Job Interviews: Should You Follow Up?

A job hunt can feel a lot like dating — you spend time looking for the right fit, there’s a buildup of anticipation before meeting, you wonder if you’re dressed to impress, you closely monitor your behaviors, you analyze if you are truly compatible, discover any have common values, and then you wait.

Should you go ahead and call if the company hasn’t called you first? Is there such a thing as “playing hard to get” with job interviews? It’s a situation where there is no right or wrong answer. But there are avenues to take that can result in better outcomes for you.

The bottom line is you felt this company was a good fit. The job fits your criteria for location, potential for advancement, and benefits. You liked the people you met with at your interview. You felt like you “clicked” well with them. They appeared to answer your questions honestly and were transparent about expectations. Then they told you they had quite a few candidates to interview, and they would let you know either way in two weeks. Your heart sank. You had a vision of being hired on the spot because let’s face it, you’re awesome and they would be lucky to have you.

But now the reality of a two-week wait looms ahead. You try to spend the time keeping busy. You think maybe your phone vibrated, but alas, it is silent. You double-check your email notifications settings on email. And you wait.

Before you get to this point, always send a thank you note or email immediately after the interview expressing your interest in the job. If you do this, you will be more at the forefront of the interview team’s mind than if you went radio silent. It also makes it less awkward when you call them after you haven’t heard back. You’ve already made post-interview contact.

If you don’t contact a company after the time period they designated for making a decision, you may not stand out as a potential candidate than those that have contacted them. However, there can be a fine line between showing interest in the job and being overeager. So which way do you turn? And how much effort should you put in to show interest in a job?

You may feel like if a company didn’t call you it’s a sign about how they run — and that they may have actually done you a favor by showing their true colors. It is possible that a crucial member of the hiring team was out sick or had an emergency. While it would be nice if the company could let you know that there will be a delay until you find out their hiring decision, that’s not always how things work. That may or may not be a reflection of how the company runs. But life happens, and a staff personal emergency takes precedence over anything dealing with hiring. Consider giving the benefit of the doubt. If you don’t know why they haven’t contacted you, use a cognitive-behavioral trick — come up with a reason that works in your favor. The company hasn’t called yet? Well, they may be so stunned by your ability they are in talks to determine your salary.

Some would say that this practice gives you false hope. On the contrary — coming up with a reason that works in your favor when you don’t really know the reason helps build feelings of confidence. And that can help you nail your next job interview. Feelings of success beget success. And why assume the worst when it really doesn’t do you any good?

Similar to dating, you are not tied down to this one option. And waiting for a call rarely does much good. Continue to interview, even if you feel that the company you are waiting for is a great match. Also, continue to do research on that company. Have there been any changes in the financial status of the company, or in their board of directors? This might explain not only why they have not called, but also if you should really focus your search elsewhere.

Whether or not you contact a company after you haven’t heard from them largely depends on your personality, and how open or averse you are to risk-taking. That’s a personality characteristic that is usually inherited. You can fine-tune your level of risk-taking, but you usually can’t completely change it. If you are risk-averse, it’s okay if you don’t contact the company. Be easy on yourself. If you are a risk-taker, just be sure that you are not overeager when you contact.

If you do contact the company, there’s the question of which method is best — email or phone call. (A text message is not recommended, as it can be seen as intrusive.) While an email is usually more respective of a person’s time, a phone call can show more interest. A good fallback strategy is to consider how the interviewers suggested you contact them. Make the contact short, and again express that you are interested in the job.

If you have a friend that is at the company, consider checking with him or her to see if there is an update about the interview process. Keep in mind that your friend may tell the interview team that you asked about the job. And never complain about the company or its lack of response.

While it would be courteous for every company to call you even if they didn’t hire you, that is the exception rather than the rule. Whatever way you decide to proceed is okay.

If you are on the interview team, set a firm date for informing potential employees of your company’s decision. Exercise caution and give a date that is agreed upon by the whole team, and give the team a buffer of a few days past when you think you will arrive at a decision. Also provide a preferred method of contact, and designate one person as the direct contact. While this involves a little extra work on your side, it will put your company in a good light, decrease anxiety on everyone’s part, and cut down on the amount of post-interview calls and emails.