How to follow up on a job interview

Unfortunately, many companies are receiving hundreds of resumes for each opening, so it’s nearly impossible for them to personally respond to each candidate that applies for each position. Some companies have an automated response system in place through their applicant tracking systems, but for many organizations, candidate response is still a manual process. With that being said, it’s not entirely fair for candidates to be left wondering where they stand in the recruiting process, particularly if a candidate has made it to the actual interview process.
After an interview occurs, there’s usually some internal discussion with the interviewers and hiring managers about the candidate that they will select for the open position. I encourage candidates to ask how long this decision process will take as they are leaving the interview. It’s totally acceptable to ask “when should I expect to hear back from you?” to an interviewer. The interviewer should have an idea of how many other candidates will be interviewed and when a hiring decision will be made. If you’re interviewed near the beginning of the interview cycle, you may not hear back for a few weeks. By asking about this during your own interview, you can better manage your expectations.
It’s wise to send a follow-up email or thank you note to the interviewers immediately after the interview. You can end this note by saying “I look forward to hearing back from you soon.” This type of follow-up may not solicit a response from the interviewers, but they at least know that you are still interested in the position.
After a week or two weeks (depending on the response that you received to your timeframe question during the interview), it is totally acceptable to touch base with your recruiter or other company contact to again express your interest in the position and find out where they are in the decision-making process. Sometimes hiring decisions take longer than they should for various reasons, so a little persistence and patience may be needed by the candidate.
If you haven’t heard back in 3-4 weeks, it’s definitely time to check in with your recruiter on the status of the position. If the position is a critical hiring need, most organizations will want a “body in the seat” within a month. Many organizations send a letter to candidates who aren’t selected for a position, but there is no legal requirement for this type of notification and it’s up to the company as to whether or not they do this to close out their candidates.
If you haven’t heard back in more than a month, it’s likely that the position has been filled by someone else or it wasn’t a real opening. That is, the corporate requirements changed and the position no longer needs to be filled. It’s still totally acceptable to check in with the recruiter, but it might be prudent to start pursuing other opportunities as well.
For all of these scenarios, phone and email work. I tend to prefer email because I sometimes need to check with hiring managers before I can respond to a candidate.
One word of caution for candidates: try to refrain from contacting the recruiter or company contact each day. Too much checking in gives you a reputation for being a nuisance and that’s the last thing you want to be perceived as with a prospective employer. Also, if you receive news that you weren’t selected for the position, try to be gracious and professional about the situation. You never know when another position may be available within the organization.
More on this topic from CBS MoneyWatch.