Thank You Notes are Passé and Other Interviewing Myths

Stumbled across this BNET article about what What Hiring Managers Really Look For.   Sure, there are lots of points made in the article I agree with, a few things I could probably argue against, but overall a decent read.  The author writes from his personal experience, and I have no doubt this worked for him.  What really surprised me was one of the comments about the almighty interview thank you.  Yes, this is a direct quote -A thank you card? Please. Only if you just interviewed with your mother.”


Who knew?  I must be an absolute exception to this new rule because I have been told as a candidate my thank you card to my interviewer sealed the deal – more than once.  In fact, my current boss actually had hers in hand when she came to the lobby to deliver me to her boss for my 2nd interview the next day.  She wanted to tell me how much she appreciated the personal touch.  Maybe I’m just old school but I believe a hand written note, personalized to the interviewer, can make a positive impact.  I’m not talking about the “one size fits all thank you for your time” tired old line.  If not that, though – what?


Targeted to the audience.  Have we not made this clear?  Target your cover letter.  Target your resume.  And for the love of Pete, target your thank you letter!  Hopefully you’ve learned a thing or two about your interviewer in the 45 minutes you spent together.  Mention it!  I once made reference to Scottsdale, AZ after interviewing with someone who visited every year for the Barrett-Jackson auto show.  One of my job seekers referenced the new starting pitcher on the favorite baseball team he and the hiring manager shared.  Keep it clean, but make it personal.  You might even go hog wild and mention a point or two about what in your background makes you a fit for the actual job.


Know your audience.  Seems like we’ve covered this, but think about delivery.  I like hand written thank you notes.  In fact, in 10+ years of recruiting I’ve kept every one I’ve received.  Less than 20, I’m sad to say… what I don’t have, though, are the thank you e-mails.  Because I don’t care about them.  Maybe your interviewer was different.  Especially in this age of smart phones, maybe they prefer an e-mail.  Once I got really creative and sent a free Hallmark e-card that was sponsored by one of this agency’s best customers (who I would be recruiting for).  Hiring manager loved it and told me so.  Tweet them if you think that will catch their interest.  Just do SOMETHING.


Show your interest.  We see this all the time with applications.  I’ll call a candidate who actually went through our ATS and 24 hours later they have no idea why I’m calling.  But it’s different in an interview!  Of course you want the job! Right….?  Just looking at my corporate experience filling nearly 30 positions in the last 90 days I can tell you the candidates who followed up - with at least a thank you e-mail - are the ones who were ultimately offered a position.


If nothing else, remember what your Mother taught you.  JUST SAY THANK YOU.  It’s polite.

Views: 1964

Comment by Samantha Lacey on September 15, 2011 at 9:06am
Perhaps it's a cultural thing, but I have never heard of any UK candidates doing this. Is this a very widespread thing in USA? I haven't ever sent or received a thank you card after an interview and I've just done a quick poll of the office and nobody here has ever. I have been sent flowers after hiring a candidate (I almost cried when that happened!) but no cards. I used to get emails all the time, but in what is becoming an increasingly candidate driven market basic manners seem to have disappeared. I would be delighted if I was sent a card, and it would certainly remind me of a candidate. I wonder whar other differences there are between recruitment in the USA and UK?
Comment by Samantha Lacey on September 15, 2011 at 9:44am
*what other, not whar other! Sorry
Comment by Paul S. Gumbinner on September 15, 2011 at 9:48am
Samantha:  I think cards are generic for notes.  A thank you letter, note, email or card are considered good manners in the US.  My UK friends send them as well.
Comment by Samantha Lacey on September 15, 2011 at 9:52am
I agree it's wonderful manners, but not something I have heard of. I can tell you though that next time I interview for a job I will be sending a thank you afterwards!
Comment by Hilary Boslet on September 15, 2011 at 4:56pm
Completely agree. Why not distinguish yourself by writing a short, to the point thank you note? Since many, many others will not, you will be remembered for your time and attention. Good karma.
Comment by Torquil Thomson on September 16, 2011 at 5:03am
Not sure I agree with this, surely actually saying "Thank you for your time" after the interview is enough? Writing a letter seems tautological and a tad desperate...
Comment by pam claughton on September 16, 2011 at 6:25am

No, writing a letter is not desperate, it's smart. A well written thank you note thanking for the time and mentioning why they are interested and qualified goes far. I also think it speaks to the level of detail and follow through. I recently hired someone in my office who wrote a fabulous cover letter, showed up about 15 minutes early to each interview, and send very well written thank you notes after each email and within 24 hours. By contrast, another candidate we interviewed didn't impress us as much in person, we were on the fence with her, and although she sent a thank you email, it was generic and arrived 10 days after the interview. Not as impressive.


I recently placed someone in a high level marketing role and saw the thank you note she sent....and it was one of the longest and most well written notes I've seen. She expressed her interest and detailed why she was interested and what she'd bring to the table. It was impressive, and they were torn between two candidates and she got the job. I'm sure the thank you note didn't hurt.


In most cases, I think email is best, but sometimes a follow-up card is nice long as you know your audience. It probably wouldn't go over as well in a start-up run by twenty-somethings. Maybe a text message might work there!


Comment by Torquil Thomson on September 16, 2011 at 7:13am

I agree with Samantha Lacey: I've never encountered such a thing this side of the Atlantic. I agree that it is important to follow-up after an interview. How you do so appears to be dependent on location.

If I ever apply for a job in the US, I will be sure to follow your advice.

In the UK or in Spain, in my experience, a direct enquiry to garner feedback and to obtain a progress report is more effective and just as polite.

It goes without saying that any correspondence should be well-written (even text messages).

Comment by Tiffany Branch on September 16, 2011 at 10:27am

It's interesting that some post suggest that hand-written notes are ways to distinguish oneself, shows the person is extremely interested, gets you more noticed, etc. For me, candidates who do it are just playing the "job search" game. I mean, my job is to fill jobs and I don't need a candidate to "thank me" for doing my job which is interviewing. Perhaps it's a generational thing, maybe even regional. I do notice that many of my "baby boomer" peers love the notes/cards and my Gen X and Gen Y peers tend to not care as much. It does make for interesting conversation though.


Comment by Paul S. Gumbinner on September 16, 2011 at 11:06am
Tiffany: A hand written note may be old fashioned, but if you read any of the etiquette books, it is still considered proper.  To me it shows that a candidate took the time to go out of their way thank me.  I am also happy to receive an email thank you note.  Any kind of note suggests to me that a candidate is a caring and thinking executive and will likely handle his/her new job with the same consideration.    It may be a job search game, but so what?  I recently had a company president send out thank you emails to his two finalist candidates for an EVP spot.  Both candidates were blown away that such a senior executive would take the time to thank them for interviewing; neither had seen this before, nor had I.  But I did some research and this president was beloved by his employees and was slowly training them to do this kind of thing.  It made these candidates feel really good about interviewing there.  The same can be said when a candidate sends a note to a hiring manager - game or not, at least they care enough to follow up.


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