Congratulations! You landed a job interview. But what kind of letter or email should you send afterward to say thank you? Here's a short template that ensure that you check this important box.
A threshold question: Does it matter? One recent survey says, yes, definitely: Roughly 75 percent of job applicants didn't bother to send a thank-you note, yet about 30 percent of employers surveyed said without one, they won't continue the process with that candidate.
So, get ready to write. Here are some key things to keep in mind.
1. Actually, it's thank-you notes, plural.
Don't think "thank-you note." Think "thank-you notes," plural, with different messages depending on the audience and timing.
You want to send a follow-up via email to the key decision makers immediately. Other places recommend doing so within 48 hours, but your best practice is to send an email thank you during the same business day--or potentially, if you've traveled, the following morning.
You want to keep this one short. You're checking a box in a way, because it's expected, but you're also setting the stage to follow up, perhaps more in-depth, after a reasonable period of time. Your exact strategy will depend on the employer, the opportunity, and your sense of timing. But as in sales, more than one touch point is generally better.
2. Send more than one immediate email.
You met with more than one person. Email everyone. Keep it short, just to thank them for their time. I'm a firm believer in making sure to contact even the receptionist or the intern you dealt with -- whomever it seems to you might be lowest on the organizational chart: It was nice to meet you and learn more about XYZ Corp. I hope we'll have the chance to work together in the future.
Really? Email the receptionist? The intern? Maybe that feels odd to you, but I guarantee you'll be the only candidate who does. That small gesture just might create an advocate for you. And if you're hired, you'll have already established the seed of a relationship with them.
3. Send your later, more in-depth reply.
You've sent your first thank-you notes? Great. Smart of you to do it immediately, while it's top of mind. (If you're reading this article three days after you had an interview, and you haven't sent one yet, Stop! Go, right now, and send the thank you emails. Then come back.)
Your in-depth reply, or replies, will go to the key decision makers in the hiring process. Of course you want to reiterate your qualifications and thank them for their time. But you also want to create what Don Straits, writing on The Ladders, calls a value-added response.
For example, if you mentioned a book or magazine article during your interview, follow up with a copy of it. If you talked admiringly about a colleague or a competitive product, find a useful resource about him or her or it, and share. If the employer gave you an indication of a key performance indicator for the job, follow up with an example of where you've exceeded the standard in that category in the past. (And if you haven't done so in the past, follow up with a resource that you'd use to do so if you're hired.)
4. Proofread and prune.
Run spell check. Pay attention to formatting. As a professional writer, I have a tip for you: Write a draft of your reply in a text editor (set to plain text). Print it out and look it over, catching any errors. Then cut and paste the text document into your email program. You'll find many more mistakes than you would otherwise, having looked at it in multiple formats.
Also, get rid of adverbs and adjectives wherever possible. People load their writing with too many of these kinds of words. That slows the flow and makes it harder for the employer to read. And, you might find that you have a distracting quirk, such as using the same word over and over.
Example: I remember getting a thank-you letter from one job applicant who had a penchant for the word "really," as in: I really enjoyed meeting you, I really think I'd be a great fit, I really hope we'll have the chance to work together--plus three instances in the last sentence: "I really hope you really enjoyed meeting, and really hope to hear from you soon."
She really didn't get hired. (The repetitive use of "really" wasn't the proximate cause, but it didn't help her case.)
5. Don't overdo it.
There's an element of dating in the job interview process. That involves the good part, hopefully (falling in love), but let's be real: It also means mind games can come into play.
You want to show your interest, of course. But you also don't want to overplay your hand or come across as needy.
I'm thinking here of a job candidate we were on the fence about. His first thank-you email was appreciated, as was his second. But then they kept coming, and he lost steam with each one that followed. He even started dropping by the office and leaving treats for our staff.
It got weird. We liked his enthusiasm of course--but couldn't help wondering what else was going on that we didn't know about. The treats were devoured at first, but then someone joked that we had a corporate stalker, and someone else turned down a box of fancy Italian desserts on the grounds that there might be strychnine in them.
I can't do justice to the joke that resulted, but it was something like "Leave the interview. Take the cannoli." Anyway, we didn't make an offer. Don't be that guy.