The Post-Interview Thank You Note: A Make or Break!

Imagine that you have recently interviewed for the position of your dreams and walked away confident that you would receive a job offer.  Professionally, there are very few greater feelings than sincere optimism about obtaining a role that could significantly advance your career. Now consider that, despite your outstanding qualifications and presentation, you find out that another candidate has been selected for the position. As you contemplate what could have possibly gone wrong, you eventually realize that you never sent a thank you note to the hiring manager.

Often professionals make the mistake of neglecting to follow-up with a thank you note after an interview.  Perhaps the relief of having survived a nerve wracking experience distracts them from completing this essential task, or the overwhelming nature of the job search process directs their focus elsewhere. Some candidates simply overlook the significance of the post-interview thank you note, deeming it an “old-fashioned” practice. Regardless of the motivations for failing to send this imperative communiqué, the error can cause an employer to eliminate a candidate from consideration.  By forgetting to send a thank you note, the candidate indirectly projects a lack of interest in the position, and/or decreases the likelihood of being remembered by the hiring manager.  Therefore, it is imperative that you conclude the hiring process by promptly sending a carefully written thank you note to the interviewer that incorporates the six guidelines below:

1. Show Gratitude
Obviously, the thank you note functions to express your gratitude for the opportunity to interview with the organization. The hiring manager has allotted valuable time from his or her schedule to meet you with you.  Therefore, before delving into the core of your letter, remember to be polite.  The employer wants to know that you truly appreciate consideration for the position and their time.

2. Reiterate Your Enthusiasm
Restate your passionate interest in both the role and the organization with supporting examples. An enthusiastic, high energy restatement of why you want the job will prove that your letter wasn’t written out of mere obligation, but out of sincere ambition.

3. Reflect on Interview Performance
Serving as a self-marketing tool, the thank you letter should emphasize the professional strengths and accomplishments you discussed during the interview.  This is your chance to remind the hiring manager why you are the best choice for the position. Additionally, use the thank you note to address any problematic aspects of your interview performance, such as your lack of qualification in a certain area, and how it will be overcome.  In doing so, you will demonstrate your willingness to eliminate a weakness and alleviate objections to your candidacy.

4. Keep it Short and Sweet
The thank you note is essentially the “home stretch” in the job search process; it’s unnecessary to go overboard, be long-winded or provide new, irrelevant information. After all, you already captured the hiring manager’s interest if you were granted an interview. That said, the thank you note should not exceed three paragraphs, and should only include the most important points possible. An extremely lengthy or digressive note risks the self-defeating possibility of remaining unread or being forgotten. To make the best impression possible, the note should remain concise and, therefore, memorable.

5. Send Electronically 
While a handwritten note may seem endearing, a thank you letter sent within one day of the interview via email will help to convey the urgency of your interest in the position. This is especially true if the employer is looking to fill the position immediately, or if the organization’s large size could prevent the letter’s timely delivery.

6. Proof Read

The biggest mistake you can make when sending a thank you note to a potential employer is not proofreading it.  Sending a note with spelling or grammatical errors can not only be embarrassing, but it could cost you the potential offer.  When an employer receives a correspondence that is hastily written and filled with errors this shows them that the author lacks the attention to detail and/or professionalism they require. 

A conscious effort to implement these suggestions into your next thank you letter can go a long way.  Combined with strong performance in the other areas of the hiring process, the proper execution of the thank you note will help to increase your chances of success.

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Comment by Christopher Perez on May 17, 2012 at 6:56am

This topic may strike some as "Duh" or Common Courtesy 101 but I agree with you completely on the importance of a TY note. I have never heard a single client gushing about a well-written TY note, but without fail, they mention it when a candidate doesn't send one. This just happened to me yesterday.

I have also found that candidates at all levels need a tactful but firm reminder in this area. I work with senior-level placements and you would think that these folks would nail this every time. Not the case. It is now a standard part of my pre- and post-interview candidate briefing checklist.

So why did my candidate not send a TY note even though we discussed it and she told me after the interview that she had the interview team's email addresses? Beats me, but I plan to ask about it when I tell her that the client brought it up!

Comment by Amy Ala Miller on May 17, 2012 at 8:36am
Excellent post Gregory! I absolutely agree with you on the importance of a thank you note. Don't underestimate the power of a simple well written card. I used to coach candidates to keep blank cards in their car and right after the interview fill one out then leave with the receptionist. Hiring manager will get it the same day and it stands out in a good way!

Thanks for sharing this.
Comment by Candace Nault on May 17, 2012 at 5:35pm

I tend to agree on the hand written note, when there is time to send one out, I coach my candidates to do so.  So many times with email, their thank you note can get caught in a spam filter, be accidentally deleted, or totally missed in someone's inbox.  

I have had many clients make positive comments about these thank you notes as well.  I like Amy's idea of having blank cards ready in their car and leaving it with the receptionist, hope you don't mind if I borrow that one Amy!

Great article, thanks!


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