Acing the Post-Interview Thank You Note

You’ve scored – and aced – the job interview. Now it’s just a matter of waiting for that offer, right?  Not so fast, careers experts say.

“The follow-up thank-you note is a part of the job-seeking process and candidates should exert the same level of effort used for the development of a targeted cover letter and resume,” says Michaeline Shuman, director of the career development center at Susquehanna University in Selinsgrove, Pa. “If done well and in a timely manner, the thank-you note can assist the employer in making a final decision and lead to a job offer.”

But it’s not enough to just fire off an email. Here’s how to make yours count.

  • Be expedient. “It’s important to get the thank you note out the very same day if possible -- before key hiring decisions are made,” says Joanna Miles, career development specialist at Western New England University in Springfield, Mass. “It never hurts to follow up with a hand written note after an email; employers do appreciate the gesture."
  • Keep it short and specific. “Although short — typically no more than a paragraph — thank-you notes should not be canned,” says James Jeffries, director of career development at Bard College at Simon’s Rock in Great Barrington, Mass. “Ideally, they refer to specific new information candidates learn in the interview, they reiterate interest, and, yes, the express authentic gratitude for the opportunity. What particular problem showed up for the organization during the interview that you can help solve? Mention it. The thank-you note is often the last impression made before a hiring decision, so it should express the most precise, well-informed value proposition possible.”
  • Stay upbeat. “Include something positive about the organization or the department that was especially meaningful for you,” says Karen Evans, director of career development at Albright College in Reading, Pa. “Don’t mention that you were somewhat disappointed in the salary or that you were sorry you spilled your iced tea all over your host.”
  •  Include the support staff. “Often candidates forget to send a note of appreciation to the ‘gatekeepers,’ the receptionists and administrative assistants who often have the responsibility of arranging the interview schedule or coordinating transportation and lodging if necessary,” says Shuman. “I advise candidates to send those individuals personal notes or email messages as well. Although they are not always part of the official search committee, the gatekeepers are usually asked for an opinion about candidates and those opinions count!”
  •   Don’t ask when you’ll hear from them. "This is a thank you letter, not a letter requesting new information or next steps; don’t confuse the two,” says Miles. “The focus of this letter is to express gratitude. Ideally, you discussed next steps during the interview process itself.  If not, it might be appropriate to initiate a phone call to inquire about the status of your candidacy (a nice way to say “when will I hear from you?”).

Many people are under the impression that thank-you notes outdated custom, says John Thompson, executive director of the Center for Career & Professional  Development at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth. “That’s why those who send them are rewarded!”

“Never give up an opportunity to connect personally with a potential employer,” he reminds. “The more contact you have, the harder it is not to make it personal during the hiring decision.”

 

Contacts:

Michaeline Shuman at 570-372-4146 or shumanm@susqu.edu.

Joanna Miles at (413) 782-1520 or joanna.miles@wne.edu.

James Jeffries at (413) 528-7273 or jjeffries@simons-rock.edu

Karen Evans at (610) 921-7630 or kevans@alb.edu

John Thompson at j.thompson@tcu.edu

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