What to Do After the Interview

While it is okay to relax a bit after the interview, your pre-job work is not yet done. Some follow-up will help keep your name fresh in the minds of the interviewers.

The first step is to write thank you letters to the interviewers. Yes, this is still common and polite practice, even if the methods of delivery have changed. E-mail can be appropriate if you have already been communicating that way with the potential employer.

Ideally, the employer will be in touch regarding your status. If needed, send a follow-up letter if you do not hear anything by the timeframe provided in the interview. In most cases, however, you will hear from the employer with one of three options. You did not get the job, you are invited in for a second (or third) interview, or you are offered the job.

We will start with the positive: You are offered the job. Congratulations! All of your hard work paid off! Now is the time to confirm the offer, and, if needed, compose a letter of acceptance, outlining the offer as you understand it. If there are any discrepancies, you will be able to discuss them with your new employer. Now is also the time to write letters to any other companies you interviewed with to thank them for their time and consideration and inform them that you have accepted a position elsewhere.

What if you are offered the job and decide you do not want it? You need to politely decline. Whether or not you choose to give a reason is up to you, but be sure to give a positive reason, not that you did not like the people you interviewed with (even if this is the truth) or that you were not impressed with the company (even if this is the truth). Simply say that you do not feel this is the best match for you or that now that you know more about the position, you realize you are looking for something more along the lines of such-and-such. Thank the interviewers for their time and offer and wish them all the best. To the extent possible, keep the communication options open.

Do not be afraid to turn down an offer if you feel that the company or position is just not right for you. If you are still interested in the company, say so—there may be other opportunities that you are unaware of, and, because the interviewers obviously like you, they may be able to offer something else or guide you to the appropriate department with a referral. However, if you have a gut feeling that it just is not right, follow that feeling. Even if you are somewhat desperate for a job, you may be better off holding out for the right position than forcing yourself to work in a job or environment that is not for you. This will only lead you to extending your job search and perhaps experiencing a negative work experience or outcome in the meantime. Be respectful of yourself and the employer and do not put either one of you in this situation; besides, if the employer did not feel you were right for the position, he or she would not hesitate to say no to you.

If you have been called in for a second interview, review all of your notes and tips on interviewing. The fact that you have been called back in is a good sign—you obviously did well enough in the first or second interview to warrant another. Remember that you will likely be interviewing with additional people at the follow-up interview(s) and that you may be facing tougher questions. You may also be asked to demonstrate your skills if you have not already.

In the first interview, you took notes and made more notes following the interview. Review these carefully, analyzing what went well and where you could have improved or where you wanted to emphasize a point that was not made. These are the issues you will want to weave into the conversation on the next go-around. You may also have additional questions now that you know more about the company and the position. Write these down so that you do not forget to ask.

This is also the time to review and prepare additional examples of what you have done well and how. You need to be prepared to answer behavioral-based questions, and the more stories you have to tell, the better. If possible, avoid repeating the answers you gave the first time if your original interviewer is present; but keep in mind that he or she will not remember everything you said, so if you are limited in your answers, stick with the best ones.

Finally, congratulate yourself on having made it this far. Your résumé was culled from tens or hundreds of other applications. You then wowed them enough in your first interview to be called back for a second. This is no small feat! Out of the possible hundreds of applications, you are now one of the few. Take the boost of confidence that comes with knowing this and go in and give an even better interview than you did the first time.

If You Are Not Offered the Job

What if you do get that letter or phone call stating that another candidate was chosen? First, do not think of yourself as a failure. You made it to the interview, which is more than most of the other applicants can claim. Congratulations! Second, remember that rejections will happen; not every job is right for every person. Everyone involved in this process is trying to find a good fit, including you. Ultimately, you want to find the position where both you and the employer believe you are the perfect person for the job.

When you do receive this letter or call, however, take advantage. Even though no one enjoys being turned down, make the most of the situation. First, thank your interviewers again for their time and consideration. Then politely ask where you were lacking in relation to the other candidate. This is not an easy question to ask, but it can give you valuable insight. If you need to practice asking this question, do, because it is a good one. While some may prefer not to answer, many people will, particularly if you are gracious and sincere. People like to help others, and your interviewers are no exception. Perhaps your technical skills were just not quite as strong, or perhaps they felt that the other person had a slightly better education. Now you have information you can work with for your next interview. How can you present your technical skills better? How can you show that your education meets the needs of potential employers? Use this information to craft potential answers and examples to questions. Or maybe you will determine you need to brush up on your skills or enroll in some continuing education. Whatever the case, having the knowledge, however hard it is to ask for it, is much better than continuing to make the same mistakes.

Use every opportunity you can to learn more about yourself, and your career will thank you for it in the long run.