The Post-interview Thank You Note
By Carla D. Bass, Colonel, USAF (Ret), published by MOAA
“Should I send a thank you note following a job interview?” I immediately reply, “Why wouldn’t you?” It automatically catapults you ahead of 75% of job applicants who do not leverage this valuable platform. According to an article on Monster.com, a recent Accountemps survey of human resources (HR) managers found only 24% of HR managers receive thank you notes from applicants. However, 80% of HR managers say thank you notes resonate during the deliberation process and are helpful when reviewing candidates.
The thank you note, analogous to the icing on the cake, affords opportunities not to be missed. With it, you can: 1) reinforce one or two key messages from the interview or your resume; 2) highlight characteristics the employer seeks, e.g., initiative, proclivity to follow-through on actions, and communication skills; and 3) demonstrate social acumen and business skills, indicating how you will likely interact with clients and colleagues.
Invest thought in composing the body of this document to make each word count and every second of the reader’s time play to your advantage. Time is fleeting – the reader is busy. Space, too, is limited – you have two or three paragraphs to clinch the deal. Use these three writing strategies from Write to Influence! to gain that competitive edge.
- Determine the core message — Hint: It is not “thank you.” Consider the employer’s perspective. Identify the company’s greatest needs, as conveyed in the job announcement and discussed in the interview. How can you best contribute? How will the company benefit from hiring you? Center the thank you note on that. Highlight an accomplishment demonstrating skill in that particular area.
- Emphasize your impact – In describing that accomplishment, focus on the impact of your efforts. How did you advance the mission? What occurred as a result? Include detail or statistics to provide the reader a mental yardstick to quickly grasp the significance.
- Make a personal connection – Reference something you admire about the company or an ancillary topic discussed in the interview. The goal — help the reader remember you, e.g., “I enjoyed learning about the company’s outreach program to high school students and look forward to participating in that program” or “I enjoyed discussing fly fishing and will try the techniques your suggested!”
Revise, edit, and proofread. These are the final steps in composing any document. Read the letter aloud to check the pace and flow of the text. Ensure the document is error free (spelling, punctuation, and grammar). Failure here indicates lack of attention to detail and can torpedo your candidacy. Verify correct spelling of the name and address of the recipient.
“Whom should I thank?” Everyone who helped arrange and then conduct the interview merits recognition.
“What is the preferred length of a thank you note?” Limit it to one page. Too short and impersonal is opportunity wasted. Conversely, too much information loses the reader – don’t replay your resume. Outline your thoughts to highlight the key points and strike the right balance.
“How do I send my thank you note?” You have three options to convey this important message: 1) an email, 2) a handwritten note, or 3) a letter – typed, signed, and mailed (as opposed to a scanned document attached to an email).
I recommend a combination of all three. A letter (typed on good quality paper, please) delivers your message with style, finesse, and the right touch of formality. It affords more space in which to make your case than a handwritten note. The letter also demonstrates additional effort beyond that associated with an email. To lend a brief, personal touch, handwrite a concluding thought on the bottom of the page. Finally, inform the recipient via email that you sent a more formal thank you note via the mail system.
The thank you note is your final opportunity to engage the decision makers. Compose it with text that is focused, concise, and compelling. Powerful writing often tips the balance between success and failure. Therefore, strive to Write to Influence!
The multiple award-winning book Write to Influence! … recently released in a second edition, incorporating material from Carla’s highly acclaimed workshops … is available on-line at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other retailers. For more information about her workshops, see www.WriteToInfluence.net.