There’s no doubt about it, landing your dream job is a process.
After sending out your polished resume, completing an online application, and even giving that first interview your best shot — you typically still won’t know whether you impressed the interviewers. The post-interview gray period is often the most stressful part of the job application process, and depending on how many times you’ve gone through it, can also be the most frustrating.
Fortunately, there’s something you can do to gain more insight into your job application and find out more about your prospects of being hired. It all starts with the follow-up email.
How to Follow Up After an Interview
So if you’re ready to put this maddening wait period behind you, keep reading for tips on how to follow up after an interview. It’s all part of the interview process and as important as a cover letter and connecting with the hiring manager.
1. Contact the Right Person at the Right Time
Never underestimate the power of contacting the right person at the right time. This often-repeated adage is one of the best ways to get started mapping out your interview follow-up email. And determining who you reach out to (and when) is arguably the most important item on this list.
A good rule of thumb is to reach out to the highest-ranking person you’ve interacted with. Say you had a series of three interviews: one with a recruiter, one with a hiring manager, and one with a prospective team member. In this scenario, you’d want to reach back out to the hiring manager directly, since they’re ultimately the one making decisions about your candidacy.
A key point here is to make sure you reach out at the right time.
If you were given a date by which you’d hear back, wait a full day or two after that to circle back. If you weren’t given a date, wait a full week after your interview before checking in (and remember to ask about their “hiring timeframe” during your next interview).
2. Say Thank You
If you haven’t sent a post-interview thank you note yet, now’s the time to express your gratitude. While it’s always a good idea to send a thank you email directly after your interview, we understand that things can happen. Even if you did send a thank you note, you can still add something into your opener like “thanks again for taking the time.” This will go a long way with busy hiring managers, and make them more likely to respond to your message in a timely manner.
3. Express Continued Interest
After determining who to contact, and thanking them, it’s time to mention your continued interest in the position. While your ongoing interest is assumed, it’s still nice to reiterate why you want the job and to inquire about next steps. This might be something as simple as, “I’m still very interested in moving forward and becoming a member of your growing team,” or even “I’m still interested in moving forward and getting started with X project.” Pick something simple and truthful to emphasize your enthusiasm for the new opportunity, and include a sentence or two about it in your note.
4. Ask for an Update
With these formalities out of the way, you’re ready to get to the meat and potatoes of your letter — and ask for that update. This step is often the hardest one, but don’t overthink it. Depending on the circumstances of the job interview, you might reiterate the timeline you were given and use that as a segue to form your question. For example:
“You mentioned you’d be making a decision by (date), so I just wanted to check in and see if you have any updates.” If a date wasn’t given, you should still stick to the same casual tone when posing your question, and you might even consider adding some sort of explanation for why you’re reaching out now. “I know things move fast in X industry, so I just wanted to check in and see if you have any updates.”
Keeping things casual and non-demanding (and placing your inquiry after other introductory formalities) will make for a much more pleasant reading experience for your interviewer. No matter how busy they are (or aren’t), your interviewer will appreciate that you continue to respect their time, even via email. The thing to remember is that everyone’s been through this process — including the interviewers. They know how hard it is to wait to hear back on a new job, which will make them appreciate your courteous approach even more.
5. Putting It All Together
With these components in mind, it’s time to put your letter together. Much like a thank you email (or any post-interview correspondence), keep things short, sweet, and on the same level of formality as your interview. What do we mean by this? Well, if you called your interviewer by their first name during the interview, feel free to do so in your email as well.
Every correspondence you have before being offered the job should still be considered as part of the interview stage, because technically it is. Beyond your qualifications for the job itself, your hiring manager will want to see that you’re a good social fit for their team. Which is why calling them “Mr.” or “Mrs.” after you’ve been established on a first-name basis isn’t really polite — it’s just awkward. Don’t invent formality where there isn’t any. Instead, focus on reading the social cues you’re getting from your interviewer, then mirror them.
The Final Word
Following up after a job interview is scary, no matter how many times you do it. Just remember that everyone does it, and if they don’t, they should. While companies and hiring managers probably have a timeline in their heads, you likely have one as well — especially if you’ve been unemployed for a while. By writing a courteous and confident follow-up email, you’re simply asking for something you have every right to know, so don’t be shy. Keep your chin up and keep going.
Tiffani Sherman is a Florida-based freelance reporter with more than 25 years of experience writing about finance, health, travel and other topics.