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March 10, 2009


Question: An interview I had about two weeks ago went well (or so I thought), and I sent a follow-up thank you and called the hiring manager a few times (no response). I don't want to seem like a pest, but is there anything else I can do?

-- Steve, Vero Beach, Fla.

Steve: One of the trickier bits of job-hunting etiquette is how much to contact an interviewer following your meeting. There's a fine line between seeming appropriately interested in your status and being annoying. At some companies, it might be acceptable to send a single thank-you letter, as you have, but no more.

Meanwhile, other employers are impressed when candidates hang on like dogs to a bone and call back several times. This latter type of employer likes new hires with spunk and initiative, particularly if the opening requires sales skills. In this case, candidates who -- let's face it -- make pests of themselves are positively reinforcing the impression that they possess the right qualities.

But without being given overt instructions about how best to stay in touch following an interview -- e.g., "Call us back every Friday until we give you an answer" -- what should you do? The best place to establish some ground rules for following up about the hiring process is at the end of your interview. At this point, it's appropriate to ask the interviewer if you can call him or her back to determine your status, next steps, etc. You could say, "I'm really interested in the opportunity as you have presented it. Whom should I call to follow up on this, and when should I call that person?" Hopefully, you will receive an answer that sets some parameters.

Sending a thank-you letter to the interviewer is always appropriate and should be done right away. Nowadays, it's fine to send an email thank-you note, says Jim Pappas, manager of corporate staffing for The Barnes Group Inc., an international diversified manufacturing-and-distribution company based in Bristol, Conn. Sending email quickly indicates your interest and politeness.

Mr. Barnes says 95% of the thank-you notes he receives are sent via email and that sending a letter by regular postal service doesn't make a better impression on him than an email message. But he adds that only about 20% of job hunters he interviews bother to send thank-you notes, so clearly doing so can differentiate you to a degree.

In your note, say you appreciated the opportunity to talk about the opening. Repeat your interest in the job and how well it matches your abilities.

After that, the question is: How many times should you call the company if you haven't heard anything from the hiring manager following your meeting? "I'd say no more than three times," says Mr. Pappas. "It's like dating. If you went out with the person once and you called them three times and they don't call back, there isn't going to be a second date."

As I've said before, desperation is a very unattractive quality in a job seeker. You want to seem interested in receiving an offer while conveying the sense that you know you'll find something just as good if you don't.

Mr. Pappas, who talks with about 15 or 20 candidates daily, says that sometimes the process can stretch out if the hiring manager is traveling or if several other candidates need to be interviewed after you. But after your third try to reach the person is unsuccessful, "you're done," he says. "You should look for another opportunity."

He makes a good point. Never assume that a having good interview means you've landed the position. Always carry on with your job search while you're waiting to hear back from an employer so you don't lose momentum hoping for a call that may never come.


Filed Under: Interviewing