In most cases, the absolute power of a thank you note to win you the job is limited. Still, saying thank you after an initial interview or even later on in the hiring process is quite simply a smart thing to do. But the question of making it an interview thank you apology for nerves is another thing.
Whether you get those jittery interview nerves or stay calm and cool as a cucumber, here’s a basic tip on post-interview thank you notes: you want them to be short and sweet – a nice reminder of who you are and how well you would fit in with the rest of the company.
And if you do have something extremely relevant to add that will reinforce your value (a new degree, an award you just received, or a congratulations on something good that just happened to the company), by all means include that too.
Think twice about that interview thank you apology!
In general, it’s best NOT to introduce anything new (like being nervous in your interview) that might undo all the hard work you put into that job interview. No pleasant meandering chit-chat. No long interesting story about something that just happened to you — unless it’s absolutely positively relevant to the company’s needs.
So bringing up the subject of getting nervous in your after interview thank you note — or mentioning interview nervousness in any way — adds an extra element to their hiring decision. And might brand you as ‘the nervous one”. Especially unnecessary if that wasn’t the biggest impression that you left.
Can a post-interview thank you letter hurt my chances?
For the most part, it can’t. Especially if you stick to the basics. While a note rarely is the reason we hire anyone, it does show you attend to the details — and can leave a nice post-interview impression. One bit of caution: if you do look online for sample thank you letters, remember to put them in your own words. Please … don’t just copy them word for word from some website.
Some of the samples I see online are stiff and unnatural. And they’re certainly not geared to your actual experience. The last thing you want a potential employer to think is you can’t even write your own thank you letter. Or have them remember you in a way less flattering than the actual interview!
A sincere post-interview thank you note in your natural voice is best. Short and to the point. Perhaps mentioning something that stood out or an extra positive fact about yourself can be a nice addition. But then end with something future-oriented like “Looking forward to hearing from you.” and / or maybe “Please let me know if you need any further information.” And that’s all.
Getting back to the interview thank you apology question
Since this post is specifically about whether a post-interview thank you note is a good place to explain getting nervous during an interview, my answer to whether you should use your note to try to explain away your nervousness is also short and sweet: “Probably not!”
Employers expect candidates will get nervous — at least to some extent — during the interview process. So unless you were pouring buckets of sweat like Albert Brooks in Broadcast News (worth checking out), you probably were far more aware of your jangly nerves than they were.
And by mentioning it at all in a post-interview thank you note, you’ll only be leaving a reminder of the nervous you — creating a new brain cell for the interviewer that in effect links your name PLUS the word “nervous”. Why do that to yourself!
But what is it was REALLY bad?
Now if you really fell all over yourself during the interview and feel you have nothing to lose by addressing how nervous you were — and maybe adding something like you’d love another chance to show them who you really are — well, it might be worth a shot. It might also leave a good impression for the next time they have a job opening,
In many cases, you have nothing to lose by trying to recover from an especially bad interview. It’s therefore at least worth the effort to use a thank you note to try to change the employer’s mind about giving him another chance. And you don’t need to mention your nerves at all to do that. Unfortunately, it won’t always get you the job, but as long as you are polite and respectful, why not try!
If you absolutely feel driven to mention your nervousness, just say it ever so casually “I know I was a bit nervous and thank everyone for being so easy to talk to!” Or some variation of that idea. This turns your mention of nerves into a compliment for them and doesn’t in any way detract from you and your qualifications for the job.
But personally, I still think you’re much better off staying away from the topic altogether. Keep your thank you note polite (not too stiff) and direct. And try your best to leave an impression that’s positive.
[Post updated in 2020]
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About the author…
Ronnie Ann, founder of Work To the Wise and Work Coach Cafe, bases her real-world advice on her many years as an organizational consultant where she helped interview and hire people, added to a certificate from NYU in Career Planning & Development, as well as her many adventures as a serial job seeker.