The interview is the toughest part of the job application process – it can be nerve-wracking and intense, and is often difficult to prepare for.
Your actions after the interview, however, are just as important as the prep work you did prior to the interview and your performance during the interview.
You may have impressed your interviewer during the meeting, but you need to maintain that positive image once you leave the office.
Business News Daily spoke to hiring experts to find out what you should not do both during and after the interview, as well as how you can recover if you slipped up during the interview. [Read related story: The No. 1 Thing to Avoid Doing in a Job Interview]
1. Follow up too much
It's all right (and even expected) to follow up after the interview, but don't overwhelm your potential employer with multiple messages and phone calls. If you reach out too often, you're going to turn off the hiring manager.
"Many of us have been programmed to send thank-you notes immediately following an interview, and sometimes that's the right plan, but … be respectful of any communication parameters the interviewer may [have] set," said Jodi Chavez, president of Randstad Professionals and Life Sciences at Randstad US. "For example, if your interviewer requests email communication, stick to that and don't reach for the phone."
Additionally, she said, your follow-ups will differ depending on how far along you are in the interviewing process.
"In general, the earlier you are in the process, the more quickly you should check in," said Chavez. "An initial phone interview with no response may require follow-up within the week. However, you may want to wait seven to 10 days after a second or third interview."
During the interview, you should ask the hiring manager when you should expect to hear back and when it's appropriate to reach out if you haven't heard from them, said Jennifer Akoma, human resources director at Android Industries. Don't take it upon yourself to reach out to people who haven't given you permission to do so.
"We had one candidate [who] … used an organization that many of our employees were involved with to get their internal emails and phone numbers," Akoma said. "Their guerilla tactics ended up leaving a huge negative impression on me and many members of our staff."
2. Get too comfortable with the interviewer
You might hit it off with the hiring manager, but you should remain professional through the entire hiring process.
"Be polite, but never become too familiar," said Chavez. "Many people assume comfort early on in an attempt to build rapport, but this could put off your interviewer."
This goes for social media as well. While it's a great tool for marketing or showing your personality, it's not good for socializing with a potential hiring manager. [Read related story: Social Media Success: A Guide for Job Seekers]
"[One mistake is] asking to connect on LinkedIn with a hiring manager or one of the interviewers as soon as the interview is over," said Richard Orbe-Austin, career coach and partner at Dynamic Transitions Psychological Consulting. "This request may seem too presumptuous and [can] be a turnoff to the hiring manager or interviewer."
You also should not attempt to friend an interviewer on Facebook or follow them on Instagram or Twitter. General company accounts are fine, but do not hunt down the interviewers' personal accounts.
3. Change your salary expectations
Mike Astringer, founder and principal consultant at Human Capital Consultants Inc., noted that HR professionals interview candidates based partly on their initial compensation expectations.
"We [need to] know that they fit into our overall compensation range," he said. "All too often, a candidate will interview for a job, become overconfident [and] then dramatically increase their compensation expectations."
Astringer said he makes an offer to a candidate based on those initial salary expectations. Candidates should avoid greatly increasing their expectations at the final hour, he said.
"It makes the candidate look bad, it makes me look bad, and it wastes everyone's time," Astringer added.
4. Be too confident
Being confident to the point of arrogance can be seriously off-putting to the interviewer. Becky Beach, design manager at Mom Beach LLC, shared a story about an applicant who went too far.
"A day after the interview, he tried to connect with me over LinkedIn with the message, 'Thanks for interviewing me yesterday. Let me know when I am able to start the position.' I decided he would not get hired after that."
Be self-assured and confident in your abilities, but remember, the ball is in the interviewer's court, and you should defer to them.
5. Not follow up
This is probably the most common post-interview mistake that hiring managers see. It is vital to send some form of correspondence – whether it be snail mail, email or even a phone call – thanking your interviewer for their time and effort.
"The most common mistake I see people making after the interview is not following up," said Melissa McClung, professional career advisor and owner of LBD Careers. "Following up by email and card or letter is essential."
Zohar Pinhasi, CEO of MonsterCloud, said that an applicant who follows up after the interview does more than express gratitude – it shows him that they still want the position.
"A post-interview email reassuring me of their interest in the position shows ambition, and also tells me that the candidate enjoyed the interview and is indeed still interested in working for me. Plus, it's the courteous thing to do."
6. Send a generic follow-up letter
"The biggest mistake I see job seekers make is sending a generic thank-you letter," said Irina Pichura, CEO of Career Manifestations. "It's always a good idea to send something personalized as much as possible. Think about topics that came up in the interview, anything you'd like to add that you didn't get a chance to address during the interview, and emphasize your interest in the company."
Most hiring managers can spot a generic thank-you letter (and cover letter, for that matter) a mile away, so spend time and effort making your letter personal. Bring up something you discussed that isn't strictly related to your skills or the job description. For example, let's say you talked about a project you worked on in a previous position. Include a link or sample of that project in your follow-up as a nod to the discussion and a way to show off your skills.
7. Overlook what you post on social media
We all saw the disaster of the would-be NASA intern who swore at a former NASA engineer on Twitter and subsequently lost her position. Avoiding posting crude, offensive or sensitive information about your interviewing process should be a rule of thumb while you're interviewing.
"Posting about the interview, especially about interviewers, can be seen as a lack of confidentially or professionalism," said Michelle Merritt, executive partner at Merrfeld Career Management.
Remain professional on social media at all times, not just while you're applying. A professional and polished online presence is important regardless of your career stage.
8. Ghost the company
If you decide that the position is not right for you, for whatever reason, be sure to reach out to the company and let them know that you want to withdraw your candidacy. Whoever interviewed you took time out of their busy schedule for you. The courteous thing to do is to acknowledge that effort with a gracious thank-you and official withdrawal.
9. Conceal info
Being upfront about all of your requirements and skills, as well as other offers you may have on the table, is key throughout the interview process.
"I had a candidate go through two rounds of phone screens and a daylong interview," said Lisa Barrow, CEO of Kada Recruiting. "She said to me she wasn't actively interviewing anywhere else. After the interview, she sent a thank-you email to the CEO that included a mention of an offer at another agency. The CEO called me to say he was taken aback and concerned about her lack of transparency in the process."
Barrow and the CEO had a further discussion with the candidate, who admitted that she wasn't truly considering the other offer and had only mentioned it to show her high level of interest in the company. She apologized, but Barrow said, "This ultimately showcased the importance of transparency and the impact it can have in the process."
What happens if you mess up?
Mistakes happen. Though it depends on how serious the mistake was, for the most part, if you handle minor gaffes with pure intentions and grace, you can recover.
"I haven't had anyone recover [from a mistake], but I also haven't had anyone try," said Akoma. "For example, if someone noticed an error on their thank-you letter and owned up to it quickly, I think I would still consider them. It shows accountability and a willingness to admit and correct a mistake."
Rishit Shah, a finance professional at the Tally School, recalled an applicant who accidentally sent his thank-you letter to the wrong person in the organization.
"He quickly apologized and sent the letter to the correct person," he said. "What I liked about him was that he owned up to his mistake and quickly rectified it."
But no matter what happens following a mistake, don't burn bridges.
"If you don't get the particular position, you always send a gracious follow-up to the hiring managers and/or the HR person expressing interest in future opportunities," added Akoma. "It will make a good impression and could get you considered for other opportunities."
Additional reporting by Sammi Caramela and Brittney Morgan. Some source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.