REVIEWED BY
Kim Freier | Jul 08, 2022

When interviewing for a job at a top accounting firm as a senior in college, Lily Valentin forgot to send a follow-up email at the end of the interview process. Right then and there, the company stopped considering her for the role, and Valentin has never forgotten the importance of sending a post-interview email since then.  

“I did not get the job because I forgot to send a thank you note,” said Valentin, head of operations for North America at job search engine Adzuna. “My interviewer had no hesitation to tell the college counselor … that they opted to not move forward because I forgot that critical element. To that interviewer, it highlighted a failure on my part to fully execute on a project.”

The follow-up email is a relatively small piece in the job consideration puzzle, but this gesture can be the deciding factor when the race is tight.

A great thank you letter can truly be the difference between a job offer and not. If there’s two strong candidates that they’re thinking about, and they can’t choose which one, but one of them follows up with a genuine thank you letter, that could be the difference between a job offer and not,” said Sara Hutchison, CEO and executive career consultant at Get Your Best Resume

Such weight can make every small detail feel fraught. To get a sense of best practices, we talked to veteran recruiters, hiring managers and career coaches about the do’s and don’t’s — and when’s and how’s — of following up.

“A job search is high stakes ... The pressure is real, and the follow-up is an extension of that interview process,” said Mollie Khine, senior director of coaching at Flatiron School, a bootcamp with courses in software engineering, data science and cybersecurity. “So, just as folks are nervous about the interview itself, it makes sense that you’d also be nervous about the correspondence.”

8 Tips for Following Up After Job Interviews

  • Send a short thank-you note within 24 hours of each interview.
  • Don’t be afraid to send a follow-up email after four to five business days from a final interview if you haven’t heard back after sending your thank you note.
  • In follow-ups, thank the interviewer for their time, reiterate your interest and include specific references about your conversation.
  • Be concise. A couple sentences or a paragraph is fine.
  • Keep your tone professional, even if the hiring manager is more casual.
  • Use email. There’s no need for “creative” outreach.
  • Following technical interviews, you can correct notable mistakes in the follow-up. But don’t get too carried away.
  • You can use the follow-up email to send additional information like an article relevant to your discussion or a work sample.

More on InterviewsMastering the Thank You Email After an Interview: 5 Examples and Tips

 

How to Write a Thank You Email After the Interview & WOW Them! | Video: Self Made Millennial

How to Write a Follow-Up Email After an Interview

Writing a follow-up email can follow a formula, but you absolutely must customize the content for each interviewer and add personal details from your conversations.

“The content of the email, it’s great when they’re not stock or that they don’t feel canned,” said Dawid Wiacek, career and interview coach and founder of The Career Fixer

Here are the basics to include in your follow-up email, as outlined by the UCLA Career Center.

  • Thank the interviewer for their time and interest in meeting with you and explaining the position.
  • Reiterate the skills, strengths and abilities you can bring to the job.
  • Refer to something specific you discussed in the interview to remind them of your conversation. 
  • Describe how your interest was intensified after learning something specific from one of the questions you asked at the end. 

Try to tailor each thank you email to the specific interviewer. Do not send the same thank you letter to the recruiter, hiring manager and CEO,” said Tina Hawk, senior vice president of human resources at Inflection, a big data company that helps employers with screening to make better and faster hiring. “If you had a test or demonstration as part of your interview process, make sure to reference that in your thank you. A simple ‘thank you for the opportunity to demonstrate x, y, z’ allows you to once again highlight your skill sets.”

With that format in mind, here are some specific tips for formatting the email.

 

A SUBJECT LINE THAT MEANS BUSINESS

Keep the subject line simple. Here are a few recommendations from the experts:

  • Thanks for the opportunity.
  • Thanks for the opportunity ([Title of job interviewing for])
  • Thanks for your time today/yesterday.
  • Follow-up ([Title of job interviewing for])

“It doesn’t have to be complicated or witty. Just your name, the date and time of the interview will do just fine,” Hawk said. 

 

KEEP IT SHORT

Ravi Raman, executive career coach for technology leaders, recommends your follow-up should be concise and hit three key points: thank the recruiter or hiring manager for their time and the opportunity, reiterate interest in the role and express confidence that one’s skill set dovetails with the position and with the overall department and company goals.

The general consensus among experts is that two paragraphs is more than enough. One paragraph is sufficient, unless the interviewer, say, left the candidate with a question to consider and follow up on.

 

BUT NOT TOO SHORT

Nearly as bad as sending no follow-up at all is sending an email so short and canned that it screams “perfunctory.” Ryan Brown, director of HR practice at Hirewell, said she has seen candidates send rote, single-sentence follow-ups consisting of little beyond, “It was nice chatting with you, and thanks for your time.”

“It shows that you haven’t invested a lot of time and that maybe you don’t care to either,” she said.

A good way to avoid having one’s follow-up read as boilerplate is to reference something interesting that came up during the interview or some new, pertinent-to-the-job piece of information that you learned since the last conversation.

Khine also recommends studying up on the company’s own language nuances — on its website, in the job description, recalling phrases from the interview — and incorporating those into your communication.

“Do they call their customers users or guests? Do they refer to their employees as team members? The more you can adapt to the way that they speak — those are all things to bring into the interview process, including in your thank you notes,” Khine said.

 

PROOFREAD, PROOFREAD, PROOFREAD

Are there any misspelled words in your email? Is the email recipient’s name spelled correctly? Is the company name? Does your email reference a completely different job opportunity you’re interviewing for? That might seem impossible, but it does happen, especially if a candidate has gone through a rash of recent interviews with various prospects.

There’s no program that can catch that blunder, but there are plenty of stopgaps against grammatical errors. Keep the spell-check function on in your email, or — as Ryan Brown recommends — try an application like Grammarly, which can help clear up grammar, syntax and clarity issues.

“Proofread your emails. It is so much worse to send an email with a typo or to the wrong person,” said Georgina Salamy, director of talent acquisition and insight at Zoox, a subsidiary of Amazon developing autonomous vehicles.

 

TONE MATCH AND BE PROFESSIONAL

Imagine you’re about to have your first interview with a company that you know has a casual dress culture — hardly unique in tech. Would you wear jeans and flip-flops to the interview, knowing such attire would likely be perfectly acceptable on the job? Nope. There’s still an expectation of some formality, and why risk communicating presumptuousness or unprofessionalism?

“Be professional and courteous, and be direct and clear in your communication. You want to come off as thoughtful, kind and enthusiastic. ‘Wow’ the employer,” Hawk said.

There’s an analog in the follow-up email. Even if a company’s culture — and communication style — seems laid back, keep the tone of your follow-ups proper.

“It’s okay to tone match, but you also want to level up a little bit with professionalism,” Khine said.

For example, use proper capitalization and punctuation even if the people you correspond with do not. Or, if the recruiter or hiring manager, say, signs off emails with just a hyphen and an initial, keep your signature more formal nonetheless, with a sign-off like:

“Thanks for your time,

[Your Name]”

 

Ending Your Email

Speaking of signing off, concluding by thanking your interviewer for their time is a great choice. “Close with a simple ‘looking forward to hearing from you,’ then a ‘thank you,’ followed by your full name,” Hawk said. “You might also add that you welcome any additional questions.”

At the end of the email, you can also finalize details about upcoming parts of the process.

“Close the email with your appreciation and by calling out next steps. For example, if they mentioned you are moving forward in the interview process, provide your availability for the next interview,” said Lauren Stempel, vice president of recruiting, West, at B​​etts, a recruiting technology and services firm for revenue-generating roles.

Valentin, from Adzuna, recommends linking your LinkedIn profile in your signature and making sure you have the correct contact information for yourself included.

 

WATCH THE EXCLAMATION POINTS!

That brings us to an eternal source of business email anxiety: the exclamation point. Do too many look manic or juvenile? Do too few look disinterested or anhedonic? Do you need to have at least two sentences end without an exclamation point, as the viral Grace Segers joke goes, just to prove your “normalness?”

While no employer keeps a running spreadsheet of punctuation choices among candidates, and the number of exclamation marks is unlikely to make or break your candidacy, be conservative.

“It’s probably the same rule of thumb, I would say, for any professional email correspondence,” Khine said. “You don’t want to use more than a handful of exclamation points or anything to that effect.”

And keep them out of your subject line altogether. They make your email look spammy — and that much easier to overlook. “If you write, ‘Let’s change the world together!!!’ — with three exclamations, you might just get screened out,” Raman said.

 

CORRECT YOURSELF — SOMETIMES

We all know the feeling. You think of the wittiest response or most insightful answer long after the conversation has passed, kicking yourself for missing it in the moment. John Lees, a career strategist and author of Get Ahead in Your New Job, told the Harvard Business Review that it’s generally best to resist the temptation to use interview follow-up correspondence as a means of correcting what’s known as l’esprit de l’escalier — literal translation: “staircase wit” — the concept of thinking of the perfect response too late.

Too much self-reconsideration could come off as desperate, but there are times when correcting yourself makes sense. Technical interviews are common in tech, and demonstrating applied knowledge after flubbing one or more questions might help overcome missed points, Khine said.

Research your error, write up the correct code snippets, post it to a blog and drop a quick link in the follow-up email. Rather than appear unconfident, it’ll show initiative, an eagerness to learn new material, a willingness to own mistakes and underscore that your interest in the role is serious.

“That’s the best thank-you note around,” Khine said.

If you totally forgot to mention something crucial to your candidacy in the interview, the follow-up email can serve as an opportunity to share that information. Erin Brown, associate director of graduate student career services at UCLA, said a PhD student once called her after an interview upset when forgot to mention a major part of her research project. She suggested the student include a link to the journal article in her follow-up email to the interview committee.

“She sent it to everyone. They all wrote back to her saying ‘Thank you so much. That article was so helpful,’ and she got the job,” she said. “It went from a period of panic to actually this was probably really to her benefit to be able to send that link.”

Similarly, one of Raman’s clients was certain he’d tanked his phone interview for a coveted position: a leadership role at Facebook. He was so dismayed that he nearly didn’t send a follow-up thank-you email, until Raman, a former director of marketing at Microsoft, convinced him otherwise.

It turned out to be a smart move. The job interview process kept progressing, and he ultimately received a job offer. The lesson was clear.

“Always follow up, always be prompt, and just assume the best — even if you feel like you bombed, because you just don’t know,” said Raman, who’s helped clients land positions at companies such as DropBox, Redfin and eBay.

 

Envelop icons floating in the air.
Image: Shutterstock

Interview Follow-Up Email Examples

Many career experts shy away from offering follow-up email templates for fear that job seekers will simply copy and paste and send a generic email. A couple experts did provide specific examples for reference, which you can use for inspiration, but you should make sure to completely rewrite and customize your email.

Here’s a highly personalized example from Wiacek:

Hi Juan,

 

I recognize that this is the high-volume season for your company, so I greatly appreciate that you took a half hour out of your busy day yesterday to speak with me. Beyond our mutual obsession over “Squid Game” (I heard just today that they greenlit season 2!), I felt that you and I aligned deeply over these core values: [xyz]. As I mentioned, I am being quite selective in my job search and want to make sure that the fit is right for my skills and passions. Additionally, it’s of great importance that my next job be challenging, not dull. I am confident, based on the roadmap you painted yesterday, that the path ahead is equal parts challenging and exciting—and I would be thrilled to share my energy with you and the rest of the [Company name] team.

The UCLA Career Center shares with its students an example of a traditional follow-up letter.

Dear Ms. Lastname:

 

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to meet with you and discuss the Financial Analyst position. I enjoyed speaking with you and learning more about Wealth Management Fictitious Name and your department. [Insert something specific you learned during the interview that particularly interested or excited you.]

 

My enthusiasm for the position and interest for working for Wealth Management Fictitious Name were greatly strengthened as a result of our interview. I am confident that my academic background and work experience provide a good fit with your requirements of the job. I can tell that those are qualities you value in an employee and I believe I have demonstrated those through [insert a brief recap of an accomplishment or experience you discussed during the interview].

 

Please feel free to contact me at (555) 555-5555 or by email to [email protected] if you would like me to provide you with any additional information. Thank you again for the interview and your consideration.

Here’s an example of a follow-up you can send if you haven’t heard anything from the recruiter or hiring manager after the final interview. 

Hello First Name,

 

Thank you again for taking time to meet with me on [date] about [position] at [Company]. I am reaching out to see if there are any updates regarding the hiring decision for this role. Any information you can provide would be appreciated.

 

[Express your continued interest and reiterate why you think you would be the right choice for the role in a sentence.] Thank you again for your time. I look forward to hearing from you.

More on Interview PrepThe Best Way to Answer ‘Why Should We Hire You?’

 

A calendar with a date labeled "follow up."
Image: Shutterstock

When to Send Follow-Ups

The general consensus of when to send a follow-up after an interview is as soon as possible. Maybe not the second you step out of the office or leave the Zoom call, but take some time to think through a thoughtful email and send it within a day.

“After the interview, send a follow-up email within the first 24 hours. Doing so shows the employer that you appreciate their time and are interested in the role,” said Chantal Grindle, chief human resources officer at ecommerce technology company Bold Commerce. “Most importantly, highlight what it is about the company or the role that excites you. Maybe you’ve come across an article or podcast that’s relevant to your conversation, or you simply want to share how you feel you’d be able to support the company’s growth — taking this extra step can be one of the best ways to set yourself apart from the other candidates.”

 

PROMPTNESS IS REQUIRED

The 24-hour guidance applies whether you’re following up from a phone interview, the first round of in-person interviews or subsequent rounds.

“You can never go wrong being prompt,” Raman said. “Some people, speaking from my experience working with clients, will say, ‘I had a great conversation with the hiring manager. I’m gonna wait until the third day before checking in.’ Why? Just be prompt.”

Remember that your emails — including the follow-ups — are a reflection of what it’s like to work with you. Are you quick, responsive, thorough?

“For those reasons, I’m in the 24-hour camp,” Khine said. “You have to send it either right after you leave the meeting, or shortly thereafter.”

Emily Connery, senior director of people and talent at ChartHop agrees. “[There are] no dating rules like waiting a few days and trying to play it cool. I think that can come immediately,” she said. 

 

CONSIDER SCHEDULING FOR THE MORNING

Is there a best time of day to send that follow-up? The more important detail is that it’s sent within 24 hours, but some argue that a morning send is ideal. That way it’s among the first emails to hit the hiring manager’s inbox as they’re greeting the day.

Khine mentioned email-scheduling tools like Boomerang and Gmail’s “schedule send” feature, which a candidate can use to pre-write a thank-you and slate for morning delivery, even if their schedule or habits don’t necessarily facilitate that timing.

 

DON’T WAIT TOO LONG ON FURTHER FOLLOW-UPS

Near the end of each interview, the hiring manager or recruiter will likely provide at least a ballpark timetable for when the candidate can expect to hear back.

So after sending that initial thank you follow-up within 24 hours, is it best to stand pat until that specified date arrives, and follow up again only then? Not necessarily.

As long as the next-steps timeline isn’t a matter of days, there’s no harm in sending a quick, short second follow-up at the middle point of the timeline. That way you’re not inundating the hiring manager or overstepping boundaries, but still reiterating interest and making sure your candidacy stays top of mind. Just be mindful to keep it short.

“I think it’s safe to drop a line or two, but it can be overkill and feel a little overwhelming if it’s more than that,” Ryan Brown said. 

 

DON’T FREAK OUT OVER RADIO SILENCE

Few things are more dispiriting than going through an interview, or multiple rounds of interviews, for a coveted role only to have your follow-up outreach met with ... crickets. But it does occasionally happen.

Hutchison suggests you can follow up again about four to five business days after a final interview if you haven’t heard anything. 

“Follow up with the hiring manager or the HR person’s email before you would email the main person directly because there’s a balance of wanting to come across as showing initiative, but also you don’t want to be a pest,” Hutchison said.

Connery suggests going to the recruiter first, but if you don’t hear anything in 24 hours, it’s fine to go to the hiring manager, she said.

If three follow-ups, reasonably spaced so as to not overwhelm, still fail to net a reply, cut your losses and assume the company has gone another direction, Ryan Brown said.

But even though the silence may be irritating, it’s important to not vent that irritation to the hiring manager or recruiter. Either take it as a blessing in disguise — a marker of unprofessionalism that may be symptomatic of larger organizational woes — or assume the other party might be overwhelmed.

Whatever the case, remain courteous, because the door may someday swing open again. Khine recommends sending one last email in which you thank them for their time, graciously let them know you assume the role was filled and let them know you’d still like to be considered for future openings.

“You never really know what’s going on on the other side,” she said. “And more often than not, that type of final follow-up will probably get some sort of response, even if it’s not the one you want,” she said.

More on Job InterviewsTackling the ‘How Would You Describe Yourself?’ Interview Question

 

A person typing on a laptop with envelop icons floating off the keyboard.
Image: Shutterstock

How to Send Follow-Ups

DON’T GET CUTE

Seemingly every few weeks, the years-old story of the guy who delivered his resume in a box of donuts gets reshared on LinkedIn. The posts always do numbers, engagement-wise, but there’s a thin line between creative and cloying, and hiring managers are known to be wary of such stunts. If that’s true for the application process, it goes doubly for the follow-up.

“Don’t worry about trying to get overly creative, because part of this is still just a formality,” Ryan Brown said. “It’s not something [employers] are putting a ton of emphasis on, in terms of who they got the most creative or innovative thank you from.”

In other words, the place to really stand out is in the interview, not in the follow-up. And the way to stand out in the interview is to make it clear that your strengths and skills match the role, not through strained whimsy.

 

JUST USE EMAIL

But what about a more traditional, less gimmicky way to make the follow-up stand out? Like, say, a handwritten thank you note? While a nice gesture in the past, sending a physical thank you note is unnecessary, especially in the increasingly remote world that companies operate in today. 

Ryan Brown recently went into the office for the first time since March 2020 and found several handwritten thank-yous waiting for her. “It was lovely, but they were sent last year,” she said. “If I didn’t go into the office, how long would it have been until I received those?”

It’s true that more employees are is returning to the office but many companies are now providing far more remote-work flexibility than they did pre-pandemic, and there’s simply no guarantee that a card — or any other physical deliverable — will actually arrive as intended.

“Don’t send a gift. Don’t send an Edible Arrangement. It’s just not going to help,” Raman said. “At the end of the day, they’re going to hire you or not based on merits, and the standout factor really doesn’t go all that far.”

The only exceptions raised were Loom and LinkedIn. Khine said she’s seen a handful of Flatiron students and graduates use Loom, the video-message recording application, to send video clips as follow-ups and have success. And she said extending a LinkedIn invitation to the hiring manager or recruiter is appropriate, if the candidate feels comfortable doing so — although that should always be done in addition to the email.

But in general, the rule of thumb is stick to email and don’t overcomplicate.

 

BE AUTHENTIC

All said, the follow-up will always be more of a humble obligation than the interviews themselves. So it’s best to take all the details seriously, but not overthink them or try to “hack” the process.

They will always be a space where unforced errors can occur, said Raman, drawing a tennis analogy. But they’re not really the arena for attempting hundred-mile-per-hour aces or dazzling between-the-legs shots, to extend the metaphor. If something in your follow-up outreach feels shoehorned or inorganic, it’ll probably read that way to the hiring manager as well.

“The reason an organization hires you is because you’re authentically you, and you have the right experience,” Ryan Brown said. “So don’t put too much thought or pressure into this component.”

An earlier version of this story was published by Stephen Gossett in 2021.

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