feat in itself. But your work isn’t done yet. Regardless of how the interview went, follow-up can help seal the deal and give you some additional leverage, especially in a tight job market. The right follow-up can even help make up for a lackluster interview.

The follow-up note has always been an essential part of interview etiquette. However, many people aren’t aware of it or simply don’t bother with it. Sending that note will help you stand out from the crowd and give you a competitive edge. It demonstrates professionalism and shows you have workplace savvy and are serious about the job. Here’s what to do:

Before you leave the interview, ask for business cards from each person who interviewed you. Within 24 hours after the interview, send a thank-you letter to each. Keep it short and sweet: Thank the person for the time spent with you and mention you appreciated the chance to meet. State your continued interest in the position and briefly recap your relevant qualifications. End with an upbeat phrase like “I look forward to hearing from you.” The letter should be word processed on good-quality stationery.

Can the letter be handwritten? Although a few employers find it more personal, many consider a handwritten note unsophisticated. How about an e-mail thank-you? That’s appropriate if you’re applying to a technology company or have a short window of opportunity. For example, if you have a second interview with the same person the following day, then a traditional thank-you letter won’t have time to reach its destination. In that case, an e-mail will serve the purpose. But of course, you can still send a traditional note to those whom you won’t be seeing again.

Never leave an interview without knowing the employer’s time frame for making a decision. If the interviewer doesn’t mention it, ask, “When do you anticipate making a decision?” Or, “When might I expect to hear from you?” This is a completely appropriate question that you need to ask. Usually, the interviewer will respond with something like, “I hope to make a decision by next week.” If the person says, “Gee, I’m not really sure how long the process will take,” then you might say something like, “Does two weeks sound about right?” The interviewer will likely respond, “That sounds about right,” or “It’s probably more like three weeks.”

Then, if you haven’t heard anything after that designated time, make a follow-up phone call. Say something like “Hello, Ms. Hawkins. My name is Carol Garfield. You may recall that I interviewed for the ICU staff position about two weeks ago. I was wondering if you had made a decision yet?”

If Ms. Hawkins says she’s still interviewing for the position, then you might ask, “Do you have any reservations about me that I can clear up while you have me on the phone?” While this may sound forward, it’s actually a smart question to ask. Often, interviewers have some concerns or questions that they’re reluctant to broach. Let’s face it: If you were the ideal candidate, you’d probably have been offered a position already. If you open the door, they may be honest. It gives you an additional opportunity to sell yourself and overcome any perceived objections. Just asking the question shows you’re a motivated, assertive person who’s obviously interested in the job.

Then be prepared to respond to any possible objections. For example, the interviewer might say, “You seem like a nice person, but we were hoping to get someone with a little more experience.” You could counter that by saying, “I can understand what you’re saying, but look at it this way: You can train me to do the job exactly the way you want it done because I’m coming to you with no bad habits.” Of course, you’d say this with a smile in your voice.

On the other hand, if the interviewer has already filled the position, you might say, “I’m always working on my interview and self-marketing skills. I respect your opinion and wonder if you might give me some tips on how I might improve my presentation and marketability next time.” Although it takes a bit of courage to ask this question, it can yield some invaluable feedback.

If you can’t reach the interviewer by phone, you might try human resources or nurse recruitment to check on the status of the position. You can also try e-mailing the interviewer in this circumstance. Unfortunately, some employers don’t get back to all the people they interview. If you remain unsuccessful in reaching the parties involved, you have to regroup and move on. That’s why it’s always good to have a few irons in the fire.

Keep in mind that hiring decisions are made for objective and subjective reasons. You can do everything “right” on an interview and meet all of the employer’s qualifications and still not be offered a job. At least you’ll know you did all you could and can move forward. Besides, sometimes a candidate is hired and then doesn’t work out for some reason. Or if an employer is impressed with you but doesn’t hire you for the position you applied for, that employer may refer you to someone else in the company or later hire you for another position. If you presented yourself well with good follow-up the first time around, you never know when you might get a call-back!

What if after the interview, you’ve decided you don’t want the job? Don’t be so quick to walk away. Send the thank-you note and proceed as if you wanted the job. There are many times that a different — often better — job is offered. Every interview is an opportunity. You never know what may happen.

The right follow-up after an interview will help to position you as a contender. Do your best on the interview and then send a follow-up note, make a follow-up phone call, and be prepared to sell yourself one more time by phone, if necessary. It’s a winning combination that will dramatically increase your interviewing success.

Copyright Nursing Spectrum Career Fitness(sm) Online (www.nursingspectrum.com), All rights reserved. Used with permission.