I get all kinds of questions about thank you notes to send out after a job interview. “What should I say in my job interview thank you letter?” “Do I even need to send a thank you after my interview?”
Good questions. Glad you asked. More of your questions: When do I send the thank you note? To whom do I send it? And please please please, Ronnie Ann, precisely what words should I use in my thank you letter even though you don’t know anything about me or the company?
So in response, I offer the following “secrets”:
Five secrets of job interview thank you letters
I think most of this is about the nervous feelings we get after an interview. Once the job interview is over, it’s out of our hands and we don’t like that. So, as normal human beings, we want to take action — hopefully something that will increase our chances of getting the job.
And we focus on something we can control and decide if we write the perfect job interview thank you letter, we will strengthen our chances of getting the job. Well, maybe yes and maybe no.
Thank you letter secret #1
If I don’t like you, no thank you letter will help. If I really like you, I won’t hold the lack of a thank you letter against you.
I’ve looked at lots of job interview advice sites, and some of them make it sound like the interview thank you email (or snail mail) is the be all and end all of the job interview process. It isn’t. I’ve hired folks who never sent a thank you note.
Now it’s true I usually mention sending them myself on this blog, mostly to give folks something to do. But also because it shows something about you. Still, in all likelihood, the mere act of not sending or sending a thank you letter won’t lose you the job or get the job for you.
EXCEPTION: There are a few folks who may actually use the lack of an interview thank you note to help them exclude candidates. As I see it, this is lazy, small-minded, and might lose a person a good candidate. But also a reason to err on the side of better safe than sorry.
Thank you letter secret #2
So does this mean you shouldn’t send one? No. It’s smart to send one. Why? Because (as I mention above) you may be dealing with someone who is a stickler or just folks who appreciate the little courtesies of life. Again, best to play it safe.
And also because, in a competitive market, even a tiny edge is worth the effort. You can use your thank you note to help strengthen your case. So by all means, send the note(s) to each of the people who interviewed you. (A separate note is really nice rather than a group email, even if you had a group interview.)
Thank you letter secret #3
So when should you send the thank you note? It’s customary to send it as soon as possible, to reinforce their memory of you. Short and sweet And perhaps a sentence or two to emphasize a strong point within the interview that matches their needs,
But let’s say they tell you they’re interviewing over a period of a week or two (or more). Sometimes, all things being equal, the person at the end of the job interview process gets the benefit of being fresh in their minds. Not fair, but it happens.
So if you already sent your note and you know the interview period is an extended one, it might be nice to follow up with a second note toward the end of the interviews, just to remind them of how wonderful you are. 🙂
NOTE: More than one very short, pleasant follow-up — one every few weeks for instance — may also be useful for a very extended waiting period. But be careful not to flood them with emails. Too much and you not only become annoying but may give the impression of a high maintenance employee.
So what do you say in your follow-up note? Maybe you saw an interesting article related to the company or took a 1-day class that might make a difference. A short note saying you’re still interested along with the new information could help. But…
Thank you letter secret #4
If you try to tell them too much or go on and on about all the things you screwed up in the original job interview and use the thank you note to try to straighten things out or win them over, you risk hurting your chances rather than helping. With job interview thank you notes, less is more. (Remember…some people get hundreds of emails a day!)
Keep it short. Keep it simple. Be pleasant. Basically, unless they specifically asked for something from you, you just want to tell them how much you enjoyed meeting them. And let them know you look forward to hearing from them soon.
Maybe in between mention one thing you connected with in the interview or something you learned that especially interested you to help them remember you. And stop there. Write it in your own style and voice. Which brings me to the last secret…
Thank you letter secret #5
PLEASE don’t take a sample interview thank you letter you find on some website and use it verbatim. It will be missing your voice and personality. And most likely wind up sounding stilted. Or just like every other person out there doing the same thing.
Now I don’t really think the company will spot the similarity and fault you for your dastardly crime of thank you note plagiarism. But c’mon … you certainly can create a short and sweet note of your own. And a few sites I’ve noticed have sample thank you letters that would actually hurt you if you used them. So be careful.
Best to just write your own. Of course, peeking at a sample or two is fine. But, unlike resumes and cover letters, a thank you note doesn’t rise to the level of requiring all that much help. Basically, you just need to include this simple thought, in one way or another, preferably in your own words and style:
Thank you for the interview!
Now was that so hard? Hope that helps.
But seriously … it’s the job interview itself as well as your skills — along with the chemistry between you and the interviewer — that will get you the job in the end. Little stuff like thank you notes (without typos) certainly help build the whole picture of who you are. And what you offer the company.
But, while colorful exceptions are always possible (especially in certain more informal/ non-traditional companies), it’s exceedingly unlikely a dazzlingly-worded thank you note alone will get you the job. (It could get you a second look, though.)
So by all means send a thank you letter. Just keep it reasonably short and sweet, ok? Oh … and if you don’t hear back, please don’t take that as a sign of anything. There are many reasons for people not to respond that in no way reflect on your chances. But that’s a whole other post! (See links below for some of the reasons.)
More posts to help
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.
[Post updated in 2020]