How and When to Follow Up After Completing an Interview or Forwarding Your Resume

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Have you been putting off sending a follow-up note after submitting your resume or completing that long-awaited interview? A word to the wise: Don’t.

A full 81 percent of senior managers who responded to a survey late last year said they expect job candidates to follow up within two weeks of applying for a job.

The survey was developed by temporary accounting and finance staffing firm Accountemps—part of global staffing company Robert Half International—and conducted among 1,013 senior managers at companies with 20 or more employees late last year. Approximately half of the respondents were human resources execs, and many were controllers and CFOs.

The Survey Results

Executives were asked, "How long should a job seeker wait to follow up with the hiring manager after submitting a resume?" Their responses broke down as follows:

  • One week or less: 38 percent
  • One to two weeks: 43 percent
  • Two to three weeks: 12 percent
  • Three weeks or more: 6 percent
  • No need to follow up: 1 percent

All of the above applies just as well to following up after an interview, according to Ryan Sutton, a senior regional vice president with Robert Half and an Accountemps senior manager.

“When I speak to clients, they use the same follow-up approach after an interview," says Sutton, adding that if anything they would recommend an even more prompt response from applicants after a face-to-face meeting.

How Much Follow Up is Too Much?

Then again, there are many applicants who’ve been through the interview and application processes many times over the years and would never fail to send an e-mail the next day in the case of an interview, or follow up promptly by telephone soon after posting a resume and cover letter.

Here, the bigger question is how much follow up is too much?

Sutton says first and foremost, take care to consider the tone of your follow-up beyond your first follow-up or thank-you-for-the interview response.

“There's a big difference between being assertive and aggressive,” Sutton advises. Ask yourself, are you following up with general interest or sounding annoyed? No matter how much time has gone by since your first contact with the employer, you will never get anywhere if you sound even the least bit impatient.

As for the frequency of your follow-up, Sutton says that once every one or two weeks should be appropriate, and that it should be fine to reach out perhaps as many as three or four times in total, taking care to vary your methods. As Sutton suggests, “Try and mix the mediums.”

How to Follow Up

E-mail is one effective tool for your follow-up, but these days, managers are so often inundated with e-mails that you may earn more brownie points with a handwritten note, says Sutton. “Line managers get so many e-mails—the handwritten notes stand out and get more read."

What should you say in your follow-ups? For starters, restate your interest in the position and reiterate why you think you'd be a good fit for the organization.

Cite specific professional accomplishments you’ve achieved and in-demand skills you possess related to the job.

Also, while it’s fine to forward news items or other items of interest to potential employers as ways of following up and keeping in touch, don’t make the mistake of forwarding negative information about the firm.

“I had one client whose company was going through a restatement of earnings,” Sutton recalls. When a hopeful employee cut out a notice about it and sent it off to the company with a handwritten note and used that as a follow up, “it didn’t go over too well,” he says, adding that it's usually a good idea to ask peers or recruiters what they think about the follow-up approach you’ve planned.

“Candidates make mistakes when they don’t bounce ideas off a neutral party,” says the executive.

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