In today’s world of high turnover, many of us will soon go through job interviews. Unfortunately, most of the professional advice covering interviews ends as the candidate physically leaves the interview. Therefore, few know about the numerous proactive things that a candidate can do during this post-interview waiting period. This is unfortunate because, during my conversations with literally thousands of recruiters, I have learned that there are numerous actions that will directly improve an individual candidate’s chances of getting a great offer. So I recommend that you enter this waiting period with an “everything matters” approach. This means that rather than idly waiting, a candidate should take numerous actions that will provide them with a competitive advantage during this last phase of hiring. The goal is to anticipate and be prepared for every likely eventuality. That will reduce your stress level while you’re waiting, while simultaneously making it easier for the hiring team to more clearly see why you are the best candidates for the job.
The top 20 most impactful post-interview actions that a candidate should take
These impactful actions are listed in chronological order.
1. Look for positive signs during the interview – During the actual interview look for signs or indicators that you are performing well. Make a mental note to build your confidence and to minimize your stress during the upcoming waiting period.
Once the interview formally ends
2. Realize that everything matters – as the interview ends. Take the time to calculate your chances and realize that you likely only have a 25% chance of getting hired (after a four-candidate round of interviewing). With such low odds, realize that you need to do numerous small things well to stand out and gain a competitive advantage when others are waiting idly by.
3. Be generous when walking out of the interview office or location – Start by realizing that people are watching you constantly. So, be extremely confident, polite and excited when leaving after the interview. And be sure to acknowledge and thank any administrative staff or people you met on the way out. A goal is to get everyone to think at least for a moment, “I would enjoy working with that person, so that should your name come up during the waiting period, they will say positive things.
4. After you physically leave the building – If you want to dramatically improve your next interview, you need to remember interview questions you were asked. Literally and immediately sit down outside and make a list of the interview questions noting which ones you answered poorly. Also, make a list of the people you met. Use your memory or your mobile phone recording of the interview (if you thought to subtly record it) to make a list of the strong points you will repeat at your next interview. Finally, make a list of the surprise questions that you didn’t anticipate and add them to your list of practice questions (with answers).
5. Immediately send a thank you message – Within 10 minutes send the recruiter or hiring manager a personalized (prewritten) “I am even more excited” thank you text or LinkedIn message. (Ask any assistant what communications channel that they favor.) Be sure to (quickly) include something positive that happened during the interview, so that the message comes across as being written in real-time. Whatever you do, make sure the message reveals your excitement (that you want the job) and confidence (that you can do the job).
6. Send a hardcopy message also – At the closest post office, immediately mail a short and simple written thank you card to the hiring manager, reiterating your excitement and confidence. The fact that the card will literally land in the office the next day will surprise many and show your resourcefulness. In a world dominated by electronic messages, hardcopy materials get noticed and it will likely sit on their desk for a while.
7. Decide if you want to continue – Compare your already established criteria for accepting a job with what you learned from the interview. Then decide whether you want to continue pursuing this job if you are contacted about the next step in the hiring process. If the answer is no, prepare a credible reason, one that won’t “burn any bridges” in the future at the firm. If you have found out negative things that turned you off, make sure to add them to your pre-assessment checklist that you use for evaluating future jobs and firms. If the answer is yes, continue on and proactively take the remaining steps.
8. Send any follow-up materials – Show them you keep your word by sending them any backup support material that you might have promised or even discussed during the interview — even if they didn’t ask for any support materials. If you think it might sway their decision, consider sending them some additional follow-up information in a critical area to strengthen your case (i.e., a sample of your work). Being able to review actual samples of your work may make them more comfortable about selecting you as a finalist.
9. Decide how long to wait before communicating – If you’re still interested, decide how long to wait before you proactively contact them to show your continued interest. Normally, it is desirable to contact them at least once per week. However, make the message short, and one that doesn’t necessarily require them to respond (e.g. “Just wanted you to know that I’m still excited about your opportunity”). You might think that too many communications will be seen as harassment. However, in my experience when done right, it actually shows your continued interest.
10. Request a LinkedIn connection – You can improve your chances and reveal your continued interest by asking any key people that you met to connect with you on LinkedIn. Specifically, target the hiring manager and the recruiter. Send each a short but enthusiastic LinkedIn connect request with a message that reminds them you really enjoyed today’s interview. Try to make the connection request the same day as the interview, in order to show your enthusiasm once again.
11. Failure analysis – Conduct a failure analysis and revise your interview preparation checklists so you are better prepared next time. Note any errors, omissions, or weak points to fix if you’re asked back for another interview. Then practice those pain points, and you can’t get them wrong.
12. Revise your resume – It’s wise to take a variety of actions to keep busy, which might reduce your stress level over the results of your interview. Start by revising your resume to eliminate or clear up any resume based issues that came up during this last interview. Also, add new skills or any accomplishments that might have occurred since you submitted your resume to this job.
13. Continue to apply for other jobs – Even after a great interview, it’s important to keep working on your job search in order to minimize stress. One action is to continue applying for jobs at this and other companies. Being able to name other companies that you’re interviewing with during any follow-up conversations might also help to improve your chances.
14. Prepare for an invitation to the next round – Assume you did well. If you have decided to continue, it makes sense to prepare a script covering how you will respond with excitement should they call back with an invitation to the next round. If the next step is a second interview, continue practicing and prepare for it (but assume it will focus more on your fit with the job in the company, rather than your skills and experience). In addition, prepare any new questions that you will ask them if you are invited back. Also prepare a plan B should the next contact covers a job offer.
15. Prepare for an offer – if you know the interview you just completed was part of the final round. It makes sense to prepare for a job offer. Start by finalizing your job acceptance criteria and determining your minimum salary requirements. It’s best to assume that the salary offer will be too low. As a result, develop a plan covering the arguments you will use in order to successfully negotiate a higher salary. (Look up the likely salary range on salary.com or glassdoor.com.) Retest your arguments with other professionals in order to see if they are convincing. Finally, you need to have a gracious response prepared should they call to say you have not been selected. The key is to be gracious for the opportunity they offered and to avoid even a single negative comment.
16. Prepare your references – if you haven’t already done so. Make a list of your references with their contact information (that you have carefully pre-checked). When it is appropriate, begin preparing your references for a reference call so they know what areas you would like them to cover.
17. Reveal your excitement on social media – Many firms check your social media as part of their background check process. So be aware that it will likely help improve your standing compared to other candidates if, during the firm’s background check they find you had previously posted a note on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram revealing the positive and exciting experience you have had with the firm so far. However, also remember that such a posting may inadvertently lead to your boss finding out that you are actively looking.
18. Be prepared for a response from your current firm – Be aware that if you make a social media post, or even if not, your colleagues may inadvertently mention you are looking for a job. And that may get you in trouble with your current boss. It makes sense to prepare for a negative reaction. But also prepare to be surprised with a positive offer from your current boss, because they are willing to fight to keep you.
19. Whipsaw any offer – If you get any job offer, take advantage of it by letting all interested firms know that at least one firm wants you. Of course, don’t do it arrogantly, but letting others know might speed up their hiring decision. It might increase the chances they will also give you an offer or it may cause them to sweeten their planned offer.
20. Show that you would like to remain connected – if you are rejected or even if you hear nothing. It’s important to remain gracious by sending the recruiter and the hiring manager a final note, thanking them for the opportunity. In the note ask them to keep your resume in their active candidate file or to place you in their talent community. This will reinforce their perception that you really want to work at this company.
Unfortunately, most candidates remain completely inactive after they finish their final interviews. In a highly competitive talent marketplace where everything matters, a superior approach is to proactively take actions that prepare you for every likely follow-up event. Your goals during this post-interview waiting period should include avoiding stress about the opportunity, while showing excitement, confidence, and responsiveness during every remaining interaction with the firm. In my experience, this proactive approach can improve your chances of getting a great offer by as much as 20%.
Dr. John Sullivan, professor, author, corporate speaker, and advisor, is an internationally known HR thought-leader from the Silicon Valley who specializes in providing bold and high-business-impact talent management solutions.