Kira Vermond: When should you follow up after a job interview?

220-gensler-interview.jpgHas this ever happened to you? You go to a job interview, everything seems to be going fine, and the employer says, "We'll be in touch."

And then... you never hear from that company again.

Or how about this? The interviewer says, "We'll call you Friday to let you know either way." So you wait until Friday. Nothing. Monday. Nothing. And by Tuesday, you're checking your phone 20 times a day.

So how long should we wait before following up after a job interview? Because even a "thanks but no thanks" is preferable to job hunter limbo, right?

Well, let's look at why some employers drag their heels when making a decision. Sometimes it's just bad timing. A manager is away on vacation and HR needs his or her signature to offer the job. But sometimes it happens because - at least from the company's perspective - there's no rush. The economy is tanking and they know job hunters will wait.

But here's something else to consider. Sometimes, employers don't respond right away because they are actually expecting interviewees to follow up with them. That's right. Some companies wait for a follow-up email or phone call to see who is actually serious about wanting the job.

So what does that tell us? Always, always follow up.

But when? Here are the rules:

  • To start, before you leave an interview, ask, "What's next?" Find out when the employer plans to make a hiring decision. Say they'll know in two weeks. Unless you have another job offer that requires an early answer, do not email or phone until those two weeks are up.
  • Once the date has passed, send an email. If you don't hear back within a day, make a phone call. Start with the least intrusive means of communication first. Then crank up the heat. But not too high. You can wait a couple of days or even a week before dropping a line again.
  • And what if you forgot to ask for a decision date in the first place? Again, waiting a week before making contact after an interview is pretty standard. Even two is fine. 
  • No matter how you contact the employer, keep the conversation friendly and professional. Restate your qualifications or tell them something you wish you'd mentioned in the interview. Calling someone up and simply saying, "Did I get the job?" often sounds pushy or desperate.
Finally, what do you do if, despite numerous emails and calls, you never hear back at all? That's depressing alright, but consider this: If the company treats its potential hires without respect, how does it treat the employees?