Editor's note: This is the 13th and final article in a series providing interview tips and techniques for attorneys. Links to previous articles in the series follow this article.
In all your interview follow-up efforts, be patient, polite and professional. Stick to the usual business communications tools: letter, e-mail or telephone. Do send a thank you letter or e-mail but don't try any gimmicks, and accept the prospective employer's decision with grace.
DURING THE INTERVIEW
Appropriate interview follow-up begins during the interview itself. As you wrap up, ask your interviewer if they need any further information from you, where they are in the hiring process, what the next step will be and their time line for making the hire. Ask when you should follow up, with whom, and whether telephone or e-mail is preferable. This way, you know exactly what to do and when, and have obtained permission for further contact. Follow directions exactly. If, when you follow up, you find that the prospective employer isn't ready to make a decision regarding your candidacy, ask when you should expect to hear and follow up again as directed.
IF A RECRUITER IS INVOLVED
Call your recruiter as soon as possible after an interview to debrief and discuss your next steps. The prospective employer will be waiting to hear from the recruiter about your impressions and whether you remain interested in the opportunity. Use the recruiter to air your questions and concerns, and for coaching throughout the process. The recruiter can be more aggressive in following up and often can get more useful information and candid feedback than you can on your own behalf. The recruiter wants to make the placement and will take all reasonable steps to facilitate your success.
DEALING WITH DELAY
The hiring process often takes longer than anticipated. If you have other offers but remain interested in a particular position, it's fine to apprise the prospective employer of your timetable. Don't use this as a ploy to speed up the process, however, as it can backfire. The prospective employer may decide that they cannot move quickly enough to accommodate you, and then advise you to accept another offer, removing you from consideration.
THANK YOU NOTES
Sending a thank you note to your interviewers is not only polite, it also allows you to reinforce the positive impression you made during your interview or correct any misunderstandings that may have occurred. Furthermore, it emphasizes your enthusiasm for the position you are seeking. It's another way to put your name in front of the hiring authority and to set yourself apart from the other candidates under consideration. If the firm is having a difficult time selecting one candidate in a close race, it might make a positive difference.
While it's best to send a thank you within a couple of days after your interview, a letter arriving a week or so later can be a useful tool to remind the recipient of your meeting, especially if you haven't heard any feedback. On the other hand, if the interviewing process is moving along so quickly that you are scheduled for further meetings before you have had a chance to send a thank you, it can become moot. In the event you learn that the firm has declined to pursue your candidacy, it's good form to send a thank you anyway, perhaps requesting that you be kept in mind for future openings.
Thank you notes can be handwritten, typed or e-mailed. If handwritten, use businesslike note cards with just your name, initials or "thank you" on the front -- no cute pictures! A typed thank you should be on personal or plain stationery, not on your current firm's letterhead, unless you are a sole practitioner. If your handwriting is not perfectly legible, type it. If you use e-mail, treat it as formal business correspondence.
Regardless of format, make sure your grammar, capitalizations and spelling are correct. Collect business cards at each interview, check the firm's Web site, or call the firm to confirm spelling of the names of the interviewers and the company, if necessary. A sloppy, error-filled thank you could lose you the job rather than enhance your chances of getting an offer.
• Opening paragraph
Express your appreciation for the time spent, tour of the facilities, lunch, etc.
This section should be no more than one or two paragraphs. Reinforce your understanding of the requirements of the position being sought and the needs of the company or firm. Emphasize your qualifications, relate relevant experiences or successes in your past, clarify or correct any misunderstandings, make any additional points not made in the interview, answer any questions left open, and provide further information regarding the matters discussed, etc.
Mention specifics from the interview, and make the letter personal. This lets the reader know you were attentive during your meeting and may remind them of who you are, especially if the firm has been actively interviewing a number of candidates over a period of time for the position. If you have other insightful questions you wish to ask, or have done further research or heard breaking industry news, address those issues here.
Reiterate your interest and enthusiasm for the position and your desire to be a part of the team. State that you look forward to discussing the opportunity further, will follow up at a previously agreed-upon time, or hope to hear from them soon. If you already have another offer in hand, inform them of this fact and your timeline for making a decision.
Include any requested information, such as a writing sample or list of references. You may enclose a clipping or cartoon (in good taste) which was relevant to the discussion in the interview. However, do not send a gift. It is overreaching and can make the recipient feel uncomfortable. Also, do not do anything gimmicky, such as sending a shoe "to get your foot in the door", or balloons or a singing telegram. (Don't laugh; it has been done!)
• Multiple recipients
If you interviewed with more than one person, you may send individual letters to each, but personalize them by mentioning something discussed with each particular interviewer. The letters may be compared, and a form letter isn't the way to make a good impression. You may choose to send a letter only to the person with the most authority or the one with whom you spent the most time or most closely bonded, including a statement that you "appreciated the time spent by" or "enjoyed meeting" (mentioning all the names), and asking the recipient to please extend your thanks to all of them. If the recruitment administrator spent significant time coordinating your visit and showing you around, you may want to thank him or her, as well.
NO, THANK YOU
If you are not interested in pursuing the job, a thank you letter still is in good form. Just use the first and last paragraphs, stating that you have decided to pursue another opportunity. Don't criticize the interviewer or company in any way. It's a small world, and you don't want anything to come back and haunt you.
If you know someone who knows your prospective employer, it's fine to have that person put in a good word before a decision is made on your candidacy. If, however, the prospective employer already has decided not to pursue you, don't have a third party make any attempt to change their minds. You don't want to get the reputation of being desperate, pushy or a pest. Accept the decision with dignity and grace.
Valerie Fontaine and Roberta Kass are senior legal search consultants with Seltzer Fontaine Beckwith, based in Los Angeles. Valerie Fontaine is the author of "The Right Moves: Job Search and Career Development Strategies for Lawyers" (January 2006, NALP). They can be reached at (310) 839-6000, or visit www.sfbsearch.com.
Read previous articles in the "Interview Strategies" series: