How to write a follow-up letter
How many jobs are missed out on? How many projects are left unfinished? How many friendships never get off the ground? Many of these lost opportunities could be captured by the simple act of writing a follow-up.
A follow-up letter doesn’t have to be formal. It could even be an email or text message. The important thing is to respond—promptly—in a manner appropriate to the situation.
To hire or not to hire
With the current economy, employers are flooded with job applicants. Many are highly qualified. Others are over qualified. How does a hiring committee make that final decision? Often it depends on factors other than an impressive resume or an outstanding interview. The thing that may tip the balance in your favor could be as simple as the common courtesy of sending a follow-up note.
Now is the time to get your details straight. If you thank Mrs. Jones for the interview and she prefers to be called Ms., you have lost a valuable advantage. Likewise, if her name is spelled Jonz, you will represent yourself as careless. Never make assumptions. Check the website or corporate literature or call the secretary or assistant to make sure.
Level of formality
Some situations are best handled with a handwritten response. In that case, write out a draft first. Then write neatly and legibly. If a typed note or an email will do, draft and revise before sending.
Sometimes a post on your social network will do the trick, or even a text message or a tweet on Twitter. Although it can be informal, it shouldn’t be sloppy. You should reread, revise, and check for errors before sending.
"Thanks for the interview" is nice, but not enough. Include some specific details that will help the recipient remember the interview. Thank all members if you were interviewed by a panel. You may want to include the time and location if they were significant. If special accommodations were made for you, be sure to refer to those. You are, of course, extremely grateful that they worked in an early morning or late appointment due to your schedule. Or that they held it on first floor because you were in a leg cast.
You may have thought of something after the interview that you didn’t make clear. Now is the time to mention an additional skill you possess or a specific result on a project that you didn’t have time to bring up. If you think any of your answers were misunderstood, make a clear, but brief, statement about the issue. Do it in a non-threatening way. Take responsibility yourself for the misunderstanding if you think one occurred.
Make sure to include a question of your own. It should be about the company: policies, culture, mission statement, and the like. Never ask about compensation or perks. Asking a question increases the likelihood that you will receive a response. Make your inquiry relevant and succinct. It should have substance. Don’t ask about employee name tags.
Don’t forget the secretary/receptionist/administrative assistant. Often the “gatekeepers” are overlooked by job seekers. Sending a quick note of appreciation for his or her efforts in your application process can make the difference in who gets hired. These often unrecognized people may have an influence on the employer’s decisions.
But job interviews are not the only reason for writing a follow-up. New friendships and potential clients can also be cultivated with a well-timed follow up.
A casual meeting can become a friendship. You overhear a conversation in a restaurant or sit by someone on the bus. In the process, you discover interests in common. The difference between “we should get together sometime” and actually carrying through can be a follow-up note.
Be pleasant but not over eager. Take it slow. Allow the other person time to respond. People have learned to be more cautious of strangers these days. Your follow-up suggestion should probably offer to meet in a public place—especially if your new friend is of the opposite gender.
Events sponsored by your industry produce numerous opportunities. Usually an attendee is overwhelmed at a conference or seminar. The time to plan a follow-up is at the conference. When you meet someone you’d like to contact again, jot a reminder on the back of his or her business card. Add specific details about that person. Mention those details when you make contact. Include a reminder of who you are and whatever the two of you discussed.
The same goes for potential clients or projects that you encounter on a day-by-day basis. Not all business is gained by advertising and sales calls. People who have the potential of enriching your life can show up in the most unexpected places. You never know who you may meet on the jogging trail or at your dentist’s office. Being prepared with business cards, pen, and notebook is essential. If you don’t have a person’s information, you won’t be able to follow up. Follow-up can make the difference.
Follow up on follow-up
Your job isn’t over until the final decision has been made. Obviously, you don’t want to annoy a potential employer or client. But after a reasonable amount of time, there’s no harm in sending a brief note asking if a decision has been made.
The same goes with your attempt to cement a new friendship or business contact. Allow ample time to respond. If you don’t hear from the other person, or the answer isn’t what you had hoped for, give it another try. Don’t be pushy. Be natural in your reply. Use an upcoming event or a change in circumstances as an opportunity for a second—or third—communication.
If you use tact and courtesy, a successful follow-up may yield the results you have been hoping for.