Send a Thank-You After the Job Interview?

A thank-you card with an envelope and a hand holding a pencil.You’ve just finished that big job interview.  Things seem to have gone really well and you’re feeling pretty good about it. You feel like you nailed all their questions. The interviewers appeared to like you and were upbeat. Now, more than ever, you really want to work here. Suddenly, a thought pops into your head: should I send thank-you notes to the interviewers?

Good question!

You will likely hear two points of view on this question from friends and colleagues.  The first says sending a thank-you note is old-school, outdated, and makes you look old-fashioned.   The other says interviewers expect such notes and failing to send one can negatively impact their hiring decision. Which way do you go?

What Do the Professionals Say?

According to an article on Monster.com, the well-known job hunting website, “Sending a thank-you note after an interview should be an important part of any job-hunting strategy. Whether or not you send a thank-you note could actually determine if you get the job.”  Alex Cavoulacos, in an article on TheMuse, states, “…most hiring managers pay very close attention to how well (and how rapidly) you write a thank you note.” She goes on to say, “Your thank you note sets the tone as your first interview follow-up. So, whatever you do: Don’t skip it.”

Alison Doyle, in a thebalancecareers post writes, “Why are thank-you letters important? The first reason to send a thank-you letter is that it’s just plain, good manners. But there’s also a self-serving purpose: a thank-you note is your opportunity to get your name in front of people one last time and leave a positive impression.”

Sure, you can find forums online where people bash the idea of sending thank-you notes. However, I have not yet found a professional manager or HR person who actively discourages them, either. In fact, according to the Monster.com article cited earlier, “…80% of HR managers say thank-you notes are helpful when reviewing candidates.”

Let’s Look at the Issue Logically

Personally, whether or not I received a thank-you note never had a major impact on my hiring decisions.   But then again, I’m not everyone. However, for some hiring managers, failing to receive a thank-you note from you may be a really big deal.  You the applicant, of course, have no way of knowing which way the person making the decision leans. So, let’s look at the situation in a logical and pragmatic way.

  • In the event the manager expects a thank-you note, if you send one, your bases are covered.
  • The manager may not care either way about receiving a thank-you note. If so, you lose nothing by sending one.
  • Some of your competitors – the other candidates – may have sent notes and you certainly don’t want to make yourself look less polite or professional! According to the Monster.com article cited previously, “…only 24% of HR managers receive thank-you notes from applicants.” Think of it this way: sending a note gives you the chance to look better than the other 76%!
  • Of course, there is always a chance the hiring manager may dislike thank-you notes.

What about that last point? Sure, there may be the occasional quirky hiring manager who really thinks sending thank-you notes is a sign of an old mindset and actually holds it against applicants. However, realistically, I think such people are few and far between.  Plus, based on the articles cited above, the online experts would seem to agree with me on that point.

This sounds like a risk-versus-benefit decision.  Here’s my conclusion:

The potential benefit gained by sending a thank-you note
outweighs the risk of making the recipient unhappy.

Would you agree?

The Exception

The exception to this conclusion is if you write a really bad thank-you note.  The goal is to improve your chances of getting hired, not spoil the good impression you may have already made during the job interview!  A note with poor wording, bad grammar, etc. will definitely work against you. This true regardless of how the interviewer may feel about thank-you notes. Therefore, write your note every bit as professionally as your cover letter, resume, and other materials.

What Should It Say?

Keep the note fairly short.  This is NOT the time to include a lengthy discussion of your skills or experience, or to try and repair any mistakes you may have made during the interview.  It’s too late for that; you already had your shot.  There are four basic things you should convey in your communication:

  • Thank them for the interview
  • Reiterate that you are a good fit for the position
  • Indicate that the interview enhanced your interest in the job
  • Tell them you look forward to the next step in the hiring process

Regarding the “good fit” statement, go easy on this point and don’t overdo it.  Some of the most ridiculous notes I ever read were from minimally qualified individuals with little or no experience who arrogantly tried to paint themselves as rock stars in their field.

There are numerous websites online with examples of thank-you notes. Do a search and look at several of them. One such site with sample notes is is CareerSidekick.com.  Use a format which is consistent with your personal style, uses good common sense, and sounds professional.  Do not just copy and paste the text!  Avoid sounding like a form letter by rewriting it to suit your style. Use your own words and tailor the message to the job where possible.

Email or Snail Mail?

OK, so you decided to send a thank-you note. Now, you are debating whether to send it electronically via email or mail a physical note card or letter through the post office.

Since the majority of business communication is now by email, it seems to be the norm.  The Monster.com article cited above indicated that a survey found “94% of HR managers say it’s appropriate to send a thank-you note via email, as most (65%) of the thank-yous they receive are sent by email.” If you decide to send your note by email, you’re in good company.

Pamela Skillings, in her article How to Write an Interview Thank You Email on BigInterview.com, offers an interesting perspective about the use of email. She writes, “Be sure to steer clear of odd hours of the night. If the interviewer even manages to find your email buried in memos and junk mail, it may seem strange that you were up at 3am.”  I think she’s on to something here.  I have heard day-shift people comment about emails they received which were created in the middle of the night. Generally, they seem to think it’s a bit weird.

Another factor in this decision is time.  I often received thank-you notes in the U.S. mail several days after the hiring decision was already made and another applicant had accepted the position!  One of the “any questions for us?” you should ask during the job interview is about the hiring time frame.  (Be sure to read our Career Lantern article Questions to Ask and Not Ask on a Job Interview.)  When the hiring decision will be made shortly, definitely use email. However, regardless of which method you decide to use, write your note and send or mail it the same day as the interview.

Hand-written or typed?

Send a hand-written thank-you note if you feel a more personal approach would be appropriate. However, only do this if your writing or printing is exceptionally nice and very legible. An unreadable, hand-scrawled note reflects poorly on you and simply defeats your entire purpose for sending one in the first place. If your normal handwriting looks like something a doctor scribbled on a prescription slip, by all means type it!

Where and to Whom Do I Send It?

The last thing you want to do is send your note to the wrong address, whether email or U.S. mail. Also, you certainly don’t want to offend the recipient by getting his or her name and/or title wrong! How do you avoid doing this?

  • The best – and easiest – way is to simply ask the interviewers for their business cards when they make their introductions. This is very common. In fact, many interviewers expect to be asked and will have cards ready for you.
  • Sometimes, for a whole host of valid reasons, the interviewers may not have business cards available. In this case, be sure to write down the names as best you can. Then, check with the secretary, receptionist, or your initial contact person for the needed information right after the interview. They likely either know the answer or have access to an internal, non-public company directory.
  • As a last resort, check the company website for an organizational chart or employee directory. However, this may be the least reliable method for several reasons.  The needed information may not even be on the website.  There may be several persons listed with the same name. Also, websites are often not updated regularly.

Just in case you are wondering, yes, send a separate email or note to each individual interviewer.  Sending a group email or card doesn’t cut it.  A bulk thank-you is less personal and makes you look like you didn’t even respect the interviewers enough to bother writing individual notes.

Agree? Disagree? Share your experience or thoughts?
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Featured image courtesy of GingerQuip/pixabay.com

SMART Career Goals Help Ensure Success

Two young female African-American college graduates.Been giving some thought to your career goals and how to accomplish them? Great! It may seem like a simple task at first, but doing this well can be challenging.  To merely know what you want to accomplish is not enough; you must consider other factors as well.  Fortunately, the “SMART” approach can help you do this.  SMART will help ensure you have looked at your goal from all the right angles and asked all the right questions. So, what exactly is SMART?

SMART is a goal-setting concept introduced back in the early 1980s.  However, because it is a simple and common-sense approach, it is still popular today.  Variations on the SMART model exist; however, the core concept is the same.

SMART is an approach to developing and evaluating goals to ensure they are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-Based.

A table detailing the meaning of the SMART acronym letters.

Let’s see how this works in the real world.  For example, suppose you would like to pursue a career in the field of X.  Next, you check the educational requirements for a job in that field and discover a bachelor’s degree is definitely required.  However, suppose you currently have no college, some college, or an associate’s degree.  Therefore, you establish a goal for yourself of obtaining a bachelor’s degree. Seems like a very simple, straight-forward, and logical goal, right? However, have you looked at the goal in enough detail?  Let’s look at your goal from the SMART perspective.

Specific

In this example, the goal probably seems very specific already: get a bachelor’s degree. Or is it? Sometimes, it may not be sufficient to simply have a bachelor’s degree in any major.  Often, certain career fields require a degree to be in a very specific major. Sometimes, even a specific major is not enough!  The degree may also have to be from a college program which is accredited by a particular entity. Did your goal include these very specific details?  If not, your goal is not specific enough.

Depending on the circumstances, your new goal may be: get a bachelor’s degree with a major in X from a university accredited by ABC.  This is a significant change which can affect where you must get the degree, how long it will take, and what it will cost. Still, better that you find this out up front. Otherwise, you could spend time and money on a degree which will not achieve your end goal.

Measurable

Since degrees require a certain number of credit or semester hours, educational goals are inherently quite measurable.  Therefore, it is easy to know where you stand and how close you are to attaining your goal.  However, not all goals are nearly this measurable.

What about other goals, such as those relating to skill?  Suppose you have a goal of “becoming proficient in Microsoft Excel.” By this point, you should already suspect that such a goal is problematic. How would you measure something like that?  What about taking a class in Excel?  After all, that’s measurable. Either you took the class and passed, or not.  But, simply taking a class is not the same as being skilled and proficient.   I’ll bet you know people who have taken an Excel class and still cannot create a basic spreadsheet or chart.  If so, you can see the challenge in making some goals measurable.

For a goal like this, identify a situation which confirms achievement of a certain level of skill. Your modified goal might read something like, “I will create four different Excel spreadsheets which allow user data entry. The data in each will be presented in both bar and pie charts.”  With the revised goal, the specific aspects of skill in Excel which are to be obtained have been identified.  When you are personally able to successfully create four such spreadsheets, the goal has been met.

Attainable

While a goal like education might be easy to measure, it may be difficult to attain.  An individual must consider many factors in order to determine if the goal is attainable.  For our education example, here are a few; other goals may have more or different factors.

  • Time.  Can I carve out the class and study time necessary to complete the degree?
  • Finances.  Do I have or can I obtain the necessary funds to pay for my education?  Are resources available through my employer, union, government, or college financial aid?
  • Support System.  Is my spouse, significant other, family, or employer supportive in this goal? Or, will they put up obstacles at every turn?
  • Ability.  Not everyone can handle certain college degree programs.  For example, it is unlikely an individual with zero natural art talent would do well in a graphic arts program.  Also, not everyone has the ability to make it through difficult or math-oriented degree programs, such as those requiring calculus or physics.

The above factors alone should not necessarily cause someone to despair and give up their career dreams. However, you must consider and address such aspects if the goal is to be realistically attainable.

Relevant

Oddly enough, people sometimes really do expend time and energy on things only marginally related to their goal.  Who has time, money, and energy to waste?  Make sure to direct all resources only toward activities related to the actual goal.  Let’s go back to our example of an individual needing a bachelor’s degree in X.  Is the choice of the specific degree program and college selected relevant?  For example, suppose a position in the chosen career specifically requires a four-year bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering (BSME).  If so, pursing a bachelor’s of applied science (BAS), which is an associates + two years, may not be relevant.  Or, if the degree must be accredited, pursuing a degree from a non-accredited college program will not be relevant. Research relevance up front to avoid wasting resources on things which do not directly move you toward your goal.

Time-Based

A goal which is not time-based or time-sensitive is often put off until “someday.”  As you might suspect, someday usually never comes.  A deadline helps to keep you on track and lets you know where you stand regarding goal completion.  Consider the following two goals:

  • “I will obtain my bachelor’s degree”
  • “I will obtain my bachelor’s degree within 5 years”

These are two entirely different goals!  The first goal merely suggests “someday I will get the degree” and the other places a specific, self-imposed deadline.  A deadline helps the individual determine how many courses to take each semester in order to achieve the goal within the target time frame.  As stated in the SMART table above, longer-term goals should be broken down into smaller, more manageable pieces.  Establish a series of smaller “milestone” targets (with dates) as you move along the path toward the goal.

Be SMART

Regardless of the nature of your career goals, think them through in a SMART way.  Currently developing your goals?  As you do, make sure each is specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-based.  Already have goals in place and working on them right now?  Pause for just a moment to look at them again from the SMART perspective. You just may be surprised at what you find and how they can be improved.

 Agree? Disagree? Share your experience or thoughts?
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