How long should I wait to follow up after a job interview?

You’ve just aced the interview. Whether a phone conversation or an in-person meeting, your immediate priority should be to follow up with a thank you letter to the interviewer(s) thanking them for their time, and also reaffirming your interest in and qualifications for the role. And then, you wait and see, eagerly monitoring your inbox and phone for a return response initiating next steps… 

Best case scenario: You complete the interview and the hiring manager gives you somewhat of a definitive timeline of when you can expect to hear from them – ‘by next Monday’ or ‘we’ll be done interviewing by the 15th’ etc. – allowing you a metric by which to gauge your follow up response. 

In most cases, however, you’ll receive a more vague cliffhanger of a response along the lines of, ‘It was nice meeting you – we’ll be in touch shortly,’ or ‘I’ll circle back after I discuss your resume with the team’. This type of generalised response doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re out of the running, just that you’ll have to work a little harder to gauge the timeline of the process.

General rules of thumb to following up after the interview…

  • If a timeline is given, be sure to respect that timeline! If the timeline approaches and you still haven’t heard back, give them a 1-2 day buffer to still reach out to you. Plenty of hurdles come up, including administrative hold-ups, or unexpected absences. 
  • If no timeline or sense of next steps is given upon exiting the interview allow at least 4-5 business days (a week) before following up, as it’s likely that they are interviewing additional candidates and haven’t yet made a decision. Over-eagerness bordering on impatience will not do anything positive for your chances. 
  • Normally, if a candidate is being strongly considered, or in the final steps before making an offer, it’s likely that the hiring manager will provide you with some expectation of next steps and when you can expect to hear from them. However, it doesn’t always work that way. If no timeline is given, but you’re left with a distinct impression that they want to move forward, or extend an offer, again, allow roughly 4-5 business days before following up.
  • Remember that HR manager and recruiters don’t always have answers, as they’re subject to the approval of upper-level decision makers. Particularly if you are aggressively approaching your job search, or actively interviewing, give yourself a timeline of when you will pull the figurative cord on the opportunity in the interest of not missing out on other potential interviews or offers. Positive feedback is never definite – anything can happen between the time you walk out the door and the offer letter.

In each case, the point of the follow up is twofold: it’s an opportunity for you to reaffirm your interest in the role and why you feel you’re a strong fit, and also to maintain a presence on their radar as they’re moving through the hiring process. 

Try this:

Ending the outreach on a question gives them an extra push to respond to you, verses a ‘simply checking in’ letter. 

The key here is to be slightly aggressive, but in a tactful way that respects the fact that the hiring manager, no matter how swiftly a response they may have promised you, is a busy person likely handling multiple job openings, and many factors outside of their control can arise and inadvertently slow down the process. 

About the author: Dana Leavy-Detrick is a senior resume writer who has helped thousands of professionals. Dana advises clients on strategies for successfully navigating the most competitive job markets and maximising their earning potential. She is also the director and founder of Brooklyn Resume Studio, a niche personal branding agency and resume writing firm in New York City. Her advice has been featured in Forbes, Vogue, Mashable and The New York Post. 

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