Job seeking shouldn’t end with interview

One of the most common frustrations described by job seekers is the lack of courtesy they feel from employers, particularly after an interview.

Amy Dickinson, an advice columnist for the Chicago Tribune, recently handled this topic when a reader asked, “Are we, as a society, becoming such cowards that we cannot be courteous? If one has gone through the interview process, shouldn’t the person at least be notified of the outcome? Come on, employers. Where are your manners?”

In her answer, Dickinson noted that the phenomenon may not be new, as she applied for numerous jobs in years past and was notified only once that she wasn’t getting the offer. She goes on to advise the reader to stay in touch with the employer, since “no news is not necessarily bad news,” and concludes by reminding job seekers that they have a greater incentive to keep the contact alive than the company does.

I agreed with Dickinson as I sat munching my toast over the morning paper, but I knew she was going to get at least one angry response. Sure enough, the next week’s column included a strongly worded letter decrying Dickinson’s “gall standing up for employers’ rights to treat job seekers without respect.”

I still think Dickinson gave a good answer, but I can understand why it wasn’t very satisfying. Employers do behave badly when they don’t respond to people they’ve interviewed. There really isn’t an excuse, other than being caught in a tsunami or getting hit by a bus on the way back from the meeting.

But job seekers aren’t going to change anything by feeling hurt and angry. Nor is that a good position from which to re-contact the employer. Do you really want to sound upset when you make that follow-up call?

You were planning to make a follow-up call, right? Ah. Here’s the thing that I’ve come to know, but not understand: An awful lot of candidates go to interviews, go home and never follow up. But they still get steamed when the employer also skips the followup.

Rather than argue about who should be doing what, I suggest that job seekers anticipate following up not once, but five times. Yep, five. Further, I’d like to introduce the idea that the employer may never respond at all. If you keep your expectations low for them, and high for yourself, you’ll feel more in control of the situation. What’s more, you’ll suffer less disappointment, since people will be acting exactly as you anticipated.

Curious about those five followups? Here goes.

1. Handwritten thank-you note sent by snail mail the day of the interview: “I was delighted to meet with you today and look forward to our next conversation. Thank you so much.”

2. Formal follow-up letter emailed within five days of the interview: “I wanted to thank you again for our meeting last week, and to express my interest in this position. Upon reflection, I realized that we did not get a chance to discuss….”

3. Follow-up call a day or two after the email: “I wanted to touch base to be sure you have all the information you need from me as you prepare for the next round of interviews. I’m very interested in this position and I’m excited about the prospect of telling you more about what I can contribute to your department.”

4. Follow-up call (or voicemail message) five days after the last call: “Just a quick message to touch base on the interview I had 10 days ago for the ___ position. I’m still very interested in the position, but I’m a little concerned I may not be able to keep my schedule open for the next round of interviews. You can reach me at _____.”

5. Last follow-up call (or voicemail message) five days later: “I wanted to reconnect about the ___ position I interviewed for earlier in the month. I’m still very interested but I’ve had to focus my attention on interviews with other employers, so at this point I think I’ll stop touching base. Don’t hesitate to call if you want to bring me in for another conversation; otherwise, I’ll reconnect when I have a new position and we can get together for a cup of coffee.”

I know, that last call might involve a white lie, but don’t you like the idea of making the employer think they missed a good candidate? I can’t promise that making five followups will transform you from job seeker to employee, but I’m certain that it will feel better than simply waiting for the phone to ring. What have you got to lose?

Amy Lindgren owns Prototype Career Service, a career consulting firm in St. Paul. She can be reached at or at 626 Armstrong Ave., St. Paul, MN 55102.