Quiet desperation: How to follow up after an interview

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Sending a thank-you note post-interview is the easy part. The hard part? Gnawing your knuckles to nubs as you stare at your phone for the next two weeks, waiting for your potential employer to make an honest woman (or man) out of you.

The good news is, you can save those knuckles with a little proactivity. Because while you can't control the employer's schedule, you have total autonomy with yours. Here's how to make the most of it.

Step 1: Be at home with the range.

Did your dream job say they'd be in touch in 2 hours? One week? Anywhere between 5 days and 7 months? Doesn't matter. Give them until the very end of their range, and then follow up if I haven't heard from them. This strikes a balance between appearing desperate and showing you're still interested. Plus, it respects the timeframe they need on their end.

One exception: if you've fielded another job offer with a much shorter range, and you need to reach a decision quickly. Then you have a stronger bargaining chip when you call before their decision deadline.

Step 2: Give voice to your interest.

When you do follow up, either phone or email works. Use your previous communication as a guide; if you're spoken mostly through one medium, you can stick with that.

Personally, at this critical stage in the game, I think a well-timed phone call shows a touch more initiative and polish. That said, you also risk putting the employer in an awkward position or fielding a rejection directly when you catch them on the phone. So consider the risk/reward ratio before dialing.

Step 3: Turn your impatience into improvement.

If you absolutely can't wait until the range ends and MUST do something before you explode, try this tactic: Drop the prospect an email and ask, "Can I provide any additional materials or answer any questions for you as you finalize your decision?" At most, an update comes with the response. At least, it keeps your name in front of them.

Step 4: Don't hold your breath.

Word of warning: Don't get your hopes up you'll hear when they said you would, even after you write/call/email for an update. Companies tend to give a rosy response forecast, somehow forgetting that crises and hiccups have a nasty habit of disrupting their hiring process.

I think I was supposed to know about my current job two weeks before I actually did. I was impressed I heard so close to the projected date at all. Fact of life, and one worth accepting for your own sanity.

Step 5: Soldier on.

What if after all that waiting, the gig doesn't come through? You might be disappointed. You might not feel like working on the search for a few days. But I promise you, the not knowing is far worse than not getting the job. Really.

You can deal with and respond to known reality. It's harder to operate with nebulous what-ifs. So take stock of what's working well for you. Reevaluate what next step is most appropriate. And proceed from there. By putting one foot in front of the other, you'll arrive where you want to be.

* This post is dedicated to Francis Rocchi, a fine young man and stellar writer you should hire immediately.