You wrote the perfect résumé. You quickly landed a job interview. You nailed the meeting — and you’re pretty sure they loved you.
But you can still screw it all up.
Your follow-up plays a bigger part in the process than you may realize, said Lynn Taylor, a national workplace expert and author of “Tame Your Terrible Office Tyrant: How to Manage Childish Boss Behavior and Thrive in Your Job.”
“The quality of your follow-up can underscore a successful interview, or sabotage it,” Taylor told Business Insider.
Not sending a thank you email quickly enough (or at all!), for instance, can seriously hurt your chances — as can checking in excessively.
“Following up with hiring managers is tricky to navigate because it’s not always easy to gauge your standing, and a lot is at stake,” Taylor said. “Sometimes, if the chemistry is right, you can flat out ask where you stand, but that’s a big ‘if.'”
You want to come off as interested — not desperate or impatient.
So, how can you strike that perfect balance?
Taylor said the follow-up process will look different depending on your specific situation. But, here are some general guidelines on how many times you should check in after the interview:
Check-in #1: The initial follow-up
Sending a stand-out thank you note is also an easy way to stand out from a host of candidates.
Write a thank you over email that afternoon if your interview was in the morning. If it was in the afternoon, send it over first thing the next day.
“Hiring managers are gauging your enthusiasm, and by being prompt, your action speaks volumes. It also shows respect for their time,” Taylor said.
The thank you note is also a great venue to expand once more on what you can bring to the organization and how you’re an ideal fit.
“The thank you note can and should be a very empowering part of the interview process for you,” Taylor said. “For instance, by mentioning what intrigues you about the department and/or company after having met the key players, you’re demonstrating your listening abilities, how you process information, and how you apply it in selling ‘the fit.’ It’s your opportunity to market yourself and demonstrate how well you fit the corporate culture.
Check-in #2: A couple of days after they said you’d hear from them
Hopefully, you asked, “When can I expect to hear from you again?” or “When do you expect to make a decision?” in the interview.
If you did, and they mentioned a specific day or time frame (“By the end of next week” or “By Monday,” etc.) it’s acceptable to check in a few days after that date passes.
Check-in #3: When they ask you to check in again
Perhaps their email said something like, “We are still interviewing candidates and should be making a decision soon. If you don’t hear from me by Thursday, please feel free to follow up.” If so, go right ahead and do just that!
Check-in #4: If, and only if, they still seem very interested in you
If you aren’t getting any feedback, then be careful not to pester the hiring manager or HR. You don’t want to appear desperate; there’s a fine line between enthusiasm and being too aggressive.
“If you’ve received positive feedback each time you’ve talked to the hiring manager, or are asked to keep them apprised of your job search progress, you have the green light to keep the lines of communication open until told otherwise, e.g., ‘We will get in touch with you,’ or get no response,” Taylor said.
How you approach this tricky part of the interview process speaks to your ability to fit into the workplace culture.
“This is a litmus test of your emotional intelligence, which can override your credentials,” Taylor said. “Your handling of follow-up can confirm that you’re courteous, respectful, reliable, and a team player. Or, you can appear disinterested or disorganized by not responding on a timely basis.”
Check-in #5: If weeks or months go by and they still haven’t made a decision
If the job opening lasts for a couple weeks or months — and they still seem interested in you — there’s no harm in keeping in touch and sending another email or two.
“But vary your messages,” says Taylor. “You might send links to interesting articles; let the hiring manager know of a relevant industry webcast or seminar; keep them apprised of any kudos you’ve received at your current job; a charitable project you just completed, and so on.”
Check-in #6: If you didn’t get the job but want to thank them again for their time and consideration
Hopefully, you do get the job and don’t have to send this “thank you anyway” email.
But if you don’t, it’s smart to send one last (non-bitter!) email thanking them for their time and consideration — and asking if they might be able to share any feedback.
You can also say something like, “If you think I might be a good fit for any roles that open up in the future, please don’t hesitate to contact me. I’d be very interested in exploring other opportunities here.”
Jacquelyn Smith contributed to a previous version of this article, which first appeared on Business Insider.