I’ve been on my fair share of job interviews, and if there is one thing I’ve learned from all of them, it’s that the follow-up can make all the difference in the world. When I first graduated college in 2008, I started looking for my first real-world career. At the time, I – like many other college graduates – was terrified that I wouldn’t find a job at all, given the fact we were in the midst of a terrible recession. Before 2008, I never gave much thought to practicing my job-interviewing skills or preparing for questions interviewers might ask me. After the recession hit, however, I quickly realized I would need to work extra hard to find a stable, reliable job in order to support myself.
During my job-interview preparation, I stumbled upon one very interesting discovery. I read a myriad of articles from employers that said it wasn’t the job interviews that set candidates apart from each other; it was the follow-up that mattered most. You can imagine my shock and surprise, in light of the fact I was putting so much energy into preparing for interviews and not for the follow-up work I would need to do afterwards. For those of you who are preparing for your first post-college job interviews, here are three ways to make yourself stand out amongst the competition.
Write your thank you notes
Believe it or not, a hand-written thank you note makes all the difference in the world. Most anyone can sit down and write out an email or pick up the phone and call somebody, but not many people have the self-discipline to sit down and write out a thank you note. Hand-written notes imply you are putting more work into following up, which in turn suggests you’re more passionate about the position. Whenever you write your thank you note, always make sure to personalize the details. Emphasize why you feel you’re right for the position, what you can bring to the job, and your overall impression of the company. One other suggestion: make sure to choose letterhead that isn’t unprofessional looking.
Send your thank you note the day after your interview
Follow-up emails, letters, and phone calls need to be promptly handled in order for them to mean something to an employer. Let’s say you have your interview on a Friday, but then wait two weeks to send your follow-up note. Not only have you let too much time slip by, but it’s highly likely your interviewers have already forgotten you. Remember, you aren’t the only person they are interviewing, and those other candidates are probably sending in their follow-up material as well. If you want to make a good impression, go ahead and send in your follow-up thank you note the day after your interview. It’ll probably take 2-3 days for the letter to arrive, and the company will likely be very impressed by your promptness. Again, by being this proactive you are proving you are passionate about the job.
Follow up with an email or phone call, not both
Believe me, there is such a thing as being too forward. Sure, your potential employers might be marveled by your enthusiasm, but they won’t be impressed by pushiness. Having to choose the right candidate for their company is stressful and time-consuming, and the last thing you want to do is leave a sour taste in their mouth just because you can’t wait a few extra days to hear back. Sure, it’s of the utmost importance that you follow up with your employers, but you don’t want to overdo it by any means. As a rule of thumb, send one hand-written thank you note and then choose between making a phone call or sending an email afterwards. Do not do both; it will overwhelm the employers.
The job market is much stronger than it was in 2008, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t put in the same valiant effort to try and get the jobs you’re interviewing for. Whenever you make your follow-up with employers, always make sure to send a hand-written note, send your note promptly, and follow up with an email or phone call – not both.
Kate Willson is an education blogger and writer for collegecrunch.org. She is passionate about providing college graduates with advice on how to transition into life after college. Feel free to leave any comments or questions for her below.