The most important part of your job search process really starts after the job interview. Your goal is to convert that interview into an offer. The best way to do that is with strategic follow-up. We can’t overstate its importance.
Follow-up is the part of the job search process that influences the person who interviewed you; it is the part that requires the most analysis and strategic thinking. It starts with having a consultant mindset going into the interview.
Interview as a consultant
Thinking and acting like a consultant in the interview gives you the framework for approaching the interview process in a new, more effective way. Imagine for a minute you are the owner of a consultancy, meeting with a potential client for new business.
Your goal with that meeting is to determine your potential client’s needs, challenges and pain points, and find out how you might be the person to help solve them. You will participate in the meeting with the intent to follow up to get the business.
A good consultant listens and probes for information to gain a complete understanding of the opportunity and how they can add value.
Going into an interview with that mindset puts you in the driver’s seat. You’re there to explain how you can help them.
After your interview, it’s time to start crafting your follow-up. The first step is to focus and reflect on the following four areas:
- What’s important to each person you interviewed? What are the key priorities of the job?
- Challenges/Issues. What were the key issues or challenges of the position? How can you address them effectively?
- What are the objections/barriers to hiring you? What would prevent them from moving forward with you?
- Who is the ideal candidate? How do you compare?
GetFive Tip: Interview later in the process
If you can control when you interview, it is better to interview later in the hiring process. Here’s why:
- Shifting job requirements. The hiring manager can change the assessment of job requirements with each interview. They’re learning more about the talent that’s out there and about what they really want with those conversations.
- You’ll stand out. You’ll be more memorable if you interview later in the process rather than sooner. You’ll be fresh in their minds. That will give you an edge against the first few candidates.
- You’ll get a better answer to the question: How do I measure up against the other candidates? They can’t tell you how you measure up if you’re the first batter up. If you are interviewed in the early stages of hiring, it is critical that you stay on their radar and continue your influencing.
When you walk out of the door after your interview, the real work begins.
Assess your interview
As soon as you can after your interview, take some time to reflect on it while everything is still fresh in your mind.
- Review any notes you took during the interview.
- Record impressions into your phone or jot them down.
- Review questions they asked you and reflect on how you could have answered them better.
- Make sure you have all the contact info you need.
Meaningful follow-up is contingent on having an accurate recall of what was discussed during the meeting. So it is imperative that you find a quiet spot to look at your notes (if you’ve taken any) as soon as possible after the interview is over. If you haven’t taken notes, write down your reflections or record them into your phone as soon as the meeting is over. Schedule that time into your day.
Make sure you review the questions that your interviewers asked you and reflect on the areas you could have answered better. Make sure before you leave that you have all the names and contact information you need. It’s appropriate and OK to ask the person you’re interviewing with for their business card.
Begin your follow-up campaign
Once you have organized your notes and assessed your interview, it’s time to plan how you are going to follow up. Following up should include drafting your influencing communications, conducting research, reaching out to any influential contacts and anything else that moves the process along.
The first step is gathering your information. You’ll need:
- Names, positions, and contact information of the people you want to follow up with.
- The positives about you.
- The key challenges to be addressed and your ability to address them.
- Any objections about you. Address any concerns.
- Your feelings about the job. If you want the job, tell them!
- Consider what additional value-added outreach to include.
- Next steps you need to take.
Armed with that information, it’s time to sit down and write some letters.
Write influence letters
Forget thank-you letters. Wait, what? Thank-you letters are tried and true! They’re part of Job Search 101! Or are they? We say: Toss out everything you know about thank-you letters. Write an influence letter instead.
An influence letter isn’t just about thanking the interviewer for his or her time. It’s about influencing the outcome of the interview. Two different things. A “no” can turn into a “yes” based on your influence letter, especially if you’ve had some missteps in the interview.
Using your notes, craft a custom follow-up to everyone you met with. Make sure it considers:
- The tone of the conversation. Was it friendly? Formal? Follow up with a similar tone.
- The positives about you. Why would this person want you there? If you interviewed with peers, why would they want you on the team? It is your job to make sure each person sees the benefit of having you on board.
- The objections about you. Pay attention to why each person may not want you there and address it in the letter in a positive way — demonstrate the benefit of your difference.
- The key issues. Identify and acknowledge the issues or challenges the interviewer expressed and show how you would make their job easier.
- Your feelings about the job. People want to know you are excited about the prospect of not only working for the company but with them as colleagues.
- The next steps. Identify what will move the process along.
Consider the three Rs.
Recap: Let them know what you learned from the interview. Make it personal and tailored to your interviewer.
Recoup: Address any concerns they may have about you. Did they raise any objections or concerns about your ability to do the job? Did you misfire on any questions you were asked? Now is the time to put those to rest.
Remind: Remind them of your attributes and strengths, considering what you learned during the interview. Show that you heard them, that you understand their needs, and that you can help them with their issues and their problems.
Consider including additional materials such as a proposal, an article, or work samples. GetFive clients often include a high-level outline of what they would accomplish in the first 90 days. Think about the issues that came up during the interview, the problems they are grappling with, and how you might help solve them.
Here’s a sample of an effective influencing letter.
Thank you for giving me the opportunity to meet with you and discuss your vision for leading the Enterprise PMO department through the SAP migration over the next 18 months. I was reminded in our conversation how exciting it is to have a chance to engage with another seasoned Project Manager and compare notes.
Thank you for the recommendation for the book Project Management is an Art. I have downloaded it and am already taking in the insights.
I am excited about the opportunity to be part of your team and to help the firm streamline its accounting and reporting processes through the SAP implementation. In considering your hesitation about my lack of SAP experience, I wanted to highlight a project I successfully managed that was out of my purview at the time. (brief explanation)
I have also attached a brief outline of how I would get up to speed with the functionality of SAP. In fact, I have already begun that process.
Overcoming interview objections: A real-world example
What if you left your interview feeling like you misfired on some questions or walked into objections to your candidacy? You can bounce back! It’s possible to overcome objections and even mistakes in interviews. GetFive clients do it all the time. Here’s one example:
A GetFive client went through a technical interview and failed on a pretty basic question. After leaving the interview, he wasted no time in getting his influencing letter out. He researched the answer to the question and considered why that was a question of importance to the organization and drafted a response, with the answer and also with information about how he would make sure that problem never happened again on that particular PC.
He got the offer over the other candidate. The hiring manager said it was the way he handled the mistake, researched the solution, and offered a preventative measure that impressed her. She said: “You showed me how you would handle a mistake and I was impressed by that. You also showed me that you have a lot of pride in your work and in solving problems and I need that on my team.”
[For more information, take this Interview Follow-up Quiz!]
Once you have crafted and sent your influencing communications, it is vital that you follow through on your next steps. This can include:
- Following up with a phone call to set up a meeting.
- Reaching out to any influential contacts who could put in a good word.
- Developing a proposal or any other materials you have promised.
- Continuing to stay in touch with HR and the hiring manager.
This last point is important, not just in the interview follow-up but in any aspect of your career. Relationships are at least 50% and sometimes more of career success. Even if your interviewers ultimately choose someone else for the job, don’t think of it as a failure. Get them into your network. Ask them for a referral to talk to somebody else. Follow up with them. Keep in touch with them. This effort will help you down the line.
A GetFive client was turned down for a job. He had a good rapport with the hiring manager so he reached out to him and said he wanted to keep in touch. He asked for referrals for other opportunities and the manager gave him a few. He kept the hiring manager updated on the status of his search and after two months the hiring manger contacted him and said, “Come back in, we have a new need.” He ended up getting another interview and an offer. That’s all because he made that extra effort to keep in touch and to try to build that relationship with the hiring manager.
Interviews not turning into job offers?
If your interviews are not going further than a phone screening or a first meeting, you need to diagnose what the issue might be. Here are a few suggestions:
Listen to gather better information. Having multiple interviews with no callback and no offer means something is not working. Listen closely to the questions and messaging at your interviews. Do you have the required background and skills? Are you consistently getting questions about specific aspects of your experience?
Are you unconsciously turning people down? Opportunities are rarely perfect. There are always a couple of things that might not be ideal. Instead of seeing them as part of a whole, are you fixating on those things? There is a good chance you are communicating you really don’t want the job in the way you respond to or ask follow-up questions.
Make sure you are addressing the company’s problems — not your own. Are you spending a lot of time focusing on what you want rather than what the hiring manager needs?
Are you talking to the right people? Are you clear about the purpose of the meeting and the role the interviewer has in the hiring process? Is the meeting an official interview or an exploratory one?
Ask for feedback if you don’t get the job or a callback. If appropriate you may want to reach out to a few of the people you spoke to and ask for feedback. If you do, assume goodwill and don’t be defensive. Express appreciation for their candor and stay in the “consultant” mindset. You might be able to turn a negative situation around. Speak to a coach or your job search partner, review your notes with them, and ask for their feedback.
At GetFive, we specialize in helping people mount effective, strategic job search campaigns. We’ve seen, time and time again, how follow-up after an interview can be the most vital part of the process. For more information, please contact us.