Following Up After a Life Sciences Job Interview

Thank You Note

You’ve just left an interview for your dream job. What will you do next? Probably not go to Disney World, but you’ll want to seriously consider a thank you gesture and additional follow-up.

While the post-interview thank you isn’t quite as important as it once was, most employers are pleased to receive an acknowledgment of their time and consideration. The thank you is viewed variously as:

  • a common courtesy.
  • a way to differentiate you from the pack since most job-seekers do not send a thank you.
  • proof that you’re really interested in the position.
  • a way to keep your name in front of the employer.

Will a thank you note make or break you chances of getting a job? Probably not in most cases, but it could. Why take the chance? Some hiring managers will not hire those who don’t thank them; others, given two equal candidates, will choose the one who sent a thank you.

Among those savvy job-seekers who do send thank yous, it’s common practice today to email a quick thank you immediately after the interview (or even leave a voicemail), and send a postal-mailed typed or handwritten note within 24 hours of the interview. While the format doesn’t matter, tailor your letter to the culture of the company and the relationship you established with the person who interviewed you. If you feel the interviewer and the company call for a formal business letter, send that. If your rapport with the interviewer dictate a more personal touch, send a handwritten note.

If you experienced a series of interviews for the same job on interview day or were interviewed by several people on a panel interview, yes, you should send a thank you to each person you interviewed with.

You can make it essentially the same letter to each but vary at least a few sentences to individualize the letters to each interviewer ­– in case your recipients compare notes. The same goes for subsequent interviews you may be invited to after the initial meeting – send thank yous for each.

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Based on what happened in the interview (Kristin Johnson, career consultant at Kristin Johnson Consulting suggests taking notes during the interview), consider including some of the following content in your thank you:

  • Affirmation of your fit with the organization.
  • Elaboration on strengths brought up in the interview.
  • Afterthoughts, content you intended to mention in the interview.
  • Restatement of your enthusiasm for the job.
  • Further reflection on an organizational need or challenge that came up in the interview. Discuss in your thank you how you can rise to the challenge.
  • Personalization: Customize based on something you observed or heard in the interview. Let’s say the interviewer mentioned an obsession with a sports team, or you noticed team memorabilia in his or her office. Remark on the team’s record or your own support for the team.
  • Restatement of your understanding of the next step in the process: If, for example, the interviewer mentioned bringing you back to interview with someone else, your thank you will remind him or her to take action to make that happen.
  • Additional materials: Perhaps the employer has asked for more materials, such as writing samples. The thank you doubles as a cover letter for that material.
  • Damage control: Did you sense a negative reaction from the interviewer or feel you might not possess all the job requirements? Consider turning the negative into a positive. Tread carefully, however, so you don’t call undue attention to negatives.

Consider using the worksheet here to plan your thank you content.

What happens after the thank you?

You’ve sent a nice thank you but not yet received an offer or rejection; what’s the next follow-up step? The best way to learn how to address this question is preemptively while you’re still at the interview. At the end of the interview, ask the interviewer how quickly the organization expects to make a hiring decision and if additional steps in the process can be expected. If the interviewer affirms additional steps, such as more interviews, follow up only if those steps don’t occur when you expect them to.

If the interviewer suggests the hiring decision will not be quick, ask if it would be OK to follow up, when would be a good time to follow up, and the interviewer’s preference for follow up – such as phone, email, or text. If you did not establish a follow-up plan while still at the interview, a good guideline is to follow up if you’ve heard nothing after 10 days, and then 10 days after that if you’ve still heard no definitive decision. Another suggested guideline is to contact the interviewer up to three times over a two-week period.

Your level of persistence should also relate to the type of job you interviewed for. Persistent follow-up will be more positively received in a sales job, for example, because tenacity is needed in sales.

Final Thoughts

Remember that your job of marketing yourself to employers does not end when you shake hands at the end of the interview. Follow-up, including an expression of gratitude for the employer’s time and consideration, will go a long way toward boosting your chances for an offer.

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