Imagine this: You’ve just completed a job interview. Maybe it was conducted in-person, by phone, or virtually. Whatever the case, the final business cards have been collected and pleasantries exchanged. As soon as you’ve finished, you begin rapid-fire texting your family and friends about how you think it went. They’re asking you about next steps, but you’re not sure.

It’s all in the employer’s hands now, right?

Not quite. While it’s true that your interviewer has the final say over whether or not you’re selected for the job, there are steps you can take after the interview to improve your chances of being chosen.

What to Do After a Job Interview

1. Take a Breath

Getting to the interview is a big accomplishment and you should be proud, regardless of how you think it went. Take a moment to sit back and calm all of the racing thoughts you probably had during the interview. Celebrate the fact that the hard part is done.

Just don’t celebrate too hard, because there’s still work to do.

When to do it: Immediately after the interview

2. Debrief After the Interview

After riding the post-interview high, it’s important to revisit the experience while it’s still fresh in your mind so that you can debrief, take notes, and find ways to improve. Walk through each step of the job interview—either on your own or with a friend—using the Five W’s:

  • Who was there? If you didn’t take notes during the interview, make sure to immediately write down the names and job titles of each interviewer, including any facts or topics of conversation that stood out. Perhaps you connected with someone over a particular management style or shared alma mater. Save these potential talking points; you may find that you can leverage them later in the hiring process.
  • What were your key takeaways about the role and company after the interview? Perhaps you have concerns about turnover. On the other hand, maybe you’re excited about the projects. Take note of all this. You’re interviewing the company as much as they’re interviewing you. Could you see yourself working alongside the interviewers? What lingering questions do you still have?
  • Where could you have done something differently? Regardless of where this job interview leads, it’s an opportunity to strengthen your interviewing skills. Ask yourself, critically, about how things went. Did a particular question stump you? Settle on an answer now so that you can use it in the future. Did you find yourself underprepared to speak to specific highlights in your career? Make a note to do a better job next time. Every interview is an opportunity to get better at interviews, so don’t waste it.
  • When did the interviewers say they would contact you about next steps? Did they indicate when they hoped to fill the position? Knowing this will help you determine your follow-up plan. If they said they’d get back to you within two weeks, for example, you should wait at least that long before reaching out to them. If, on the other hand, they said they’d get back to you within five days and a full week has passed without a word, you might want to follow up.
  • Why should they hire you? Now that you’ve met with the team, you should have a better understanding of their needs and goals. How does your experience make you the best candidate? This insight can prove to be valuable when you follow up.

When to do it: Within five to 30 minutes after the interview

Related: How To Answer Common Interview Questions: A Cheat Sheet

3. Send Thank You Notes

Although the general purpose is to thank the interviewers for their time, you can use this point of contact for a variety of purposes, such as:

  • To reiterate interest: Use your newfound knowledge of the company and job responsibilities to send a truly customized pitch as to why you’re a good fit for the position.
  • To provide supplemental information: Whether you forgot to mention something or didn’t know the answer to a question, this is where you can make up for it. Demonstrate that you like to think things through and, now that you've had some time, have additional points to share. With that said, keep the messages as brief as possible.
  • To make a connection: When writing multiple thank you messages, stay away from generic pleasantries. Remember those notes about each interviewer? Use them to customize your outreach. Tell them how much you enjoyed your conversation about business trends or reiterate how excited you are about the team’s current projects.
  • To ask about next steps: Did you forget to ask when they would contact you? Do you know if there will be another round of interviews? Ask that now. Keep more in-depth questions about the company or the position to yourself until another round of interviews, or upon receiving an offer.

Thank you notes are often sent via email, although handwritten messages can apply in certain situations, typically if you can guarantee immediate and direct delivery. If you can’t find someone’s contact information, send a note to your main contact—typically an HR representative—and ask them to forward your gratitude to the team.

When to do it: Within 24 hours after the interview

Related: 3 Great Questions to Ask in an Interview

4. Initial Follow Up

Twenty-four hours can feel like a week to a job seeker. But for a hiring manager, a week isn’t enough time to finish interviews and gather feedback, especially if the opening garners a lot of applicants. You also might not hear back after sending your thank you notes, so silence can feel like a sign.

Don’t panic. If you were given a time frame to hear back, it’s important to let it pass before checking in. If you were asked not to contact the company during this time, follow their wishes.

Follow-up messages should be sent via email to ensure the most direct communication. A general rule is to wait five to 10 business days before sending a gentle follow-up note to your main contact. Use it to:

  • Reintroduce yourself: Remind your contact that you’re still interested and note the reasons you would be a good fit. Don’t send the same message that was written in your thank you note. This is also a good opportunity to re-attach an updated resume, based on what the company is looking for, so the hiring manager has a reminder of your experience.
  • Check in: Ask about the company’s timeline and if there is anything they may need from you in the interim.
  • Set an action: Let the hiring manager know that you understand his or her time is valuable and that you’ll follow up again. Knowing another message is coming, your contact may send you a time that works better for his or her schedule.

After the initial follow-up message is sent, stay busy, and continue to build your professional network.

When to do it: Five to 10 days after the interview

Related: To Have a Friend Is to Be a Friend: 3 Steps for Networking

5. Additional Follow Up

If you receive a generic response without a specific time frame, or no response at all, allow another five to 10 business days to pass before sending a second message. Depending on the level of responsiveness, a third and final email may also be reasonable.

In your final note, thank the employer for their consideration and note your willingness to speak with them in the future.

To avoid generic messages, consider showing your continued interest in different ways:

  • Share articles of interest: Did you see a positive article or LinkedIn post about the company? Is there something that references a topic discussed during the interview? Mention it.
  • Show a connection to the company: Perhaps you attended a public event hosted by the company or had coffee with a current employee in a different department. Let them know how these interactions have strengthened your interest in the company. Make sure to get permission from your contact within the company before mentioning his or her name.
  • Highlight a new accomplishment: Did you just receive an award in your current role? Maybe you just finished a project that relates to the position. Make note of how these new accomplishments connect to the job.
  • Demonstrate your growth mindset: If there are skills related to the position that you lack or could improve, let them know how you’re working to change that.

Regardless of the response, always keep the tone light and professional, as this employer may reappear in the future.

When to do it: Five to 10 days after your initial follow-up

6. Learn from the Experience and Grow

Regardless of whether you land the job or not, it’s important that you learn from the application and interview process. This will make you a stronger interviewee, and increase the likelihood of you successfully reaching your personal and professional goals.

Pay special attention to any areas where you felt your performance was not as strong as it could have been. Is this something that you can improve with practice and preparation, or is it something that will require a deeper level of investment, such as learning a new skill or becoming more comfortable with a particular subject? Even if you didn’t get the job this time, putting in the effort to improve yourself—by completing an online course, for example—will help you be a more attractive job candidate in the future.

When to do it: Ongoing

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During, After, and Beyond the Interview

Throughout the process, remember that the job hunt involves a lot of preparation and drive, with a light dusting of luck. There are many reasons, often outside of your control, that impact an employer’s decision. Keep your options open and continue to look for opportunities until the right job offer comes along.

Are you interested in learning more about how to advance your career? Explore our other articles on career development to start preparing for your next step.

This post was updated on September 17, 2020. It was originally published on January 10, 2019.

Karol V. Gaitán

About the Author

Karol V. Gaitán is HBS Online's former accommodations manager. She is a nationally certified Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor with training and experience in career coaching and academic support. She has worked with more than 500 job seekers and learners at various stages of their journey over the span of her career. She has worked for the State of Rhode Island, Brown University, and General Assembly Boston. When she’s not at work, you might find her digging through a thrift store for a new upcycling project, sharing memes, or eating Buffalo wings.