After the job interview: write a good thank you!

Because I help people just starting out as freelancers or consultants, I work at the intersection of solopro-ing and job hunting. This blog entry focuses on the latter.

Most people know by now that after you are interviewed for a job, you should write a thank you note.

So true but wait, there’s more: go the extra mile and write a superb thank you.

In a highly competitive job market, hirers’ expectations for every part of the hiring process are inflated.

It used to be enough to list your jobs and education on your resume. Now you should quantify achievements and specify how they benefited your employer in terms of time saved and profits.

It used to be enough to follow the stated directions for submitting an application. Now you want to network your way directly to the hiring manager.

It used to be enough to find the office where the interview was conducted; now you should prepare for the interview by researching the company from Aardvark to Zygote.

So it’s no surprise that the once-humble thank you note is escalating into a major piece of marketing communications.

The thank you note is a valuable opportunity to supplement the interviewer’s notes with your take on what was discussed during the interview, answer questions that caught you by surprise or create an opportunity for your follow-up, and most important, to communicate that you do want the job.

Just as the cover letter and resume are marketing tools, so is the thank you. Writing this kind of thank you takes thought and effort. And just as you want your resume to be perfect, the same is true of the thank you.

Here are some tips:

Express your enthusiasm overtly. Say outright you want the job. Of course, some of your enthusiasm is implied—you wouldn’t write a full-page letter unless you really want the job.

Some say a thank you should be hand written . . . but I disagree. That’s OK for a note thanking granny for home-baked cookies, but a well-developed letter that advances your cause has got to be prepared on a computer. It takes too much revision to be dashed off in ink.

Anyway, this thank you will be long. Generally you’ll want to confine it to one page but this is still of lot of handwriting, especially if yours is hard to read.

Promptness is good, of course, but it is possible to be too prompt. If you send an email thank you from the lobby right after the interview, it looks suspiciously like a form letter to which you have simply added the recipient’s name and then pressed “send.”

Email or postal mail? Why not ask the hirer at the end of the interview?

As you discuss “next steps,” simply say that you appreciate this opportunity, plan to reflect on what was discussed and send a few follow-up ideas. Then ask which way they prefer receiving your note.

Of course, this puts the pressure on you to follow through. All for the good!

If you were interviewed by more than one individual, write a different thank you to each. Don’t send out even one until you can send them all.

Why?

As you write, you may run out of things to say in the last note. Then you’ll want to reapportion your good points differently to hit every letter. (And of course, you can repeat points, though ideally you will change out the exact wording a bit.)

If you intend to write thank yous, prepare for it. First, ask each individual for his or her business card. Then between interviews (if possible) or at the end of them all, jot down each interviewer’s most important concerns and a few words to remind you what to say in the thank you.

Admittedly, the kind of notes I recommend take a little time. Ideally you should get it out in 24 hours, but I believe it is better to take two days to do it right than 10 minutes to cross it off your list and get on to the next task.

Today, simply getting an interview is a real achievement. So maximize this opportunity with a written thank you note that sets you apart from the competition.

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6 responses to “After the job interview: write a good thank you!

  1. This is really a great message. A properly written, and contextual thank you note could well be the differentiator between you and the second best candidate! This would be especially true if you could show in your note how you had been thinking about the interview and could add on some ideas to help the hiring manger.

    Excellent message!

  2. Diana, this is a great article. I sent it on to my daughter who is a senior in college. Religiously following these sorts of tips can make you truly memorable in a crowded field. Thanks!

  3. Diana,

    Thanks for reminding your readers how important this is. During the “National Happiness at Work Studies,” we repeatedly saw that these little things, well done, make a huge difference.

  4. Times have changed with the interview process. If you are in a field of IT like I am, they go beyond just interviewing you to see how you would fit their company. If you are in IT, most of the times, they give you a skills assessment like test to see if you really know what you put on the resume.

    I agree with the part of following up with a thank you but I am so used to sending an email to them.

  5. Hey this question is for any one with knowledge of hiring people. Ok, I have not had the interveiw yet, but I have taken what they call a follow up test which was just that; a test on safty and basic math skills. Is it proper to write a thank you letter for just taken a test?

  6. Sure, I think it’s OK.

    If you’re going to the effort to write a letter, I’d expand it beyond the simple “thank you” and briefly reiterate your relevant qualifications and your enthusiasm for the position. I’d accomplish this by pulling up the Word file for the cover letter and reworking it sufficiently so it sounds different (but makes the same points!). If you did a long cover letter that responded to the job description item by item, this thank you may well be quite shorter than the previous letter.

    At the follow up test, you may have picked up the name of a better contact/hiring manager than what you had originally. If so, you definitely want to take advantage of this important piece of intelligence by writing to that individual.

    Even if you have no additional info on the hiring manager, you can contact the person (or blind address) that you originally submitted the resume to. That they got back to you for the test indicates that you weren’t sending your original communication into a black hole.

    Congrats!

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