16. After the Interview
16.1 - Following-up on your interview
Following-up after a job interview is crucial. Even if you feel the interview did not go your way, it pays to get in touch immediately afterwards. The majority of people don’t do this, so it is a useful tactic to help you stand out and remind the interviewers what you can offer them. In a competitive climate, you can’t afford to sit back and wait so be proactive in your job-searching attempt and do what you can to secure the job you want.
After each interview, you should write a well-crafted email thanking the interviewer for their time, expressing enthusiasm and making it clear you listened closely to the recruiter’s requirements. This should be written either the same day or the following but certainly whilst you are still fresh in the recruiter’s mind (which is why it is a preferred method rather than posting a letter). Your email should firstly, thank them for their time and should also act as a prompt to what you can offer them. Therefore, it needs to be tailored to the individual company; a standard ‘thank you’ note is better than not sending anything at all but does not personally remind them of you and demonstrate time and effort in writing a more detailed note. Ideally, you should reiterate what you have accomplished in the past and make a couple of concrete suggestions towards how you can help their company.
I am writing to thank you for your time on 12th March to interview me and I would like to confirm that I am very interested in the Project Manager vacancy. I would also like to take the opportunity to reiterate the key achievements of my career:
Since our meeting, I have gained further understanding of your needs and challenges, and here is how I can help you address those:
I look forward to hearing from you shortly. In the meantime, please do not hesitate to contact me on 07234 567890 should you require any further information.
A follow-up email also gives you the opportunity to state any other relevant points that you failed to mention in the interview. However, try to keep it as succinct as possible as it should be briefer than your cover letter. Of course, it will not guarantee you getting the job but it is worth making one final effort to make an impact.
If you have not heard anything a week or so after sending your letter, do not hesitate to phone them and politely enquire whether a decision has been reached as it can be nail-biting waiting to hear from a company! You will feel more in control of your job search if you take action to get in touch for a response, and it can help you in preparing for the next stage or moving on.
Do make use of your ‘Job Search’ form to help keep track of follow-up emails and feedback from interviews.
16.2 - Negotiating the package
Once you have done all the hard work to receive a job offer, it can bring a huge sense of relief. However, you have had to prove your worth and so you should not give up at this final stage and accept a package which you might later regret. Give yourself time to digest the offer that you have received – you don’t need to accept anything on-the-spot; make sure you are happy with the final agreement as you want to avoid starting a new job feeling deflated and undervalued.
Many jobs (particularly public sector roles) are fixed as to pay, terms and conditions and others may have advertised an exact salary and clarified that with you at interview stage. With other roles, particularly more senior positions, they may allow you to negotiate the offer which does need to consider the whole package besides the salary. Other factors that could be included are:
Childcare vouchers or on-site facilities
Company car or allowance
Medical benefits - Private healthcare, dental plan, health club membership
Cash - staff discounts, bonuses, profit share, commission, overtime
Paid training/study opportunities
Relocation expenses or assistance with commuting costs
Flexible benefits (schemes which enable employers to allow staff to select the benefits that suit them)
Depending on your individual requirements, some of the above may actually be of greater benefit to you than the salary alone so it is worth weighing up the value of them before making a decision.
You should also consider your long-term career goals and how this role may be a perfect stepping-stone for you – it may offer a salary below your expectations but the skills and experience you could gain may be invaluable in the longer term.
Tips to help you negotiate your package:
1. Be realistic about your needs
Draw up a list outlining your needs which should have two columns, ‘What I want to have’ and ‘What I need to have.’ Ask yourself the following questions, and be honest with your answers:
What's going to make you enjoy your job and remain motivated?
Are there any negative aspects of the job which you may find difficult to handle?
What would you like to earn? What is the least amount you would accept?
2. Knowledge is power
If you have knowledge about the company it can be easier to negotiate, i.e. has the position been difficult to fill? If the vacancy has been advertised (or even re-advertised if someone has left the post quickly) for some time, the employer may be more willing to negotiate with a strong applicant. Consider whether the role requires someone with a unique skill set; if it is difficult to find someone with your special skills, you are probably in a good position to state your terms.
3. Research your market value
Check out the type of package usually offered for the position for which you are applying. You need to have a realistic idea of your worth which you should have clarified in your pre-interview research.
You can use a number of sources to gather such information; internet sites that offer salary surveys, your recruitment consultant if your role was through an agency, online job adverts and newspapers/industry journals.
Keep open-minded about other factors you could negotiate besides salary if that is fixed i.e. home-working option, company car.
4. Create a written request
If you're asking for something that is not part of a normal offer (i.e. flexible working), take the time to draft a plan outlining the details of your request. An employer is more likely to comply with your wishes if they have all of the details in front of them.
5. Aim high
You should pitch for a salary at the top end of the range and be prepared to negotiate in order to reach a compromise. If you have other offers, you can use them as a bargaining tool but if not, reiterate your market value and give them a final, gentle reminder of your strengths and how you would be an asset to their organisation.
6. Get it in writing
It is vital that you do not leave your current position without having received a written confirmation of the job offer confirming all the details of the package being offered as a verbal offer can be withdrawn.
If they are slow in producing this, explain that you are unprepared to resign from your current post until you have it in writing, which should hopefully speed up the process!
Keep calm and maintain a professional detachment
Never burn bridges - communicate in an open and thoughtful manner
If you aren't prepared to walk away, don't offer ultimatums
16.3 - References
In many cases, a job offer will be pending reference checking and in some posts, you will be unable to start without them. Therefore, preparing your references in advance is recommended so that you can promptly supply them at the time when your new employer requests them. They will generally ask for at least two professional references – if you don’t yet have work experience, they would expect a reference from a teacher/lecturer/activity leader.
Get in touch with your referees
It is important to know your references, to select the right people and to get their permission to use them. The best way to handle this process is to get in touch with your referees and make sure they are able to provide a reference (people in companies move on and it can be frustrating for your new employer to be waiting on references from people you have provided but haven’t checked they are able to act as a referee).
Important - Make sure you that make it very clear that your current employer is not to be contacted for a reference whilst you are job-hunting! There is usually a tick-box on an application form that asks whether it is acceptable for the potential employer to get in touch with referees, so unless you are in a position where it does not make any difference (i.e. facing redundancy) do be alert to this.
Letter of Recommendation
Certain positions and/or study opportunities will request a letter of recommendation. Be careful about the person you are choosing for writing a recommendation letter. Recommenders should be the person who knows you well and can comment on the quality of your work and be able to portray a well-rounded view of you.
16.4 - Resigning
It is important to leave your job on a good note, despite the reasons for your leaving. If you leave under difficult circumstances, there could be negative feelings between you and your employer, repercussions and a bad reference. Therefore, it makes sense to leave on a positive note which could enhance both your personal and career development.
Make sure you are leaving for the right reasons – getting a job offer can be great for both your confidence and potentially negotiating a better package with your current employer if you do decide to stay. If you have a good relationship with your employer, you may be able to talk through issues that have led to your decision so it is always worth discussing them first before handing in your resignation e.g. a missed promotion, your salary, the scope of your job. Think through your decision carefully, discuss it with anyone whose advice you value and NEVER do it in haste or anger as it can be very awkward to backtrack after an outburst!
If after considering the above, you still come to the conclusion that you want to leave, it is common courtesy to speak to your manager about your intentions when handing them your resignation later. Do ensure you have considered the conditions in your contract regarding your notice period which is legally binding - some employers may be flexible if it is a particularly long notice period and allow you to leave earlier (some sales roles will accept you leaving on-the-spot) but you would need to have this discussion as to what is acceptable for them. They may want you to fulfil your notice period so that you can handover effectively, or it may take them some time to recruit someone for your position, etc. Although it can be difficult to keep enthusiastic when your heart is no longer in your job, it will pay dividends in ensuring you part ways in the best possible manner.
Do ensure that speak to your HR department promptly after handing in your resignation to clarify any benefits you are due such as outstanding bonuses, commission, holiday pay, time off in lieu. It is best to have all these details in order before you leave so that any discrepancies can be disputed and finalised.
16.5 - Exit Interviews
Some employers, particularly larger organisations, will carry out exit interviews when an employer wishes to leave. The main question will, of course, be to ascertain why you are leaving. Other questions may include: What did you like/dislike most about your job? Did the job you were hired for match your expectations? How would you describe the management style of your manager? Did you feel you had adequate opportunities for advancement/training/progression? Did you receive regular performance appraisals?
Although you may feel like you have nothing to lose in being honest about your experiences, tact and diplomacy will go much further than having a last dig at the company even if you feel you had been undervalued or overlooked in some way – it would certainly be more difficult to get that glowing reference if you have aired every complaint against the company in your final meeting! Do also think about the possibilities in the future of crossing paths again with people in the organisation, particularly if you intend to stay within the same industry. And it has been known for individuals to leave their company only to find out that the new job did not meet their expectations and actually they were better off where they were!
If the company ethos is one that genuinely values feedback from employees (eg. makes changes based on the results of employee satisfaction surveys), then you should aim to give them constructive feedback as to your reasons for leaving. However, if you feel that it is more of a ‘tick-box’ exercise carried out by HR without real significance behind it, then you may find that it is best to steer away from being too negative.
Below are a couple of templates to give you guidance in writing your resignation letter:
(Date resignation handed in)
Dear (Manager Name)
Please accept this letter as formal notice of my resignation from the position of (your job role).
As required by my contract of employment, I am happy to work out my notice period. I would like my last day of employment of (company name) to be on (the last day you want to work).
I wish you and the company the best of luck in the future.
(Date resignation handed in)
Dear (Manager Name)
Please accept this letter as formal notice of my resignation from the position of (your job role).
Thank you for the opportunities of professional and personal development that you provided me during the last five years. I have enjoyed working for (company name) and appreciate the support provided me during this time.
I wish you and the company the best of luck in the future and would like to thank you for having me as part of your team.
16.6 - Coping with Rejection
Most people will experience rejection at interviews at some point throughout their career and it can feel very demoralising when you have worked so hard to get a job, particularly if you have reached second or third stage interview and you are so close to the end goal.
However, there are often factors well beyond your control which may ease the blow in receiving the dreaded rejection letter. They might include:
You may have been the best candidate until the next one came along (e.g. “pipped to the post”)
There may have been a particularly high number of suitably qualified candidates
The job may have been targeted for an in-house candidate even though it was advertised
You may have been the right person for the job but they didn’t see you fitting in to the team
The recruiter may have asked the right questions but lacked the skill to make a proper post-interview assessment
Once an interview is over, take time to think through how you performed and make some notes, particularly of difficult questions which you should use to reflect on later. Self-assessment may reveal that you need to improve your interview technique or how you come across.
Contact the recruiter
Even though you may be feeling deflated at this point, it is worth writing a brief note to your interviewer asking for constructive feedback to help you with future applications. Not all recruiters will provide this or may offer feedback that doesn’t tell you very much, e.g. a common statement is “you interviewed very well, but in this instance we decided on the candidate that had slightly more experience than you” which is not altogether constructive, but at least you didn’t fail miserably!
The other main reason for contacting the recruiter is to use the situation to build contacts. Even if you do not get the job, you have gained an email address of someone in the company to add to your contacts list who has considered you good enough to work for them. There may be other potential roles coming up in the future, there could be the possibility of freelance work with them, the person to whom they offered the role may change their mind and turn down the offer – always keep a flexible approach as to alternative opportunities rather than treating the situation as a closed book.
Don’t get down-hearted over being rejected. Continue plugging away and applying for roles but use your experiences to improve on your technique. Learn from your mistakes so that you don’t do the same thing again in the next interview. If you need to, employ the help of a professional to give you more specific guidance, or practice with someone whose opinion you respect. It may be tenth time before you get there, but perseverance pays off in the end.