You’ve just finished that big job interview. Things seem to have gone really well and you’re feeling good about it. You think you nailed all their questions. The interviewers appeared to like you and were upbeat. Now, more than ever, you really want to work there. Suddenly, a thought pops into your head: should I send thank-you notes to the interviewers?
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 The first says sending a thank-you note is old-school, outdated, and makes you look old-fashioned.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 the well-known job hunting website Monster.com, “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. 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 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 multiple-recipient 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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