The Interview is not Over until You Follow Up

Oftentimes I am asked by job seekers what they should do immediately after an interview.  They are not sure why the follow up is so important, when and how to follow up,  and the age old question….”Should I send an e-mail, mail a thank you card or leave it with the receptionist on the way out the door?” 

Let’s tackle the first area….why the follow up is so important.  Say for instance, you are having an intimate gathering at your house and you post a notice on Facebook and 100 people respond saying they want to attend.  You know you can only accommodate a few people so you choose very carefully.  You finally narrow it down to the 3 guests you will extend a personal invitation to.  Those 3 people accept and come to the intimate gathering at different times.  You speak with each of them in great detail for an hour, give them a tour of your home and feel like you have gotten to know each of them a little better.   Over the next day or 2 you begin to wonder if your guests enjoyed themselves and had a good time in your home.  You check your mailbox and to your surprise you have received a nice thank you card from 1 of the guests saying they had a great time and were really appreciative of your invite.  You didn’t hear anything from the other 2 so you are now really wondering if they had a good time or if you should have even invited them in the first place.

It is the same way with the job interview.  The employer posts a job and 100+ people submit their resume.  The employer narrows it down to the top 3 candidates to bring to his office (his “home”).  During the interview he spends time going into detail about the company and job opening and perhaps gives candidates a tour of the facilities.  Afterwards, he is trying to decide who would be the best fit for his already established team.  He comes in the next morning and finds an e-mail from you thanking him for taking the time to interview you. You also attach other information to help him understand your background and experience a little better.  He heard nothing from the other 2 candidates.  Who do you think will stand out in his mind when he goes to make the hiring decision? Exactly! That’s why it is so important…..plus it’s just  nice to be nice.  Employers say that they appreciate thank you letters and it can make the difference as to whether they hire a candidate or not.  If there are 2 candidates that are neck and neck and the hiring manager needs to make a decision between the 2, he is more likely to lean towards the one that sent a thank you.

The second area…..when and how to follow up.  You should definitely follow up with an employer right away.  You want to do it while they still remember you and you have an opportunity to make a final impression on them.   Now, whether you e-mail or use snail mail or give a thank card to the receptionist on your way out the door, I don’t think it really matters.   All of these are acceptable methods and serve the same purpose.  The ultimate objective is to thank them BEFORE they make their hiring decision.  Obviously, giving a thank you card to the receptionist or sending an e-mail later that evening when you get home guarantees an immediate effect.  But having them receive a card in the mail from you is also a nice touch because we all like to receive something in the mail.  If you do decide to go with a thank you card, make sure it is professional and standard (nothing pink with flowers and polka dots).  It should be bare on the inside or have minimal words.  (Tip:  If you don’t have good penmanship, get someone else to write inside the card for you!)

Here is an example of a thank you sent as an e-mail:

Dear Mr./Ms. (last name):

It was a pleasure meeting you today.  Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to visit (company name) and interview for the _________________ position.  I was especially interested to learn that your company (mention something specific discussed in the interview).

I have included my LinkedIn profile/portfolio/website/blog* so you can get a more in-depth look at my skills and background.  I am excited about the possibility of becoming a member of your team.  If you need any further information, you may contact me at (214) 555-5555.  I look forward to hearing from you soon.  Thanks again!

Sincerely,

Jane Doe

* Pick just one to include in the thank you letter.

 

Don’t Let the Job Description Scare You – It’s Just a Suggestion

How many times have you seen a job description and thought “there’s no way I’ll get that job?”  Did you think “I don’t have the skills or education?”  You were probably saying to yourself “I won’t get an interview or get hired.”  I know the feeling. I have been there many times myself.

When employers post jobs and the qualifications of their ideal candidate, it is just a suggestion.  They are telling you what they would like to have in an “ideal” candidate.  For every job that I have ever gotten, I probably only had about 50% of the requirements.  A lot of times you are your own worst enemy and talk yourself out of a perfectly obtainable job.  The worst thing that could happen is you apply for it and don’t get it. Well that’s the way it is right now….you don’t have the job.  So you have absolutely NOTHING to lose.  You only have something to gain.

Now of course, if the job is requiring 5 – 7 years experience and you only have 1 -2 then maybe you shouldn’t apply but if you have at least 4 years, I would definitely apply.  You are in close proximity to what they are looking for and if you can convince them that you have a good foundation, can be trained and they like you then you have a good chance of getting the job.

Don’t let the job description intimidate you.  Go ahead and apply….it’s just a suggestion.

Several years ago I applied for a job in which I only had about 45 – 50% of what they were looking for.  Of course, I was nervous about the interview and what they might ask me but I made a special point to ask lots of questions and take lots of notes.  Many of the questions they asked me in the interview were about my experience.  I honestly told them that my knowledge was limited but I assured them I could learn it very quickly. I didn’t feel like the interview went very well but I did the best I could and got through it.  Eventually I got the job and needless to say, I was very shocked!!  During my first week I asked my supervisor what made them hire me. She said,  “Well, you really didn’t have all of the qualifications that we were looking for, but you asked good questions in your interview.  So we thought that if we hired you, you would continue to ask good questions  and learn to do your job very well.”  Wow!  So they were willing to overlook my lack of qualifications because I showed interest in the job.

At another job, I was a manager for a number of years and used to look for certain qualities and experience in my “ideal” candidates.  When I didn’t find 100% what I was looking for, I went to the next best thing and that was the person who was the MOST qualified.  I offered the job to the person who had a good foundation to come in a learn what I needed them to know.  No one I interviewed during those 4 years ever had  EVERYTHING I was looking for.

So again, don’t be intimidated by the job description and your ‘lack’ of qualifications.  Go ahead and apply for the job….the requirements are just a suggestion.

 

FAQ – Recommendation Letters

1)  Are recommendation letters really necessary?

Absolutely!  They are very important as job seekers look for ways to stand out to potential employers.  Having letters of recommendation that speak favorably of your skills and qualifications can be the difference in whether you are hired or not.

2)  What should be in recommendation letters?

They should include how the person writing the letter knows you and for how long.  They should also mention your skills, qualifications, character, work ethic, personality, etc. – things that would make you a desirable employee.  If you want to make sure your recommendation letter states specifics things about you, submit a rough draft to the person you are asking to write the letter and ask them to use that as a guideline.  Sometimes they may just tell you to write the letter and they will read over it and sign it.

3)  Who should I get to write recommendation letters for me?

Recommendation letters can be written by supervisors, instructors, co-workers, advisors, pastors, mentors and clients.  Also, if you are a member of a professional organization or volunteer for one, the leaders of that organization can write a letter for you as well.

4)  How long should I know someone before I ask them to write a letter of recommendation?

At least a year (or close to it).  However, there is an exception for an internship/co-op which you may have participated in over the summer or for 6 months.  Another exception is volunteer work.  Perhaps you just helped plan a luncheon or community service event and the planning process was less than a year.  The person writing the recommendation letter in this instance could just focus on your planning skills for that particular event.

5)  How many recommendation letters do I need?

Three – preferably a letter from people in 3 different capacities.  For instance – supervisor, instructor and an organizational leader.  This would show how you are at work, in the classroom and in the community….3 different aspects.

6)  How long should recommendation letters be? 

3/4 page to 1 page

7)  When should I give employers (or others) my recommendation letters?

You can give them your letters of recommendation up front when you are submitting your resume or after the interview when you are following up with a thank you letter.  If you are trying to gain the business of a client or form a partnership with someone, recommendation letters will come in handy to speak of your previous work and business relationships.

8)  Should I print my recommendation letters on resume paper?

Yes.  Print the cover letter, resume and recommendation letters all on the same resume paper for a polished, professional look.

9)  Is it better to give names and phone numbers as references or have the actual recommendation letters?

I think they serve the same purpose and are equal.  Some employers say if they have the actual letter that saves them the extra step of having to pick up the phone and call.  While other employers say they like to be able to call a person’s references in case they have specific questions they want answered.  However, do not submit both….one or the other.

10) When and how should I ask for recommendation letters?

You should ask for recommendations NOW!!  You want to ask for them and have them before you really need them.  You don’t want to wait until you are ready to apply for a job and have to pressure the writer to give it to you in a short amount of time.  You want to give them at least a week to write the letter and have time to make any changes that might be needed.  Remember, they are busy and your request is probably not the only thing on their ‘to do’ list.

You should simply call or speak with them in person and ask for a letter of recommendation because you would like to apply for a job, apply to graduate school or have it to add to your portfolio.  Also, send them a copy of your resume so they will be familiar with all of your experience and skills.  Keep them abreast of your progress and be sure to inform them if an employer will be contacting them.  Don’t forget to send them a thank you letter.

11)  Are endorsements on LinkedIn the same as letters of recommendation?

In today’s job market, your LinkedIn profile is the new job application.  Having endorsements from those in your network, can give you the “boost” you need to be seen as a professional or expert in your field.  Since your profile will mostly likely be seen before the interview; thus the endorsements will be seen before the interview, that can suffice as letters of recommendation.  (Tip:  Include the hyperlink to your LinkedIn profile on your resume to make sure employers will see your endorsements.)   However, when you follow up after the interview with a thank you letter, you can still include your actual letters of recommendation as a “reminder.”

 

How to Answer the Dreaded Salary Question

Your interview is going great.  You have answered all of the hiring manager’s questions.  You have sold yourself effectively.  You didn’t ramble and you even kept your hands in your lap and not all over the place.  Then you hear the dreaded question…..”What are you salary requirements?” Everything stands still and time starts moving in slow motion.  A million thoughts are going through your head. “What if I say a number too high?”     “What if I say a number too low?”      “Can I really ask for what I want?”      “Why did they have to ask me this question?” The employer is waiting so you know you have to say something, but what do you say?

We’ve all been there and we’ve all heard that whoever says a number first loses.  Not exactly.  You can adequately answer this question and still get the amount you want if you do your research and position yourself appropriately.  But, be sure to let the employer bring up the salary subject first.  You don’t want to seem like that’s all you care about. Many times the salary for a particular position will be advertised in the job description.  So you can start there in terms of figuring out how much to ask for.  If not, you can go to www.salary.com or www.onetonline.org to look up positions and the average salary associated with it.  Keep in mind the salary ranges are usually given for entry-level, mid-level and senior level.  So first identify what group you fall into.

So, say for instance you want a mid-level Marketing Analyst position.  The average mid-level salary in Dallas, TX is $55,089.  To get that targeted amount you should give a range that is a couple thousand dollars below and a couple thousand dollars above.   Most employers try to make candidates feel as if they really want them and tried to give them what they want.  So giving a range will give them some “wiggle room.”  You definitely don’t want to just say a specific dollar amount because you may sell yourself short if they were planning to give you more or you could eliminate yourself by saying a number that is too high.

So, the next time you are in an interview and you are asked about salary requirements, your response should be, “Based on my research I know that Marketing Analyst in this area make from $53,000 – $58,000. With my skills and qualifications I feel that I fit within this range. I am definitely willing to negotiate.” If you can say this confidently and without hesitation, it conveys to the employer that you have done your research and they will be more willing to take your salary requirements seriously and give you the amount you are requesting.