what to do after your job interview

So you’ve had a job interview and you’re waiting to hear back from the employer. What do you do now? Do you just sit and wait, or should you be doing anything in the interim? The answer is a little bit of both.

These seven steps will help keep your candidacy strong, while also keeping you from going crazy with suspense.

1. Send a follow-up note. Within a few days after your interview, send a follow-up note by email or postal mail. These are often thought of as thank-you notes, but a good one will go well beyond thanking your interviewer for her time. A really effective note will reiterate your interest in the job and build on the conversation from the interview, even referring back to points that were covered there and your thinking on them since then.

2. But don’t follow up excessively. As eager as you might be to hear back from the employer, following up too frequently can turn a good candidate into an annoying one who won’t get hired. Phoning or emailing weekly or checking in before the time when you’ve been told a decision is overly aggressive and may kill your chances for an offer.

3. Review the questions you were asked in the interview and how you did. Were there questions that tripped you up, or where you felt your answers were weak? Write these questions down so that you can practice better answers for next time.

4. Think about whether you want the job. Too many job seekers just accept any job that’s offered to them, without thinking through whether they’re the right fit for the work, the culture, and the people. That, of course, is a recipe for ending up in a job where you’re miserable. So think through what you’ve learned about the job and the company. Is this work you’d like to do every day? Is the manager someone you’d want to work for? Being thoughtful about these factors can help you end up in the right job, not just any job.

5. Realize that hiring often takes longer than anyone involved thinks it will. Don’t be alarmed if you don’t hear back from the employer immediately. The hiring process often takes longer than employer intend, for all sorts of reasons – the decision makers are out of town, scheduling conflicts have delayed a final interview, the bureaucracy required to finalize an offer takes time to work through, and so forth. It’s nerve-wracking, but don’t read too much into it.

6. Keep applying for other jobs. Whatever you do, don’t stop your job search while you wait to hear back. It doesn’t matter how great your interview was, or how much you clicked with your interviewer, or how perfect the job seems for you. It doesn’t even matter if the interviewer told you that you were the top candidate and you should expect an offer soon. Until you actually have a firm job offer, preferably in writing, keep applying for other jobs. Too many people have stopped their job search because one particular job seemed like a sure thing – only to have the offer never come through. Don’t let that happen to you.

Plus, applying for more jobs is a good way to burn off that nervous energy that have while you’re waiting for them to call.

7. Move on mentally, if necessary. If you find yourself agonizing and frantically checking your email every 20 minutes, wondering when you’re going to hear something, do this instead: Move on. There’s nothing to be gained by the agonizing and waiting and wondering; you’re far better off putting it out of your head and moving on. If the employer eventually calls, it will be a pleasant surprise. And if they don’t, you’ll have already moved on anyway.

I originally published this at U.S. News & World Report.

{ 32 comments… read them below }

  1. Jonathan*

    After an interview, I try to determine what I did right and wrong and how I will do better on the next interview.

    I also continue to look for other jobs and not put all my eggs in one basket. Until you actually start working at the new job, you don’t have a job yet. So it is important to keep looking and do not let up. Even a sure thing can turn out to be a red herring. Hoping that the hiring manager will select you is not a good job search strategy. Replace hope with action and determination. And never give up.

  2. Juana*

    I so agree on number 5! Even if an interviewer says they expect a decision by a certain date, just assume it’ll take longer. I’ve been interviewing with a few different companies and found this to be the case with all of them.

    As an example, I had a phone screen in mid-June and a first in-person interview in early July where I was told they were “aggressively” trying to fill the position. I thought I’d have a quick response, but there was nothing until end of July, to schedule a second interview for mid-August. The offer came a couple of days afterward, but this is a good example of timing taking longer than expected. For a position they needed to fill urgently in mid-June, my start date is October 1.

    1. Catherine*

      Absolutely. I even had an informal job offer from a company and the HR guy told me I would be brought on board at the beginning of the year (interview was in December), and then it kept getting pushed…and pushed…and then it died. I’m so glad I didn’t say anything to my current job until I had an offer in writing.

  3. Alice*

    I’m on the fence with #4. With the current job climate, I find myself willing to take jobs I wouldn’t normally be interested in because I need to pay my bills, and more experience is better than no experience. I think this is good for people who are already employed and looking for something better, but I question whether this applies to the unemployed looking for work.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      But everyone, regardless of their situation, should do #4 (“think about whether you want the job”). You can do that, realize there are drawbacks, and still decide to take it. But you should have that honest discussion with yourself so that you know exactly what you’re getting into and aren’t blindsided later when you hate the boss or the work or the culture or whatever.

      1. OR*

        In my state if you turn down any employment then you become ineligible for unemployment insurance benefits. Its too bad that you can’t really determine what the position / culture would be like without the interview…

        1. Just Me*

          People are accepting jobs where I work all the time… and then quiting all the time. Literally people just in a 3 week time frame, 4 people walked out, 3 people gave notice and 3 were fired. Altogether this year more than 80 people have come and gone out of a 160 ish employee company. Last year probably the same.

          Obviously, these people needed these jobs. But they hated the company and job so badly, they felt their psychological well been was worth more than the staying at the job.
          These people all took these jobs having no clue what is what like , I mean how could you?

          I heard that the umemployment office knows this place very well because there are so many claims. A gal I work with hubby was told thru a placement place they don’t even place people at this company they are so bad to work for.

          I guess my point is when you need a job very badly I think people will take anything. It is not like the company is going to be honest and say we can’t keep people because we suck to work for. They don’t care.

    2. Suzanne*

      Absolutely, Alice. I was in the unemployed over 50 situation a few years ago and took a job I hated, but after six months of unemployment, I understood that I was skirting the edge of being unemployable. I know many employers won’t even consider someone from the unemployed pool.

      So, while I agree with #4 in theory, in reality, we should all be so fortunate as to have the choice to turn down a job that’s a bad fit, but many of us are not.

      1. Mouseketeer*

        #4 – Suzanne, I can so relate to your comment. I am, also, in the unemployed over 50 situation. On top of that, if I do turn down employment, I become ineligible for UEI as well. It’s like a Catch 22!

        I am so glad that this was brought up!!! Gave me something to seriously think about how to handle. Thank you Suzanne, OR, Alice and AAM! Now back to my ‘drawing board’ on how to attract the “right” job! Excellent advice all, and I thank you!!!

  4. ChristineH*

    #4 – I’ve fallen into this trap with almost every job I’ve taken. It tends to be after a somewhat lengthy and/or frustrating job search, and figure that if I don’t take *this* job now, it’ll be a loooong time before another one comes through. Two of these jobs were on-the-spot offers. Yeah, both were miserable!

  5. Marcie*

    I tend to think that after the interview if you don’t get offered the job after 2 weeks the chances to get the job drops. The longer the wait the slimmer is chance.

    1. Lexy*

      Meh… totally depends I think. That’s probably a good baseline to build off of, but lot’s of companies/industries take longer.

  6. Lewis*

    I changed jobs 5 years ago and that was the first time in 12 years. So I’m certainly not an expert in this area. However, five years ago, the hiring process took nearly three months from resume submittal to an offer. This was with a large consulting firm

    I’m now seeking employment and interviewed with a small consulting firm in mid-August. The day after the interview, I was asked to provide references. Within one week all three references were contacted. Then after two weeks, I received an email stating they wanted to touch base. And continued to say a project is in the pipeline, but it has not come in as yet and it could be sometime in November. The last sentence requested that I provide my status when I get a chance.

    It has been nearly two weeks since I responded to their status update request. In short, I enthusiastically said that I’m ready and available to join their team. I concluded by asking what the next steps are and the time-line expectations for this opportunity. I have not received a reply to my request.

    This is one of the situations where at first; the firm appeared to be on a fast track to hire six consultants. However, it now seems like the contract was delayed and they are not ready to hire.

    Regarding follow up emails and the challenge of not being pushy – my plan is to send a quick email and ask if they are still on schedule for a November start date! Of course, what I really want to ask is…..was your last email a pseudo job offer? Or when the project is verified internally, do you plan to send me an offer of employment?

    Any thoughts regarding the next steps and the intent of their “status” check?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I would take their last email as them just trying to get the lay of the land — figuring out whether their viable candidates still available or not. I would not take it as a sign of an eventual offer, unfortunately; it’s really just what it says on the surface.

      I do think it’s totally reasonable to check in and ask if they’re still planning to hire in November. And meanwhile, put them out of your mind and conduct your job search as if they’re not an option — let it be a nice surprise if they resurface! (Although you could also touch base with them in November. So maybe just forget about them between now and then.)

      1. Lewis*

        Thanks for the comments. I believe the firm will wait until the project is under contract or, if under contract, when the client releases them to start work before they would make an offer. You are correct, while I want to work for this company, they have not made an offer as yet. Therefore, my job search continues with no expectations they will make an offer. Hopefully, I will have a few choices in the next month or two!

        Thanks again!!!!

  7. Hello Vino*

    #4 is so important! I had to learn that the hard way. A couple years ago, I ended up spending 14 months at a job where I was absolutely miserable. Turns out the office culture was not a good fit for me, and it didn’t help that the job description did not represent the work accurately. It kind of felt like my career had taken a couple steps back.

    Since then, I learned to better recognize the signs of whether or not a company and position would be a good fit. Sometimes they’re just subtle little things!

  8. Joey*

    Here’s what I tell my friends to do after an interview:

    Get a beer or a glass of wine or whatever floats your boat. Sit down and reward yourself with a small mental break. Of course the work’s not done until you get a paycheck, but getting an interview is no easy task so you’ve got to pat yourself on the back for making it to the interview stage.

  9. jj*

    Corollary to #5: Write up notes for yourself after your interview with thoughts about the company, the job, the people, the commute, etc. If you do get a callback or an offer, you don’t want to be trying to reconstruct what happened that day. I know I’m always fooling myself into thinking that “of course I’ll remember!” But in reality, everything blurs after awhile, especially if you have multiple interviews.

    1. Elizabeth West*

      Gah! True. I just had a phone screen for a job with a local behavioral health facility that I had marked as No Reply. It actually sounds pretty good, except the pay is kind of low, but the benefits sound great. It’s not what I want ultimately and probably won’t be long-term, but would work for now while I’m trying to go in a new direction.

      I had actually deleted the job description for this position, I think accidentally. But today I made sure I took notes while talking to her on the phone. I have an initial interview on Tuesday and if that goes well, I’ll be interviewing with the team. I’ve got your book still, Alison, so I’ll be going over both types of interviews just in case. :)

  10. Anonymous*

    After an interview, the interviewer offered to give me a trial period of a month, what do you guys think about trial periods? are they common? do most people end up with the job? Thanks :)

    1. Jamie*

      I love trial periods. A lot of companies will have an arrangement with a temp agency so that even though they found you and the goal is a direct hire, you’re actually working through the temp agency for a couple of weeks or a month or so.

      IMO it’s great for both parties. If it’s not a good fit on either side the relationship can end and the employee isn’t fired so when you’re asked at your next interview you can say you left a temp assignment.

      It’s a lot like dating for a little bit before getting married…It’s nice to be able to make a commitment once you kind of know what you’re getting into rather than blind.

      I’ve done them and seen them done elsewhere from entry level to management.

      1. Jamie*

        Oh, and IME most people do end up with the job – but that may not be the case everywhere. If the hiring process is good, it’s just a precaution for both sides.

        1. Anonymous*

          thanks for your reply! I really didnt know anything about them , so any insight is great. Let’s say if another opportunity comes about for me and I cannot take the job, how would I approach this situation? I tend to feel very nervous about this because I dont want to end things on bad terms. I just want to learn more in case something like this happens.

          Thanks :)

          1. Jamie*

            You mean if you do the trial and you realize you don’t want the job? Let’s say the trial period is one month and you know 2 weeks in that absolutely no way would you keep the job – there isn’t enough money in the world for you to stay.

            You have a discussion with your manager about how the trial is working out for you and let them know that you don’t feel it’s a good fit. Be diplomatic, but honest. Then offer to stay for the duration of the trial if they want you to, as they find someone else. Sometimes they won’t – if this is a job where you’re being trained…why waste the time of the trainers? But for jobs which involve phones or front desk, often times they will want you to stay as the temp until they get someone else in.

            If you’re not sure then approach the trial with an open mind (you can’t judge any job completely by the first week – imo) and at the end of the period during the conversation where they either offer you the job as a direct hire (or don’t) again be diplomatic but honest.

            The nice part of the trial is that if at the end it isn’t a good fit for either of you, the parting of ways is much simpler. If you’re a direct hire and fired after a month that’s something you may have to explain to a future employer. If you (or they) choose not to proceed after the trial, and you’ve been a temp, you just completed a temp assignment – no harm/no foul.

  11. BCW*

    I’m curious to get people’s opinion on how much you really should follow up. Here is my situation. I applied for a job beginning of last month. They responded the next day to schedule a phone interview. After the phone interview, they responded that night to ask me to come in for an in person interview, which I did a few days later. I sent a thank you/follow up email the next day. Then I followed up a week later, asking about the timeline. They got back to me the next day and asked me to come for another in person interview to meet more of the team. I left the interview feeling about 50/50. Well about 5 days later, they asked me for some phone numbers (I wouldn’t say references, because they just asked about specific people I mentioned in the interview, some that I said I didn’t leave on the best terms with), which I gave them. That was 2 and a half weeks ago. Last Friday I emailed again, just asking about the timeline (at the last interview the gave the standard “a couple weeks”). I never heard anything back. From what I can gather, they haven’t contacted any of my references yet.

    So with all that knowledge, when should I follow up with them again? This week? I don’t want to become an annoyance, but I also want them to be reassured that I’m still interested.

  12. Meghan*

    I interviewed at a place coming up on a month ago, during the interview I asked about timeline and they said they were looking to have someone in the position by the end of October. The day after the interview, I emailed the HR rep and the hiring manager that I’d met with to say thank you. Hiring manager responded, HR person did not. Last week I emailed the HR person to check in about the timeline and didn’t hear back. Is it appropriate now to email the hiring manager to ask the same question? I don’t want to be annoying, but I’m dying to get out of my current role and would just like to know where they’re at or if they’ve moved on.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Sure, just wait a week between contacts (to either of them). However, it’s going to be better for you to move on mentally regardless — you can force them to give you an answer, and you have nothing to lose by moving on mentally. If they end up contacting you, then it’ll be a nice surprise.

  13. Judy*

    Dear Allison,

    I just had my first interview for a position and was asked in advance for a list of referees. I was asked for this at the end of the interview which I gladly provided and then I asked if they would let me know before contacting my referees. This was odd for me because I’ve never been asked for referees without even being informed that I’ve been shortlisted. The recruiter then asked, “So your employer doesn’t know that you’re looking for work?” I said, “they wouldn’t be surprised given that my contract ends in a couple of months, but I didn’t specifically tell them that I was interviewing here.”

    Did I screw up badly by saying that? I really, really want this job.

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