Career Tips

I Didn’t Get the Job – Should I Follow Up?

By Dave Isbell

Recently, I received the following question:

“Today I received a call from the hiring manager informing me I was not selected.  He indicated they went with an internal candidate.  However he stressed I was a strong candidate and they will creating a new position in January.  He advised me to apply and that it’s alright to contact him to follow up. Do you recommend a follow up thank you letter?  Should it go to the entire interview panel.  What formats and content should be followed?”

That’s a frequently asked question and I thought other people may like to hear my response. As always, chime in and give your own thoughts on  the subject! What works for you?

Here’s my response:

Always follow up. Personally, I’m in favor of being remembered, so I like creative approaches but you have to be authentic so you should do this in a way that honors who you are. Standard business letter writing is typically the conservative approach that most people would take. I don’t think that ever hurts, but I do suggest doing it via snail mail, in an envelope, with a stamp, signed in with your own signature.

To expand on this thought, this might sound a little looney, but I never see interviews as anything other than a conversation and a chance to meet new people and share some ideas. So, yes, in a panel interview I would follow up with everyone there. However, I would address each of them differently depending on who they are and what they seemed most interested in.

A creative approach would mean that you would have a reason to follow through on some kind of promise given in the interview. Yet if you didn’t set yourself up that way, then try to work it into this contact.

For example, I’d make it a point to pay attention to something they expressed they personally have an interest in that relates to their work, or that maybe we just share in common. How would I know that? Because I would’ve asked about it during the interview. In fact, if I was really doing my homework beforehand I would already know that the hiring manager and I are both devout Browncoats and wish that Serenity would once again fly the black. (Sorry, the geek in me got out of the box for a minute!)

I’d follow up with something that says in effect, “I saw this and I thought you might like it, I hope you are doing well” and “here’s a ‘take away’ that you can use to make your day/work/life better.” But I’d end it with words: let’s follow up soon and talk about other ways I might be able to help you out.”

If you don’t know what they like personally, then assume they have a general interest in their organization/work/job/occupation and go with that.

Then, I’d follow up on what I introduced – I’d never ASK them for anything – I’d only be following up to give them something they can use. For example, an introduction to someone else, a tactical idea, a tool, a resource, whatever you can think of that says “I have your best interests at heart and I genuinely want to help.” (Of course, if you aren’t genuine, then don’t bother wasting your or the hiring manager’s time.)

This is a difficult task for most people and requires some thought and tact. It’s also much harder to do if you went in for the interview and did not set yourself up for an interaction like this during that event, but it is not impossible. You are just going to have to get more creative!

Will this always work? No! But if you start playing the game by your rules instead of theirs you sure can set yourself up for more quality interactions with people who care about the same things you do. In short, you may just create a reputation that gets people to see you as a “candidate.” And THAT is what you are going to need to create opportunity and to navigate your way successfully through the happenstance that most of us build our careers on.

You might get some ideas about the creative job search from this webinar by my Spartan friend, marketing guru/author Kevin Donlin.

Go Green!


Dave Isbell is the Assistant Director of Alumni Professional Enrichment in the MSU Alumni Association and is also the owner, primary writer, and editor of this blog and corresponding twitter account. His primary role in the MSUAA is to develop resources and manage projects that professionally enrich the lives of Spartan alumni. Dave is not able to accept individual appointments, but in developing programs and projects he does draw from his training as a Limited Licensed (Clinical) Social Worker and his background as a professional Career Coach since 1999. He is also certified as a “Global Career Development Facilitator,” “Job & Career Transition Coach,” “Employment Training Specialist.” He is certified to use the Strong and MBTI Assessments, but is also trained in Life Coaching and in the application of integrative models that assist people to strive toward life/work balance and to navigate nonlinear and/or nontraditional career paths.

The opinions a views expressed throughout this blog are of the writer(s), and may not be the views and opinions of Michigan State University.


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