Appropriate Interview Follow-Up

I teach Career Information in Arts & Communication (ACINDP 399) at UW-Whitewater. Last semester, I hosted an Employer Panel during the final week of class. During this Q&A session, one student asked the employers how many thank you notes they receive after interviews. Without hesitation, one employer said, “Not enough.”

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Good career advice always includes the importance of following up after interviews. Unfortunately, people either don’t follow up at all or follow up inappropriately. As you move through the internship interview process, keep the following post-interview tips in mind:

  • Send a thank you note immediately after every interview. There is no better way to follow up after an interview than the thank you note. While email is becoming more acceptable, nothing beats a nice hand-written note. However you choose to send your thank you, make sure you do so within 24 hours. During one of my hiring committee experiences, the last thank you card the committee received after the interviews was from the first person to interview. Not good. Here are five more post-interview thank you note mistakes to avoid.
  • Keep the timeline in mind when planning any direct follow up. If you are contemplating a phone call to follow up, make sure it isn’t too soon. How do you know when it is acceptable to call? From the interview itself. Ideally, your interviewer will let you know when to expect to hear back. If they don’t tell you, make this one of your questions at the end of the interview. If they tell you to expect to hear something NEXT Friday, don’t call them anytime before that date. If you haven’t heard anything by that time, then you can contact them. I recently heard that a good expectation is to hear back from an employer within a week to 10 days. So if you didn’t get timeline information during your interview, use this as a guideline.
  • Don’t be a pest. There is a fine line between appropriate interview follow-up and being an annoyance. Send your thank you note. Contact them if you don’t hear back within the stated timeline. Then just chill out. While it can be frustrating to not hear back or to wait, it’s just a reality of the hiring process. If you keep calling and emailing and LinkedIn messaging and… You will drive the employer nuts and drive yourself right out of contention.

Anxiety during the post-interview waiting process is to be expected. Follow up appropriately and keep your peace of mind knowing you did the “right” thing. Relax and hope for good news!

Give and You Shall Receive

You’ve heard it before and you’ll hear it again: Internships are important. According to YouTern, “9 out of 10 direct-from-college hires to go those with internship experience on their resumes.” Employers that I talk with tell me that they look for candidates with related experience, the kind typically gained through internships.

You know that an internship benefits you. But have you ever thought about how an internship benefits an employer? Start thinking about it if you want that internship or if you want to be a successful intern.

Thank you Card

When Applying for an Internship…

  • Your resume is about you, but not really about you. Yes, your resume and cover letter provide details on your skills and experiences that qualify you for the internship. But when it comes to crafting your resume, it should speak to an employer’s needs. For example, let’s say you are applying for a PR Internship and you’ve already had some PR experience (like a previous internship). Instead of lumping that PR experience into a general “Experience” section with all of your other jobs, break it out into a “PR Experience” section. Help the reader clearly see that you have the experience they’re looking for.
  • Be careful with those Objective Statements. More often than not, I read Objectives on students’ resumes that are all about themselves: “To obtain an internship that allows me to gain experience, use my communication skills…blah, blah, blah.” If you are going to use an Objective Statement on your resume, keep it simple: “To obtain the ______ Internship with ________ (name of organization).” Don’t go into a long diatribe about what the internship will do for you.
  • The same goes for that cover letter. Just as with your resume, your cover letter is about you. However, the letter is about you in the context of what you bring to the table. How will your background benefit the employer? Have you worked in a similar environment? Have you done similar work successfully in the past?
  • Don’t forget to send a thank you note. This one should be self-explanatory. If you have an interview, make sure to follow up with a thank you note. Thank the interviewer for his/her time. Incorporate elements from your conversation, something that highlights what you will bring to the position. Showcase your appreciation for the opportunity and a genuine interest in their organization and the position.

During Your Internship…

  • There is never nothing to do. So, you finished all of your assigned work for the day. Do you sit back and relax until it’s time to leave? No, you don’t. Ask your co-workers if they need any help. Look around you for a new project to tackle. Work ahead on existing projects. Bottom line: Do something.
  • Be grateful for the opportunity. Not everyone does an internship before they graduate. For some, this might be by choice. For others, opportunities don’t pan out. Either way, you are fortunate for having the opportunity to work in a professional setting doing the work you want to do when you graduate. So, say thank you. Do small things like providing a co-worker a recommendation on LinkedIn. Share your great experience with others, such as through our Intern of the Month feature.

Yes, an internship will provide you with experience that boosts your resume and makes you a marketable candidate. But as an intern, you are there to do something for that employer, too. The right frame of mind, hard work, and gratefulness will pay off in your favor big time!

Photo by Jon Ashcroft

Skills to Exhibit in Your Search: Communication & Problem-Solving

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Photo by karindalziel

I seem to be experiencing a mild case of writer’s block today. I’m racking my brain trying to think of an internship search topic to write about, but I’m drawing a blank. So, I’ve decided to write about writing – internship search-related writing. Written communication is a part of most any internship search and includes cover letters, resumes, thank you notes, and emails. And what better topic to write about when I can’t think of what to write about than writing itself!

Since strong communication skills are sought by all employers, highlight them using these internship search communication tips:

  1. Errors in grammar and spelling are big no-nos for any written internship search correspondence. It’s always a good idea to have several people proof-read your cover letters and your resume before you send them. Even if you are a grammar master, you might have missed something. Better to be safe than sorry.
  2. Do you know how to structure a cover letter? A key to writing a solid cover letter is understanding the purpose of it – it’s to make the employer want to read your resume. Keep this principle in mind in order to craft a focused letter.
  3. Be mindful when using email to communicate with employers. Since email is just words, you’re only working with about 7% of your information communication potential. Written messages that go beyond mere facts and data into more sensitive issues can easily be misinterpreted.
  4. On the topic of email, remember that emailing a potential employer is not the same as sending a text message to your friend. It’s a bad idea to use text-speak when composing your email message. You could come across as lazy or just a poor communicator. Instead, model professional email etiquette.
  5. Thank you notes are important to your internship search. Write a thank you letter after any occassion for which you want to express thanks, especially after interviews or after a professional contact has been especially helpful. While you might think that everybody does this, it’s not usually the case. Be the candidate to follow-up with a well-written thank you.

Five internship search communication tips is all I can think of today. Now that my busy faculty/staff orientation week is over, I hope my thoughts will be flowing better for my next post. Luckily, my writer’s block still provided me with some inspiration for what to write about. You know, one of the top skills employers look for is problem-solving. Looks like my writer’s block helped me highlight two important concepts. Not bad for a day’s work.

 

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