Earlier this week we walked you through four strategic moments where the art of following up puts you ahead of the competition. If soft skills aren’t your strong suit – it’s okay, you’re not alone – today’s article drills down to concrete, tactical guidance for structuring follow-up letters at each stage of the process.
For each follow-up schematic, we’ll briefly review your functional goals, discuss issues of timing and length, then provide an outline for you to customize for target companies and individuals. As with Engineering the Perfect Cover Letter, we’ll avoid “form letter” templates in favor of goals and guidelines; your goal is to communicate, not automate.
Schematic 1: Following Up on Your Resume
This first schematic aims to distinguish your application from those of other engineers with similar experience. Like a condensed form of the cover letter, your goal is to demonstrate your interest, professionalism, and qualifications, while getting you through the first round of hiring filters.
Reaching out to the right person, with the right message, will get your resume read.
Timing and targeting are important factors. Don’t follow up with the general-interest mailbox or through a “contact us” form. Drill down, find the hiring manager’s name and contact data, and address them directly.
Ideal Interval: 2 – 7 days after submission
Length: 250 Words
- Opening Paragraph
- State that you are following up on your application for a specific position and mention the date your resume was submitted.>
- Give one reason you are particularly interested in the company and position, structured as praise.
- Summary of Qualifications
- Summarize your relevant professional background.
- Show knowledge of company by mentioning an aspect of your background particularly suited to the specific position or company as a whole.
- Highlight a specific characteristic or accomplishment which compliments Paragraph 1, Item 2.
- Invite Further Communication
- Indicate a desire to interview in order to learn more about the position.
- Offer to provide further information, if required.
- Thank them for their time and consideration.
In many cases, your interviewer is your first personal contact within the company. A lot of filtering at the resume stage comes down to keywords or documentation; here, employers sound out more qualitative elements for a sense of who you are as an engineer.
Your follow-up aims create the impression of a courteous, thoughtful professional with a genuine interest in the company and the motivation to move forward. Ideally, you should structure the conversation to encourage further communication; linking this to an interesting angle of your interview conversation or your agreed-upon timeline for the next stage of the hiring process is a smart move. Either, or both, establishes you in the interviewer’s mind as a motivated, interested candidate.
Ideal Interval: 0 – 48 hours after your interview
Length: ≤ 150 Words
[Name of Interviewer]:
- Thank them for taking the time to interview you for specific position.
- Mention a specific item of interest they brought up during the interview, to indicate attention and appreciation.
- Stress how the interview showed that a specific characteristic or aspect of your experience would work well within the company.
- If the interviewer asked you for further information, provide it here, or a specific timeline for when it will be received.
- Say that you look forward to hearing from them at the next stage of the timeline, as determined during interview.
If you haven’t heard anything after a reasonable interval, a follow-up communication to test the status of your application is the right move. Your objective is not to nag, but to use the channel you opened with your interview follow-up to remain on the radar and see what you can do to move things along.
Your chances for receiving a timely response vary directly with the rapport you developed at the interview stage. Refreshing that, here, is typically a good idea; include a link to a relevant article on a subject of interest to the interviewer, an acknowledgment of some public accomplishment (theirs or the company’s), or share continued thoughts on your previous conversations. Remember, your interviewer is often the only personal contact you have within the company – don’t waste opportunities to strengthen and build on that connection.
Timing this particular message is either automatic or nerve-wracking, depending on groundwork laid at the interview stage. If you and the interviewer established the company’s timeline for their next stage of the hiring process, then your timing is more or less determined. If timing was left up in the air, on the other hand, a week is often the shortest reasonable interval.
Ideal Interval: As agreed, or no fewer than 7 days
Length: ≤ 150 Words
[Name of Interviewer]:
- Remind them of who you are and which position you applied for.
- Reiterate your appreciation for the interview and their consideration.
- Ask for an updated timeline on filling the position.
- Build rapport with interviewer by either:
- Mentioning a link or news item referring back to an interesting angle of the interview.
- Praising a recent accomplishment of theirs or the company’s.
- Asking an intelligent follow-up question referring back to your last conversation.
Schematic 4: Handling Rejection Gracefully
If an employer chooses another engineer for the position, you have one final opportunity to leave a lasting impression. Don’t fade out and move on; showing grace and professionalism earns you a place on the short list for future positions.
Your goal is similar to the post-interview follow-up letter, building on the rapport you’ve established in order to leave an open line of communication. Do not question or challenge the decision, but show good sportsmanship – they made the best decision they could, and you’re grateful for their consideration.
Optionally, you can request feedback on your interview performance, but this depends on the level of connection you’ve established with the interviewer. It’s far too easy to be misread in text-based communication, so don’t risk making a negative impression unless you’re certain to carry it off.
Ideal Interval: Immediately upon notice
Length: ≤150 Words
[Name of Hiring Manager]:
- Express honest appreciation for their time and attention.
- Show support for their decision and good sportsmanship.
- Indicate you were pleased to even be considered for a position with their company, structured as praise.
- Mention an aspect of the company or interview which taught you something, or was particularly praiseworthy.
- State that you would still love to work with them, should the opportunity arise.
Finally, remember to avoid “form letters”, customizing these schematics for specific individuals and companies. Your goal is to communicate and control impressions, not cut-n-paste while advancing through a flowchart. People respond warmly to the former, not at all to the latter.