Follow-up: The Key to Getting the Job

38529411 – thank you on old paper texture

By Dr. Howard Gauthier

It’s been a week since Rick interviewed for an operations management position at a university in California and he is anxiously waiting to hear back from the hiring manager. Rick was one of four who interviewed for the position and thought he interviewed very well.

Just then, his cell phone rang and he recognized the number – the chair of the search committee was calling.  Many thoughts rushed through Rick’s mind as he thought about the job.  This is the job he’s dreamed about, and he really wants the position.  His first thought was – he knew they were going to offer him the job.  Now, should he just accept the position or should he negotiate the salary?  Many more thoughts surfaced as he answered the phone.

“Rick, this is Mike Phansey from the search committee in California.  I wanted to call and let you know that we have hired another candidate for the operations management position.”  Stunned, Rick’s excitement quickly turned to depression and the only question Rick could muster was “What went wrong, I thought I interviewed very well”?  Mike was helpful as he shared that all four candidates were qualified and would be a good fit within the organization, but the candidate whom they hired did a great job of following up after the interview.

In the days that followed, Rick decided to conduct some research into how a person should follow up after an interview.  What he found was that most search committees are looking for someone who can solve their problems.  If a person asks the correct questions during the interview, they will know what problems and concerns face the organization. 

Secondly, what concerns does each search committee member have about you as a candidate?  You will need to address each of these concerns in a personalized thank you letter. Since you don’t know which committee member has the greatest influence on the committee, you will want to try to influence each committee member into believing you are the right candidate for the position. 

The third finding is that a person will want to properly time their follow-up correspondence.  For example, if you are the first or four candidates to interview, you will want your letter of influence (thank you letter) to arrive the day before the final candidate interivews.  The strategy is that you want the committee members thinking of how great you are while they are interviewing the final person.  If your letter arrives too early, you lose impact due to the passing of time.  If your letter arrives too late, they might have already offered the job.  However, if you are the fourth of four to interview, you will need to send notes of influence very quickly.  In this situation, you might need to send an e-mail instead of a letter.  Regardless of when you interview, you will need to develop a letter of influence, addressing their concerns, and solving their problems.  And this letter needs to be timed properly. 

The final finding from his research was that quite often the person who gets the job has outlasted the other candidates.  In other words, they didn’t allow their ego to convince them to withdraw from the search.  Sometimes other candidates are offered the job and they turn down the offer. Outlast your competition and be ready for the offer when they turn to you as a candidate.


Howard Gauthier is a Professor of Athletic Administration at Idaho State University.  He is a former collegiate athletic director and collegiate basketball coach.  He is also an author of 9 books.  Check out his new book, Getting Hired In College Sports – 3rd EditionFor more information on our sports careers blog, go to

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