When And How To Write A Follow-Up Email

Photographed by Erin Yamagata.
Job hunting is generally comprised of a series of maddening starts and stops, some of which are tedious, and some of which are thrilling.
Unless you resolve to knock it out fast, updating your résumé is a pretty boring process — until you send it out and develop a sudden obsession to refresh your inbox every few seconds.
Then, even after you're fortunate enough to be granted an interview, you may have to wait weeks to hear back. (Globally, the average hiring time, from the interview process to the hiring decision, lasts about three weeks.)
To make sure you aren't overlooked during that interim, be sure to send a follow-up email after your meeting, even after your initial thank-you email. Expressing gratitude to your interviewer (or interviewers) for taking the time to talk to you and get to know you better isn't an optional gesture. It's a move that can keep you top-of-mind, and simply show your conscientious side — a quality many employers look for.
"A great follow-up email or personal note should happen right after the interview, within half a day," says Kelly Marinelli, a principal consultant at Solve HR, and a talent acquisition panelist at the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). "The message should be specific, show authentic appreciation, and be addressed to each interviewer personally if possible. Finally, the thank-you message should reference something substantive from the interview that is specific to the employer, preferably including a connection to what you bring to the role."
Additionally, sending your interviewers a brief note after that first meeting can help establish a timeline of when you might hear back. For example, if you're informed that you were one of the first people interviewed, it's likely that there are still several people waiting in the wings for their own meetings. As a result, you may be told that a final decision won't come for another few weeks after that — giving you an indicator of when to check in again and send a follow-up email.
Just know that you don't have to beat around the bush when inquiring about the wait. You shouldn't state a demand of when you want to know by, but it's perfectly okay to ask something along the lines of, "Do you have an idea of when I can expect to hear back?" Or, "How far along are you in the process of filling this position?" Or, even, "Is there a date when I should follow-up?" Many interviewers will tell you this themselves, but if someone forgets, it's okay to ask for a prompt.
"Always ask the interviewer how and when to follow up," suggests Dan Ryan, the principal at Ryan Search & Consulting. "If no response occurs, check in weekly unless given other directions."
Keep in mind that a weekly check in could be highly irritating to some people, but necessary for others who have a lot going on. Take your cue from the person you're reaching out to, and use a bit of discretion; you don't want to be pushy or annoying. In your follow-up, you should ask if your interviewers need anything else from you, whether additional references, or information about you. If you haven't heard back after two follow-ups, keep the search going on elsewhere. It might be a matter of time — or you might simply need to move on.

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