Many say there is an art to the follow-up. Could they be right? Does it really matter? The selection committee is going to hire the most qualified person for the job, regardless, so why take the time at all? 

For starters, follow up action is a signal many employers look for in judging candidates on their professionalism, general organization, and cultural fit. In fact, one in five hiring managers say that this is a box they look to check before extending an offer, and in one survey, nearly 70% of hiring managers said that following up not only matters but failing to do so could even lead to dismissal from the process. Follow up is such an important step, in fact, that the Managing Editor of Business Insider, Jessica Liebman, has even gone so far as to say that hiring managers “…should never make an offer to someone who neglected to send one”.

More important than being a box, many hiring managers look to check; however, a note of thanks should be viewed as a critical opportunity to continue the conversation (and stay stop of mind). I dare say, given the above, follow up should be viewed as part of the interview process itself, and one should not let the breath out of one’s lungs until they have taken the time to send a message (within 24 hours, give or take). Given how important this step is, it is critical to get it right – and those who do, consider it an art. 

So how do you do follow up well? There are many different tactical suggestions out there, formats, and lists to follow, but here I’ll highlight just three things that I would propose keeping in mind as you consider this final step in the interview process:

Do not follow a template. Instead, continue the conversation

  • An artful follow up goes beyond gratitude and a simple ‘thank you for your time.’ It carries the conversation forward by reminding the interviewer(s) why they should remember their communication with you; because there is a ‘fit’ and mutual need/interest. It reflects your sincere desire and ability to bring the value and skill you know (from what you learned during your time with them) that they need.  
  • It is authentic and demonstrates that you were listening. And if you listened closely, there was likely a key theme or idea that was reflected in the ‘why’ behind the role and the hiring need. It may be a big-picture challenge that the organization is facing that may have even been stated directly by the interviewer (and went beyond a job description). 
  • The most impactful messaging follows the theme of the discussion because it creates a connection. 
  •  A connection is what gets people interested. Gratitude is just table stakes. 

Demonstrate that you understand their needs and have the right mix of skills and experiences to bring solutions. 

If you listened well during your interview, you would come away not just with an understanding of the organization’s needs – but of the interviewer(s) perception of them. And if the interviewer hires right, those needs will be addressed (and they will have done their most important work for their team in recruiting the right talent). They are motivated to hire the best, so continue the groundwork you started laying in your interview in addressing how you can help them address their needs. So many of your professional experiences have been preparing you for this leadership opportunity. They need you. Remind them of why that is (without being too bold about it).

The team at N2Growth recently completed a board director search for a multi-billion-dollar global enterprise in which the selection committee’s frontrunner sent just such a follow-up message. One of three finalists, they were the only one who sent a note within 24 hours of the interview, and it was not just a note of gratitude, but an intentional message reinforcing an authentic connection made during the panel interview and touching on several key points from the conversation that represented intersections of the organization’s need with their own skills/experiences. The message did its job and reminded the interviewers of the solutions they were seeking – and why they were interviewing in the first place. And it resulted in their rise to the top of the list. Solutions are what get people hired.

Capture their attention.

It sounds obvious, but you have to do more than just send an email. Demonstrate some creativity and persistence – and for starters, consider the first thing the reader will see in their inbox: the subject line of the email. It’s your tagline and title for the film you want your audience to buy a ticket for. So give it some thought and flair. You might reference the ‘theme’ of the interview (see above) for your tagline, or even note something that came up directly in conversation. A simple “Thank you” in that heading will do nothing for your open rate.  

You may also use the initial follow up email to address a question to the interviewer(s) directly. And if you do, make it thoughtful. A well thought out question – stemming from your conversation on the role and organization – demonstrates interest and insight (regardless of whether you have a well thought out/informed answer yourself).

Finally, consider that the hiring manager, or any other direct interviewers, is not the only ‘fair game’ for follow up. As a matter of etiquette, I have always considered that anyone you met who offered their business card (or contact information) has invited you to connect. Maybe you met another member of the executive team in the lobby (who may have some bearing/informal influence on the hiring decision), and you certainly met and communicated with other team members along the way/in passing. The more touchpoints you have within the organization, the better!

Keep in mind also that email is only one of many different vehicles you can use for follow up: LinkedIn and Twitter are other avenues – and ones that will allow you some insight into the organization and its leaders (and vice versa). Even the act of ‘following’ on social media is a signal of interest and can help you stay top of mind. Follow up questions, LinkedIn, Twitter, can help you to capture attention while demonstrating genuine, authentic interest – and send the message that it’s more than a job for you. It’s a mission. 

Follow up – so often overlooked – not only matters, but it is a critical step in the interview process. Done with authenticity and intentionality, it can help you capture (and retain) the organization’s attention and may ultimately make the difference between just ‘a good interview’ and your next career move. It’s the ‘capstone’ to the process, so consider it with care, and it may even help you ‘close’ the deal!