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How to follow up after an interview without being a pest

Comparisons between job hunting and dating are common, and never are they more true than when it comes to the follow-up. After a date, you want to let the other person know you're interested, but you don't want to appear desperate. Plus, you don't want to feel foolish if he or she had no intention of contacting you again. On the other hand, what if he or she is waiting for you to make the call and if you don't, you'll miss out on a great romance?

So many questions and no definite answers to any of them. Ultimately you have to use your judgment and hope for the best.

Following up after a job interview is similar. As if you weren't nervous enough, you end up asking yourself a dozen questions and imagining hypothetical situations. "If I follow up now, do I seem desperate? If I wait too long, will they think I'm lazy? What if I'm the front-runner but I bug them and they cross my name off the list? What if I'm tied with someone else and my initiative gives me the edge?"

As with dating, job hunts don't have rules set in stone. At best, you can do what feels right and see what happens.

Here are three possible methods for following up with an employer and ways to know if you've crossed the line from eager to annoying.

1. The thank-you note is necessary after an interview, and no job seeker can afford to forgo it. Thank-you notes tell hiring managers that you respect their time. They have packed schedules and can afford to spend time interviewing only a select group of applicants, so your note acknowledges how grateful you are to get some face time.
Appropriate: An e-mailed note on the same day of the interview shows that you are courteous and don't dawdle. For most employers, an e-mail is an acceptable form of thanks because e-mail is a part of everyday business life and arrives quickly. A handwritten letter can be sent as a supplement to the e-mail if you want to stress your gratitude or you know the interviewer is old-fashioned.
Overkill: If you're going to follow up with a letter after your follow-up letter, think again. You already said thank you, so what else do you need to say? Both you and the hiring manager know that another letter is your way of asking, "Did I get the job?" Don't clog the hiring manager's inbox with more notes unless you want to be thought of as a pest.

2. The phone call is daunting and not the right move in every job situation. In fact, many job postings specifically state, "No phone calls." Unless you're feeling brave, you might want to skip it.
Appropriate: Unless you were specifically instructed not to call the hiring manager or another contact, you can make the call after an appropriate amount of time has passed. In this case, if you were given a deadline for when a decision would be made, let it pass and wait a few extra days and then make the call. Just once (unless instructed to call back).
Overkill: The phone call is one of the easiest ways to sabotage your image. Call once, when appropriate, and don't call again unless you've been told to. Phone calls are a nuisance in a way that letters and e-mails aren't. You can decline to open a message or just read it and ignore it. A phone call is harder to ignore if it requires the hiring manager to screen his or her calls once you become a repeat offender. If the company wants you, it probably won't forget to call you.

3. The pop-in causes you anxiety when your in-laws do it. Your place is a mess and suddenly you're forced to entertain people who you might not like very much anyway. Don't do that to an employer if you want to be considered for a job.
Appropriate: Stopping by to visit the company is rarely acceptable. Unless you have an explicit indication that you're welcome to show up uninvited, which would actually imply that you are invited, showing up in person is inappropriate. This follow-up is one case where once is almost certainly too much.
Overkill: When you show up and the hiring manager or receptionist gives you a look that says, "Why are you here?" you'll know you've crossed a line. Employers are busy -- they have schedules, meetings, clients and tasks. By showing up unannounced, you not only disrupt their routine but also imply that you are more important than their obligations and deserve their immediate attention.

Of course, you're bound to meet someone who broke one of these rules and impressed the hiring manager by his or her audacity. Perhaps going against etiquette will work for you. Just be aware that you're risking your professional reputation and could be removing yourself from the running for a job where you were a top candidate.

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