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August 5, 2014 at 1:00 AM

How to follow up after your big interview

The Great Recession has given workers some tough lessons about the sometimes inhumane business of human resources. But one of the most lasting effects I’ve seen has been the lingering fear job seekers have about when, where and how to contact hiring managers, even after they’ve had an interview.

And really, can you blame them? From day one, job seekers are warned never to speak with a human being at the company. Most are then forced to enter data into no-size-fits-anyone “applicant tracking systems” that seem more interested in ethnicity and criminal history than in your qualifications. In many cases, a boilerplate confirmation email is the only response they get in return.

It’s no surprise that interviewees are skittish about reaching out through the silence to hiring managers. However, if you are in this position, a well-worded call or email is not likely to ruin your chances, and can even help you. Here are some common questions I’ve seen from readers:

Should I contact them? In short, yes. Once you’ve had an interview, you’re already at or near the top of their list. Contacting the hiring manager several days after the interview is not only accepted, it’s expected. Busy hiring managers may have simply forgotten to get back to you, so a little nudge shouldn’t hurt.

How long do I wait? Ask how long the interview process will take, and then use the longest time frame as a guide. If the manager says “one to two weeks,” wait at least two weeks. In fact, wait three or four of days after the estimate so as not to seem too eager.

Call or email? This depends on your experience with each interviewer. If your main contact has used email in most of your pre-interview conversations, then stick with that. It might be tempting to text the hiring manager to get a more immediate response, but that would probably be too casual and intrusive.

What do I say? First of all, be sure that every form of communication you send is completely typo-free and grammatically correct. Be gracious and use non-confrontational phrasing such as, “I wanted to get back in touch with you and find out how the process is moving along.” You may also bring up any relevant information you may have forgotten during your interview, which will help refresh the interviewer’s memory about your skills.

Randy Woods is a writer and editor in the Puget Sound business publishing arena and a veteran of the local job-search scene. Email him at randywoods67@gmail.com.

More in Work Life Blog | Topics: communication, etiquette, interviewing

Blog contributors

Lisa Quast is a certified career coach, mentor, business consultant, former corporate executive and author based in the Seattle area.

Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl, a career guide based on her 59 jobs over 40 years in 22 cities.

Randy Woods Writes about job-search tools, networking techniques and other tips to help you land your dream job.

Former contributors

Kristen Fife is a senior recruiter, career mentor, blogger and resume consultant.

Michelle Goodman is the author of "My So-Called Freelance Life" and "The Anti 9-to-5 Guide."

Matt Youngquist is the president of Career Horizons, a career counseling firm.

Natalie Singer is a Seattle writer, editor and small-business owner.

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