So you nailed the job interview, congratulations. Now what? We’ve got you covered in this episode and our conclusion might surprise you.
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How To Follow Up After An Interview
Frankie, we have done multiple interview episodes so far, largely focused on what kind of questions a manager should ask and as importantly how to answer some of those questions. What we haven’t talked about yet is what you do after the interview. You finish an interview, you feel like it, it went okay, you’ve left the office, and now you’re playing that waiting game. This episode is all about the best ways to follow up after an interview.
There was an article in the Harvard Business Review about this exact process. We built an agenda on it. I called Ian up and left him a message. I said, “Ian, this is my opinion,” so here it is. There are four things. There’s the process. There’s the follow-up note. There’s the exception like when you would ask for more feedback before the person gets back to you, and then there’s the feedback note. You’ve done the interview and then you write a quick thank you, which you should do, and then there are a few things you could do in the process. Let’s go into this. Let’s talk very quickly about the note. In the ‘90s when I was interviewing coming out of college, I always wrote a handwritten note to anyone I interviewed with.
Nowadays, the most effective thing is to get home, write an email, and do it within about two hours. Do an email and say thank you. You could even do it from your car before you leave on your phone or have a pre-written before you go in and hit send. The only thing that ever happens with a thank you card to me is I can see that person was well thought through and organized. The handwritten one is too slow nowadays with mail. You got to do it through email. Do you disagree with that?
I don’t know that it hurts you to also follow up with a handwritten note. I know you’re big on those and so am I. When you want to follow up and you want to do it quickly, use the medium that the person you were meeting with was already using. I would say this with interviews, sales calls or any business meeting. If in going back and forth, you were figuring out, “Let’s meet at a coffee shop,” and there was a lot of texting between you and the hiring manager, immediately follow up with, “That was great. I learned a lot,” quickly. I would use a text because that’s what they were using with you. If it was an email, use an email.
You are not going to ever hurt yourself by writing a nice handwritten thank you note if it’s between you and someone else, and it’s close. That could help you over if you did that and someone else didn’t. I would say a handwritten note is worthless if it’s just, “I enjoyed the interview. I’m interested in what’s next.” If you’re going to write something in handwriting, make it very specific to your individual conversation and how you can help that hiring manager.
Let’s go through this. I’m going to use an example that I use nowadays. If you’re going to send a handwritten note, speed matters. In most instances, you’re making a hiring decision on someone the same day that you had an interview. Usually, we’ll do a panel for 2, 3 or 4 candidates in a day. Either we’re going to make an offer or we’re not. By the end of that day or potentially the next day, we’re going to make a decision. If you’re going to send a handwritten note or something, speed matters.
One of the things that I do, it’s not for interviews, if I have a good meeting with somebody important, I courier the note so they have it that day. I’ll get back from my meeting. I’ll write something very specific about it, something I liked about the conversation, and then I’ll have it in their hands that day. If you are that organized, that would make an impact. Shy of anything else, there is nothing you can do post-interview to change someone’s mind.
You might be able to win a tiebreaker, “I built this whole agenda and the next thing is this.” This is fucking worthless. If you’re reading this and you’re on the fence and you’re not sure how to win an interview afterward, you’ve lost. What I want to talk about with the thank you card, your handwriting, the stamp you pick or if it’s a text or LinkedIn message is they are worthless. What is not worthless is what you do when you are in the room. That is the priority.
It’s not when you get home or what you do afterward. It is worthless and meaningless. It doesn’t matter. What we should talk about is what you need to do to make sure you own the room. Ian and I have gone through and done twelve of the big questions and how to answer them, be prepared, be on time, and have good compelling stories that show examples of you as being someone who is teachable, who has failed but succeeded through hard work and process. If you do these types of things, you’re going to give an interview with a lot of reasons to want to hire you.
Ian is big on research. He wants you to look up the company, understand the role and talk about history, “Where are we in the economic cycle?” Those are things that if you come into an interview with Ian, you’re going to win because those are the prep items he’s prepared for. What this entire episode boils down to is you’ve got a hiring manager that’s dedicated, phone off, sitting and looking at you, don’t blow it. The thank you card when you get home doesn’t change what happened in that room.Sending a thank you card when you get home doesn't change what happened in your job interview. Click To Tweet
When Frank brought this topic to me, I was struggling to think of a time when a follow-up thank you note changed my mind. I couldn’t think of one other than one instance. I’m talking about one instance in twenty years of hiring. This was a college panel. Remember the old days when you’d bring twelve kids in, they’d come to the office and would interview four managers each. You’d give them lunch, do a little dog and pony, and then send them off on their way?
In that kind of session, you got twelve kids who all have relatively similar grades from the exact same college interviewing for the same position. Most of them are with work experience other than a couple of crappy internships. It’s hard for that group to differentiate outside of energy and attitude. I do remember one time when we were sitting around and we had to hire 4 out of 12 that came in for an interview and we were split on a couple of kids.
In the meeting, it was me, an office manager, a sales manager, and a profit center manager. It’s the four of us. We’re going through the candidates and four are automatic outs. We all agreed they sucked. Two were automatic yeses and then we were debating 4 people for the last 2. In the meeting, while we were discussing it, the receptionist came up with a thank you letter. It was addressed to all four of us.
This person was the only person that did it, sat in the lobby when they were done with their interviews and wrote all four of us personalized handwritten notes. She came in and handed out four of the notes and they were all from the same person. This was one of the four that we were debating whether to make it in. I can say that this person bumped someone else because they did that. This is the only time I can think of in twenty years where a thank you note was like, “I was wrong in that interview.” It wasn’t that we were wrong. It was that we were close between this person and someone else.
You were looking for a reason. It’s a sift. Someone who’s going to have the organization to walk across the street, sit down, write a card, and have it back in your hands within one hour is someone you’re like, “That person deserves a second chance or a shot.” I’ve had a very similar story where someone went to their car and sent us an email within minutes. We’re like, “We didn’t give them a job because of it. We gave them a second chance to sit down with us because of it, but that was it. It is not a saving grace. It’s not going to get you a job. It’s not going to convince. It is a nice gesture.
Your point earlier is dead on with any thank you. This is not thanking someone for a wedding gift where you have 60 days to send it and people are okay with that because they get that you’re busy. If you’re going to send a thank you and you want to impress someone, whether it’s handwritten, email or anything, it’s got to be immediate. I loved your example of how you courier it right over. I met with an attorney who didn’t charge me. I was talking about one of my businesses. I had questions. This was a little bit ago. I was trying to decide whether he would be an attorney that I would want to work with on future real estate deals, but I had some questions. He was being nice.
He’s a friend of a friend. He is like, “I get home from work. Can you come by at 9:00 after the kids go to bed?” I’m like, “Are you sure?” He’s like, “I’m sure.” I was going to try to take 10 or 15 minutes of his time. He ended up giving me one hour and a half. He’s stayed up late after a long day of work, just helping me. I left. I remember thinking, “It was cool that he did this.” I went home. I got two of my best bottles that were in my house and I wrote him a thank you note. I was back at his house at 6:00 in the morning. I put two bottles of expensive wine on his front porch with a handwritten note from me at 6:00 AM the next morning. It’s eight hours later.
He saw them on his way out to work. I didn’t do it for any other reason. I genuinely appreciated the fact that he took that time for me. I thought waiting a week would be disrespectful. If his time was worth staying up, I certainly could get up early and show him my appreciation for what he did. I still work with him. We still work together. He appreciated it. It’s the same thing that Frank said. If you’re going to say thanks to someone, don’t dilly, do it right away.
In the follow-up process, there’s one exception that I’ve ever seen that happened to me. I wanted to work at NVR out of college. I met them somewhere in January. Everybody else I met at this career fair had called me and scheduled an interview or had a job offer in front of me They hadn’t even followed up to get my first interview. I’d met the company. It wasn’t a campus interview, but it was essentially a campus interview. What I did is I called the person I’d met, whose business card I had. I said, “I like your company. I think I’d be a great fit there. I haven’t heard back from you. Are you planning on interviewing me or should I make a job decision elsewhere?”
The conversation was this, “We do like you. We want to offer you an opportunity to come interview with us. We’re just behind.” I said, “I’ve got to make some decisions. I’ve got people breathing down my throat here. I don’t want to lose other opportunities. When?” That is the one time when the HR department at Ryan Homes blows. There’s no other way to put it. HR sucks. It’s the reason that Ian ended up going and finding a subcontractor to meet his incredible hiring needs because they couldn’t keep up. This was something I didn’t know at the time as a 22-year-old, but I would later learn. When you see that kind of proactiveness, it matters to hiring managers. That’s the kind of thing you can do outside of the arena, but you get the job based on what you do inside of that interview.
What I would say with the immediate follow-up thank you note is if you didn’t do a good job in the interview, you’re not getting a job based on your thank you note. Whatever you say, how you say it, text, email, social media, DM on LinkedIn, none of it matters. It’s expected that you do something if you don’t do it. It could hurt you if you don’t say something like, “Thank you for giving me your time.” Would you agree with that?
Could we start by saying, “If you don’t do it, it could hurt you?” It’d be weird if I interviewed 3 people and 2 said thank you right away and 1 didn’t say anything.
I hire a lot of people. I almost never get a thank you card from anybody anymore. I don’t get a thank you text or email.
There are ungrateful bastards in this world. It’s becoming a lost art.
It can help you from this standpoint of, “Wasn’t that nice?” It doesn’t help you win the interview.
The follow-up is incredibly important. A lot of times, when you don’t get a job, it’s not that the managers didn’t like you. It’s that they liked someone else a little more at the time. They’re only looking for one position. Maybe we interviewed three people. Maybe all three of them during headier times when the market was hot and the wind was on our back, we would have hired all three, but it’s 2023 and positions are limited that we’re looking to fill, and we don’t have the same growth. We only need one person. What I would say is don’t take that personal. The old ABBA song, “If you change your mind, I’ll be first in line, take a chance on me.” I love that.
That line is perfect for a job seeker. Just because you are a no today doesn’t mean you’ll be a no in 3 or 6 months. Follow up, more importantly, is sending a text maybe three months later, “I remember in our interview we talked about so and so, I wanted to tell you I made President’s Club for my company this year,” or something quick jumping out there, “I know I didn’t get the last one, but I wanted to check to see how’s your growth going?” Follow-up has worked for people many times, where someone out of the blue six months later would follow up. I had forgotten about them and we’re in a desperate place and need a bunch of people. I’m like, “We did like that person.” I’ll bring them back up. It’s like, “We did.” We bring them in because they followed up.
If you’re reading this and you’re a hiring manager, this has worked for me very well too. I have offered people positions. They have said no, but I’ve kept their resumes. Rob, my salesman, has been here for seven years. He turned me down and went and worked at a different company when I first met him. I followed up with him. I put it on my calendar. I thought he was an incredible salesman. I call him six months later. He goes, “This isn’t what I thought it was going to be.” We had a beer and that’s how I hired him.
That works too. I hired somebody that I’ve known for fifteen years and that I’ve been flirting with for a long time. I wanted him to come work here. That kind of follow-up does work if you are the hiring manager, you’re cultivating relationships, and you’re building things. There’s someone I’m meeting with in a week and a half who’s probably never going to come work here, but he might. I’ve been working towards getting him on board for a while.
As a hiring manager, there is some strategy to it, but if you were impressed by a company as someone who’s interviewing and you do want to work there and it didn’t work out, you can ask. What I will tell you is this. We have a pretty light HR policy compared to corporate around here. It’s by design. Corporations are not going to tell you why you didn’t get a job. There’s too much risk for a big corporation, to be honest with you. They’re going to go the company line, “We didn’t have enough time for you at the moment. It’s not the right fit. We’ll follow your resume.” It’s BS.
If someone follows up with me several times and I know they’re the wrong fit, what I will do is I will give them my time. I’ll do a phone call, a text or an email. Usually, I don’t leave a written chain. I’ll usually do it either over the phone or maybe, “Come grab a coffee at the office.” I’ll say, “These are the reasons I didn’t hire you.” I’ll give constructive feedback, but I won’t do that out of the gate. I won’t do it with somebody who doesn’t have tenacity.
If someone still has not found the right job 6 or 12 months down the road, I will help them. I have a 1099 subcontractor who I worked with for 5 years who I haven’t worked with in 3. She’s like, “It’s a little slow. Would you be willing to help me drum up some businesses?” That’s an absolute yes. That is somebody that I’m going to help get a job. I put her name out in front of five people before I left the office. It works in some ways, but to get a job, it’s not terribly effective.
It works in sales and interviewing is selling. You’re selling yourself. You’re trying to convince someone you’re being persuasive. No is not forever. No today does not mean no in 2 or 6 months. We’ve talked about raising money before. We had a bunch of people that I talked to about investing and keeping two years ago that said no and that said yes. We have 5 or 6 people that turned down the first round and now the company looks a little farther along, or some of those things.A job interview is about selling yourself. You're trying to convince someone you are being persuasive. Click To Tweet
The reason why they were engaged this time and it was easy for me is throughout the last two years, I was sending them things like, “Look at this new ad we’re running. Look at our new product spec that came out. Here’s our production unit.” I’m showing them our progress, “You said no because of these reasons. Look at the progress we’re making. You are concerned about it. It’s working. We have a production partner now. We’ve sold $50,000.” I’m not selling but I’m dripping over time, “You said no because you didn’t have enough information. Let me give you more information.”
I would say the same with interviewing, “You are sharing more information. I know you were concerned that I didn’t have sales experience. You might be interested to know, I took a sales job with my company. Now on my commission last month, I finished first out of seven reps.” That stuff is all great. As a hiring manager, I’m dying to find people that are proactive like that are eager to share their accomplishments.
You’ve told me stories about people who have gone, changed careers, done different things, stayed in touch with you over time, they come back and hired later. Follow-up and relationships matter in business. A thank you card or some type of follow-up after an interview is not going to change someone’s mind immediately almost always. What I will tell you is nurturing and fostering good relationships are undefeated. Have you ever used a realtor to buy a house?
What do good realtors do when you buy a house?
They ask you a lot of questions before they start showing you anything.
After you bought it what happens?
After the closing they follow up, “How do you like the house? How are things? How do you like living there?” They want to know if I’m getting antsy and moving again. They want to know the next time I buy.
The best realtors I’ve ever used send out a monthly newsletter, “Don’t forget about me.” It was cheap and it comes every month. Paxon does that. Paxon is the most organized dude we’ve ever met. He does it every single month. If you bought a house eight years ago, he keeps sending you that letter because of the cost of printing the letter, envelope and stamp, it’s a follow-up. There are ways that follow-up works, but it’s impossible to overcome a bad interview with a letter. You must give the goods.
You got to kill the interview. It’s 99.9%. If you blow the interview, your letter and follow-up don’t do anything to convince me. Otherwise, you have one hour to blow it out. That’s your time to shine. If you think your little follow-up letter at the end is going to fix anything, it’s not. I would spend all of my time thinking about prep, studying the company, what the company looks for, and what the managers look for.
Do your homework like crazy and practice behavioral interviews. Come up with 30 great stories that could describe any question they ask you. Be ready to tell those stories to explain them. If you don’t do that, your follow-up letter will do nothing to help you. You’re done. Most managers know within twenty minutes of the interview whether you’re getting hired or not. They’ve already decided you’re out twenty minutes in or you’re in before the interview even ends.
If you were a crappy interview and you sent me a thank you letter, I probably am not going to read it because you’ve already wasted some of my time. I’m not going to waste it again.
You’re not even going to open. It won’t even get to you.
The show is debunking myths. The thank-you letter and follow-up are a bunch of BS. Those are our notes. Throw them away. Win the interview.
Frank spent at least an hour and a half on this outline and threw it away right out of the gate because he thought about it and said, “Let’s tell them the truth about what’s happening out here in the world.” Here’s the truth, we are a top-ten business show. We are very excited about it. If you’re new to this show, hit subscribe and turn on the notifications. If you are one of our longtime followers, we love you and we’ll love you even more if you give us a five-star review with some nice comments so we know who you are on Apple Podcasts. Frankie, I’m going to follow up with a thank you note for doing such a good job on this episode. See you.
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