Dear Captain Awkward,
So I’ve been looking for a job for a few months. I had a few really great interviews but no job offers yet. I keep getting conflicting advice about follow up after a interview. It’s starting to feel a lot like dating; You want to appear confident and you don’t want to be pushy or appear over anxious. I have written personalized thank you messages via email to all of the people with whom I interviewed.
I’m waiting on one answer from one company that told me that they would make a decision by the end of this week for a start date two weeks after that. In other cases, I would be given a date when I can expect them to have reached a decision. I follow up after that date to still express interest. It seems to always take longer for them to inform me when they have reached a decision and they always tell me they offered it to someone else. It’s like I’m trying to get to a second date. I don’t want to be pushy but I want to be confident and express some persistence and interest. This time it’s a job I’d actually really would like. The interview went well individually with both the HR person and my prospective boss. They seemed impressed with my background and both conversations were particularly engaging. Both told me to call if I had any questions. My only question really is “Do I have the job or not?” I feel like any conversation would be awkward if I’m close to having the job. Can you give me some help with those awkward situations for follow up?
-Trying to get to the next level with prospective employers
Dear Next Level:
I’m applying for academic employment all over the country (Pssst, Internet, anyone need a film professor or writing teacher? Or freelance writer? CALL ME), so let me start by saying OH GOD, I FEEL YOU.
It sucks being in a vulnerable situation where your future depends completely on the whims of someone else.
My standard template for a post-interview thank you note goes like this:
Dear ____,I really enjoyed meeting you and your colleagues yesterday to discuss the ____ position. I’ve been thinking more about our discussion of (something interesting you talked about) and wanted to share (a related article/a proposed solution to your problem/contact info for someone interesting you could talk to about that problem).I remain very interested in the position, let me know if I can give you any more information or speak to any reservations you may have.Many thanks,Jennifer P.
I want to show that I’ve really been thinking about how to add value to them. Sometimes, if I’ve flubbed or glossed over something in the interview, or if I forgot to ask a question, the thank-you note is a chance to circle back to that issue, like “Since we talked, I’ve thought more about your question about how I would handle question x, and I think this is a good way to proceed. Does that fit with what has worked for you in the past?” or “We were so caught up in our conversation about x that we never talked about the international travel you mentioned in the job description. When you get a moment, could you tell me more about that? It’s one of the things that most attracted me to the position.”
In other words, make your follow-ups short, sweet, constructive, and as substantive as possible. Since they said you should feel free to call them with questions, the best way in is to think of a question and ask it. If they have bad news for you, you’ll know. If your application is still alive, you’ll know. Keep in mind that the hiring process is very slow for reasons that have nothing to do with your future actual boss and colleagues – there’s a lot of paperwork that has to be signed off on behind the scenes. If they call your references, that’s a great sign. At the early stages with resumes and cover letters, employers are looking for reasons to weed you out (it’s surprising how many people don’t know this and think that employers should scour their cover letter and resume for clues that they might be a great fit and interview everyone who applies in the interest of fairness. No.) At the interview and reference-checking stage, they are looking for reasons to be in love.
I’m probably going to break this streak with this big serious academic job search*, as there are only a few positions open in the country and a lot of newly-minted MFAs and people fleeing Hollywood, but I have a 100% personal lifetime streak of “If I send you a cover letter and a resume, you call me.” Maybe you don’t hire me- maybe that phone call is us figuring out that we don’t really want to work together – but you call me.
I really hope you make it to the next level. Be really good to yourself while you wait to hear, ok? Let us know how it goes.
*Or by bragging about it on the Internet. Jeez, hubris much?