Please, send a Thank You!
You’ve nailed the resume and aced the interview! Now you just need to sit back and wait for the job offers to roll in, right? Wrong. You’re not done yet. The way to truly end the job-search process successfully is with a well thought out and carefully crafted thank you note. Think of the thank you note as another tool in your arsenal—and one serves as a strategic depiction of your professionalism and business acumen.
For some reason, there is controversy over the thank you note. Responses range from “I don’t need to send a thank you,” to “I can just get away with an email.” Job applicants frequently underestimate the power of the thank you note as an element that sets you apart from other interviewees. The following list provides a few tips on thank you notes that will allow you to shine:
Understand Why: Clients, especially those that are new to the professional world often don’t know what they are thanking the interviewer for. The simple answer is that we thank them for their time. The time an interviewer takes with you starts before you set foot in the door. They have looked at your resume, perhaps conducted some research on you (e.g., reference or background checks, social media scouting), and have thought about the questions they will be asking you during the interview. They have invested time in getting to know you as a potential hire—which is why a thank you is warranted.
Choose Stationary Wisely: Cardstock, high gloss, bonded paper. There are tons of different styles of paper that you can choose for thank you notes. The truth is, a thank you note doesn’t have to be on triple washed organic sun dried paper to be effective. I get my thank you notes, in bulk, at craft stores. The front of the note simply says “Thank You” in silver or gold type. The inside of the card is blank. I choose these because they are understated, clean, and allow me to write my own thoughts on the inside. I also carry these thank you notes with me at all times—one in the car, one in a professional portfolio pad, and I keep a stack of them at work in my desk.
Don’t Pre-Write: One of the quickest ways to undo a successful interview is to hand the interviewer a thank you note at the close of the interview. Passing off a thank you note at the end of the interview means you didn’t reflect on the performance, and you didn’t personalize the content to the actual experience. What was meant as a professional gesture becomes generic. Take the time to think about how the interview went, include content specific to what was said in the interview, and present a well thought out and composed thank you note that won’t seem like a “before” after-thought.
Fix Interview Mistakes: Another bonus of waiting to send a thank you is that you can include information or answers to questions when you’ve had time to think without pressure. I have used this opportunity to my advantage. I was once being interviewed by a search committee panel-style and was asked what courses I would teach in the graduate program. I responded “There are three courses I would teach…” and launched into the descriptions of the first and second courses. By the time I got to the third course, I had forgotten what I wanted to say and had to admit, “I’m sorry, but I don’t recall the third course.” It was embarrassing! But, I redeemed myself in the thank you note. I wrote a thank you note to every person in the committee (as you should for all people you meet who take the time to talk with you). In the thank you to the individual that asked the question, I wrote “Upon reflection, I remember the third course…” and used the thank you note as the opportunity to finish the thought I had lost in the actual interview. I used the thank you note as a strategic opportunity to demonstrate that I was paying attention and that I did truly want to answer the question to the best of my ability.
Be Prompt: Always send a thank you note directly following the interview. Immediate follow up demonstrates interest, professionalism, and enthusiasm for the position. Additionally, hiring personnel frequently make rapid decisions, so even a week gap may put you out of the running for a position.
When to Email: Sometimes I get the question “Is an emailed thank you okay?” The answer is tricky. There are two instances where I would suggest an emailed thank you—if the culture of the organization reflects a heavy use of technology (a tech company, a unique or trendy startup, etc.) OR if the interviewer has indicated that the hiring decision will be made in the next day or so. Then, I strongly recommend following up with a handwritten email. With the first scenario, emailing may be the most common form of thank you and your handwritten note can stand out against technology (let’s face it, after a while, the emails start to run together). With the second scenario, you’ve at least been able to express gratitude for the interview and if you do not get hired for this particular position, the interviewer might remember the gesture of the hand written note for another spot that may open down the road.
So take the time to write the thank you. Not only is a thank you courteous, but a well-crafted thank you note can be strategic, professional, and can demonstrate reflection and enthusiasm for the position.