It’s OK for you to follow up after a job interview

Here’s one of the most common questions I get from readers: “I thought I had a great interview but I haven’t heard a word. Will they get mad if I call them to find out what’s going on?”

I’ve asked this question directly of human resource officials. The consensus answer has been that they know you want to know, and they won’t get irritated by one call or email.

The consensus blurred about whether it’s OK to ask twice. As long as at least a week separates your attempts, maybe OK. But more than twice? Thumbs down. They’ll view you as a too-eager pest.

The unfortunate job-hunting truth is that your timetable isn’t the employer’s timetable. It’s normal to be told you’ll hear back in a few days — and the days stretch to weeks. Even when a manager has permission to interview, the hiring often gets strung along until the next budget quarter, or the CEO gets back from vacation, or the busy operation has time to do the paperwork and make the offer.

There’s no way to speed some processes along. And some organizations are thoughtless, disorganized or rude. But many have best intentions. They want to get good candidates on board. The challenge is that you may not be able to tell in your interview what kind of organization it is.

To guard against being left in the dark long after you expect a response, you should take action during your interview. Don’t let the interviewer dismiss you without getting specifics about follow-up timing and procedures.

Be sure to get the name and direct contact information of the interviewer or manager who’s meeting with you. You’d be surprised how many job hunters — perhaps grateful about finally getting face-to-face contact — don’t learn the interviewer’s name. Ask for their business cards. Organizations shouldn’t allow interviewers to be nameless, front-line winnowers of serious job candidates.

If interviewers don’t specify timetables for following up, ask. If they give a vague answer such as “as soon as possible,” ask them to be more specific. Ask whether, in their best estimate, that means days or weeks. Ask how many other candidates they’re interviewing for the position.

If an email or direct telephone number isn’t provided, ask for it. Ask the interviewer which is the preferred method of contact. Use that method if you haven’t heard back after the expected time.

Unless you’re juggling another job offer and need immediate response, give them a few days’ cushion after the expected response date. Then, when you reasonably feel enough time has passed, inquire politely and calmly. Say something like, “I enjoyed our discussion and remain very interested in the position. Could you give me a sense of your timetable for filling the job?”

You did, of course, write a thank-you note to the interviewer immediately after the interview, so he or she remembers you fondly.

Diane Stafford is the Workplace columnist for The Kansas City Star.,, @kcstafford