Getting job offers isn't easy. Applying online can take hours, and then you have to schedule interviews, study the company and role to prepare, and wait days or weeks for the results.
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While it might be tempting to sit back and relax once you've interviewed for a role, there are four big post-interview mistakes that can cost you the offer. Here they are – and how to avoid them:
Mistake No. 1: Not Preparing Great Questions to Ask at the End
Almost every interviewer is going to end by asking you, "So, what questions do you have for us?"
Being prepared is absolutely vital. This is your chance to leave a great final impression, and the interviewer will use your questions (or lack thereof) to judge your level of preparation, your level of interest, and how competent you are in general.
How can you know if a job is a good fit if you don't ask any questions about it? Prepare enough questions so that you can ask each person you speak with at least one. Anything less is going to be a red flag.
Here are a few examples of questions you can ask to make sure you impress an interviewer:
Ask about the job specifics – challenges, most rewarding parts, keys for success, expectations in the first three months, etc.
Ask about the team – size of team, biggest challenges right now, leadership structure, collaboration with other teams, etc.
Ask about the company overall – challenges and initiatives this year, future goals and plans, etc.
Before preparing any of these questions, make sure you research the company. Don't ask anything that can be answered by looking at the job description or company website. Also avoid questions about salary, dress code, or anything else that doesn't relate to the actual work. Let the interviewer bring these topics up first. They want to hire someone who is focused on coming in and helping out immediately. Your questions need to show them you will do this.
Mistake No. 2: Not Sending Personalized Thank-You Emails Within 24 Hours
Most job seekers either skip this entirely, wait far too long to send their emails, or don't personalize their emails. Here are a few guidelines for following up properly:
Get a business card from each person after you interview with them. This makes following up easier.
Use a unique subject line, like: "Nice talking with you about the ____ job."
Customize the body of the email to mention something you discussed with that specific person. If you interviewed with multiple people, this is where your email will be different for each person (which is important, in case they compare emails). For example, you could say, "Thanks for your time yesterday. I enjoyed learning about the HR supervisor position. Your story about the impact this person can have when it comes to training and onboarding new team members really caught my attention."
Remind them very briefly why you feel you're a great fit for their needs, reaffirm your interest, and then wrap up the email: "I think my prior experience as a training coordinator would help me in this role immediately, and I'm excited to hear about next steps as soon as you have news to share on your end."
If you follow these four steps, you will remind the interviewer why they should hire you, and you'll also make it clear that you're still interested.
Mistake No. 3: Being Too Hesitant to Follow Up
If you sent out a thank-you email but haven't heard back in the time frame you expected, send a follow-up email. Hiring managers and recruiters get busy. Don't be apologetic. Never say, "Sorry to bother you." You're not bothering them, you're being professional and asking for an update – just like they would do if they were waiting on an update from you.
One thing I recommend to make this step less stressful is to ask this question after each interview: "When can I expect to hear about next steps?" That way, you have a clear time frame and know when to follow up if you haven't heard anything.
The important thing to remember is: If you're in doubt, follow up. Send that email. Most job seekers are too hesitant in their follow-up efforts. That can lead to somebody who is more aggressive receiving the job offer over you.
Mistake No. 4: Not Checking Your References Thoroughly
Of all the post-interview mistakes I see, this is most painful. You put so much effort and time into sending out your resume, scheduling interviews, meeting with each company, and following up. From the time you decide to start applying to the time you start seeing offers can be tens or hundreds of hours of your time. You're so close to the end of the process when a company asks for references, but a bad reference can cost you the job in an instant.
Here's the common mistake I see: asking people if they'll be a reference, but not asking what type of reference they'll give. As a recruiter, I've personally had references say things like, "I wouldn't hire that person again. I do not recommend her."
From now on, don't just ask people if they will be a reference. Ask them, "Are you comfortable giving a positive reference based on what you saw of my work?" This will eliminate people who would give a bad reference, as well as people who don't know your work well enough to feel comfortable speaking about it. (This happens a lot, too. The reference will say, "Well, he seemed nice enough, but we really didn't work closely together, and I'm not sure what his job involved.")
Use some of the downtime after your interview to speak with potential references. Select two or three top people who know your work well and have told you that they are comfortable speaking positively about it.
Biron Clark is an executive recruiter, career coach, and founder of careersidekick.com.