So you’ve applied for a job or internship, submitted writing samples and maybe conducted a first-round phone interview. Now what?
While it seems like the “hard” part of the process is over because everything has already been submitted, the waiting has begun. To me, this is actually the most challenging and vital stage of the application and interview process. There are many moving parts, and each email, phone call and follow up requires careful attention.
After the first-round interview
Whether it’s with someone from human resources or an account coordinator, this round breaks the ice and helps you communicate your interests in the company and its work based on your previous experience. Because this round moves quickly, don’t leave the follow-up to only a handwritten thank-you note, as it likely won’t get to the appropriate person in time to help you stand out. A nice thank-you email sent later in the day of your interview with specific points that you discussed on the phone is vital. Research anything mentioned in the interview that you a) didn’t know previously or b) began wondering about the company. An additional question in your thank-you email will show that you continued to invest in the company after you hung up the phone.
After the second-round or final interview
Thank everyone. If you had the in-person or final Skype interview with multiple people or teams, be sure to ask for everyone’s email addresses at the end if you don’t already have them. Also, make sure you thank whomever coordinated the call based on everyone’s schedules, even if they were not in the final interview. This is a great time to be specific. Mention things you discussed during the conversation, whether it was something you bonded about related to your hometown or alma mater, a mutual favorite restaurant, a particular client project or the company culture. This will show that you were an engaged listener and quality note-taker during the interview.
Odds are pretty good that if one interviewer gets a thank-you email, he or she will mention it to another person who was in the interview. If you copy and paste a note, they’ll know. Be thoughtful. For timing purposes, the email remains king but the handwritten note will make you stand out from other candidates when it arrives. But again, be sure to send one to everyone encountered, and make them unique. A little effort goes a long way.
Not quite sure how to phrase something? Danny Rubin and Lauren Berger have great books that will help you through this phase; I refer to them often. If you’re in a hurry, HubSpot, The Balance and Forbes can help you in a pinch.
After the decision
Whether you receive and accept an offer or not, be gracious. The time companies spend to read your application materials, coordinate phone calls and get to know you and your previous experience adds up. Make sure you reach out via email or thank-you note and continue to maintain those relationships, regardless of the final outcome. You’ll probably run into them at PRSA meetings or through mutual friends and you don’t want to be the candidate that “ghosted” them; be thoughtful and communicate your decision and gratitude.
This season can be overwhelming; you want to see all of your options, determine the best fit for you and organize what the summer and next year could look like in this position. What you invest in relationships and these interviews and follow-ups now will pay off (literally and figuratively) as things fall into place.
Sarah Dougherty is the 2016–2017 vice president of career services and a senior at the University of Alabama. Follow her on Twitter @sarahgdougherty.