Ask-A-Career-Coach: How Long Do You Wait To Follow-up?

jobsearchContributed by Caroline Ceniza-Levine of SixFigureStart

I had an interview with a small financial services firm this week. I thought it went well and the interviewer (in this case, the owner) muttered that he would decide to hire me by the end of the day. 3 days have passed and I have not heard anything. He seemed like he would tell me either way. I really want the position and it seemed like we connected. How long do I wait before contacting him? What do you suggest I do or say?

While I normally advise waiting a business week before following up, if you know a decision is forthcoming much earlier or much later, then you follow up according to the timetable you know. In this case, since the owner (and clearly a key decision maker) said he was going to know by end of day, I would certainly call him after 3 days. I would have called him earlier in fact because he suggested he would have known earlier. Had he said that they were just starting the process and he was going to be on vacation next week, then you would need to wait till well after the vacation.

A more important point to consider is the way the person posing the question described what the owner said: he “muttered”; he “seemed like he would tell.”  It sounds like she is unsure what was agreed upon in terms of next steps. In every interview, and especially in interviews when you want the position and it looks promising, you need to explicitly agree to next steps – where are they in the process, who else are they seeing, where do you stand, what the timetable is, who will tell you and be your point person. In this way, you know whether to wait 3 days or 1 day or 2 weeks. You know exactly who to call. You essentially got their permission to call. The questions about their process and your competitors enable you to gather intelligence on how you stack up to the competition to make your follow up targeted and supportive of your candidacy.

Getting explicit follow-up instructions is not easy. Many jobseekers forget or delay till the last minute in the interview, only to see the interviewer rush out. You must budget time for this line of questioning. You know that people are in a rush and busy, so ask these questions early. Don’t let the interviewer give you a vague sense of process with no deadlines. If they can’t give a timetable for a decision, then get explicit recommendations for when you can follow up. If they like you, they will want to keep the conversation going. If they tell you, “don’t call us, we’ll call you,” then they are not interested, and you know you should move on to other prospects.

Caroline Ceniza-Levine is co-founder of SixFigureStart, a career coaching firm comprised exclusively of former Fortune 500 recruiters. Prior to launching SixFigureStart, Caroline recruited for Accenture, Booz Allen, Citigroup, Disney ABC, Oliver Wyman, Time Inc, TV Guide and others. You can reach Caroline at