You had a great interview, the interviewer loved you and now the employer is signaling that the job is almost yours. But don’t sit back and relax just yet – the actions that you take (or don’t take) during this period can determine whether you ever see a job offer. And even when an employer is in the process of preparing offer paperwork, a mistake on your end can short-circuit that and cause them to choose another candidate instead.
Here are five ways that you can ruin a great interview with mistakes afterward.
1. Don’t follow through on something you said you would do. If you told your interviewer that you would email over a reference list or a writing sample and then you don’t, you better believe that’s going to be noticed. And not only will your interviewer notice if you follow through, but she’ll notice if you did it in the timeline you offered. That means that if you say in an interview that you’ll forward materials that evening, it really does need to happen that evening. If it’s two days later, you’ll look disorganized or like you lost track of what you committed to.
2. Be unresponsive to attempts to contact you. If your interviewer calls or emails you to schedule another meeting or ask a few more questions, you don’t need to be available on the spot, but you do need to respond within a day or two. Otherwise you’ll look incredibly uninterested (given how enthusiastic interested candidates normally are about moving the hiring process along). And yes, that means that if you’re going out of town and not planning to check voicemail or emails, you should let your interviewer know ahead of time and/or leave an outgoing message explaining when you’ll return.
3. Be pushy or overly aggressive in your follow-ups. It’s fine to follow up after an interview, particularly if your interviewer told that you they’d be back in touch within a certain amount of time that has now passed. But there’s a right way and a wrong way to do follow up. Sending a post-interview thank-you is fine (and appreciated). Politely checking in after a stated timeline has passed is also fine. But checking in after one week when your interviewer told you two, or sending repeated follow-ups trying to get an answer is too aggressive and will reflect badly on you – as well as making you look like you’d be a pain as a colleague. You don’t want that.
4. Mishandle your references. Your references can be the deciding factor in whether you get a job offer, so it’s crucial to manage them properly. That means prepping them to expect a call (so they don’t respond with “Jane who?” when your name is mentioned) and ensuring they’ll be available (so you can line up substitutes if they’re out of the country for a month). That also means that if the employer is calling someone who isn’t likely to give you a glowing reference, you should put it in context for them ahead of time. For instance, if your former boss took it badly when you left for another job and the relationship never recovered, that’s worth mentioning before the reference-checker gets on the phone with her – so that you’re proactively providing framing for what the reference-checker might hear.
5. Post something dumb on social media. You can ruin your chances of a job offer in seconds by posting something unprofessional or ill-advised on social media. Complaints about your current job, snarky commentary about your interview, tasteless jokes about hot-button issues or anything else that calls your judgment into question is a great way to get struck off a short list of candidates. One example of this made headlines a few years back, when a prospective hire at the networking equipment company Cisco posted this on Twitter: “ Cisco just offered me a job! Now I have to weigh the utility of a fatty paycheck against the daily commute to San Jose and hating the work.” A channel partner advocate for Cisco saw the tweet, and the hire lost the job offer. Employers do use social media – and it’s not unusual to check out candidates there, both before and after interviews.
Alison Green writes the popular Ask a Manager blog, where she dispenses advice on career, job search and management issues. She's the author of “How to Get a Job: Secrets of a Hiring Manager,” co-author of “Managing to Change the World: The Nonprofit Manager's Guide to Getting Results” and the former chief of staff of a successful nonprofit organization, where she oversaw day-to-day staff management.