Congratulations, you survived the interview! The waiting game begins, and it can feel like an eternity. Instead of sitting around, a follow-up email or handwritten thank you note will get the ball rolling faster. Not only will you obtain some peace of mind, but it offers another chance to demonstrate your abilities.
These guidelines will bring you one step closer to that golden opportunity.
Why Are Thank You Notes Important?
A thank you note may seem insignificant to the hiring process, but it could be the thing your application needed. “Being able to write a solid thank you/follow up is absolutely a valuable supplement to those primary skills when navigating a job search. It may just be the one thing that makes you stand out against the competition,” said Ramone Mellis, a Talent Acquisition Manager, and Nicole Avondoglio, a human resources professional, who both work at L3Harris. Some other reasons to write a thank you include:
- It’s polite. Much like thanking family members for birthday gifts, common courtesy allows the recipient to feel valued. People want to work with someone who has a nice personality. Thank you notes demonstrate to the hiring managers that you have a kind, caring personality. They will want to hire people with upbeat personalities over those less inclined to act courteous.
- Shows professionalism. Whether you write to an interviewer, a client, or a contractor, thank you notes indicate a level of professionalism. Much like having a good personality, professional thank you notes show maturity, and this will help people take you seriously.
- It helps people remember. 24 hours after an interview, the interviewee probably won’t remember what was said even if you wear eye-catching accessories. Thank you notes nod back to specific details or points of interest that the interviewers will want to take notice of in your application.
- Creates networks. The recipient of the thank you will hopefully become a colleague or a boss. Starting out on the right foot will create an easier transition if they decide to hire you. Plus, if you don’t get hired, establishing a relationship with the HR personnel means they will remember you the next time you apply.
- Shows off soft skills. Soft skills include communication, active listening, and sociability. In the work environment, some find soft skills difficult to learn, so writing a thoughtful follow-up shows off your strong soft skills.
- Displays continued interest. You may feel concerned that a thank you note, and follow-ups pester the hiring managers. Yet, Mellis and Avondogilo note: “Hiring managers like to know that the candidate is still engaged to a degree, without it being overbearing or coming off as aggressive. Periodic check-ins during the interview process can benefit all, as it shows the hiring team that the candidate is still interested, and it allows the candidate to continue to seek feedback.” You’ll be happy you sent a letter instead of overthinking it.
Who should receive it?
When only one person interviews you, the question of who to send the note to doesn’t apply. However, an interview sometimes involves multiple people, and then the situation becomes a little more confusing. If you have the contact information for everyone you spoke to, then sending individual thank you notes to each person will show dedication and demonstrate that you paid attention. It may seem tedious, but each person could be a potential coworker, and it will come across a lot better than a general thank you. “A thank you should be sent to at least the hiring manager,” Mellis and Avondogilo said. “However it would be best to send a thank you note to each individual team member directly. Recap things that really stood out about your discussion with each interview panel member, which shows you were engaged throughout the interview process.”
When to send and in what format?
Handwritten notes do express a certain level of time and care. Yet, mailing a handwritten note takes too long. Ideally, a thank you note will be sent within 24 hours of the interview. If two weeks pass after the interview and you haven’t heard anything, then consider sending a second follow-up to check-in. Address a short and sweet email to the recruiter, the most up to date person on the hiring process, to check-in on your application. “Some hiring processes move quickly, so sending your note ASAP is important—and email obviously has the advantage when it comes to saying thank you quickly,” said Julianna Hutchins, Industry Career Coach at George Washington University. Companies and organizations receive thousands of applications, so give them a reason to remember you. Choose whichever format that fits your style the best. The timing matters more than the style.
What should you include?
The most effective thank you note will get to the point, use precise language and demonstrate care for the position. Lengthy notes can become muddled with too much information and the recipient may decide to skim over it. “Key ingredients: thank them for taking the time to talk with you and reference one thing you learned about the role/team/company and reiterate your interest in the position. If you and your interviewer really clicked over something you had in common, that’s also something you could reference. Just be sure to proofread!” Hutchins said. The following list describes the different ingredients of an effective thank you. Each one doesn’t necessarily need to make it into your letter.
- Subject line. You can’t go wrong with a straightforward and specific subject line. Something like “Thank you for the interview” or “Thank you for your time” gets right to the point. Don’t worry too much about what the subject line says as long as it states the purpose of your email.
- Personalized greeting and thanks. If you don’t know how to address the interviewer, then address them by the name they provided when you meet them. If they called themselves by their title it would start “Dear Dr. ____”. Starting with “dear” instead of “hi” sets a more formal tone for the rest of the letter. After the greeting, the first sentence should thank the interviewer. You can thank them for their time, for the interview opportunity, for meeting with you, for the information they provided, etc.
- Share specific information. The details you decide to include can come from a range of topics regarding the interview. Perhaps you want to note some first impressions that enhanced your perspective of the company or share a question you thought of later. When asked what one common mistake students make, Hutchins responded, “not putting in writing everything about the interview experience as soon as you can: what questions were you asked? what were your impressions of the people, the physical office space? what new questions do you have about the role/company? if there’s potentially going to be another interview round, what do you want to prepare better for? This information can help you prepare for future interviews and also can inform how you evaluate a possible offer later.” Taking notes as soon as the interview ends will help you when you write this section.
- What the opportunity means to you. Not only does this section reiterate your desire for the position, but it also reminds the interviewer of your sincerity. It’s a way of allowing your personality, self-motivation and love for the field you want to work in to shine. Be specific in what the company can do to help you obtain your ideal job and what you might do if you had the position. “It’s a final chance to sell yourself and connect with the organization,” Mellis and Avondogilo said. The interview doesn’t have to be the only time you show them your capabilities.
- Recap of qualifications. Most job offers include keywords in the description of the kind of qualities they look for in an applicant. Drawing a correlation between those words and your resume demonstrates your qualifications and ability to fulfill their needs. It also reminds them why they should choose you over someone else. For instance, if the position wants someone organized you can point to an experience in which you successfully managed a lot of tasks.
- Prompt for the next steps. Every company has a different hiring process, so close the letter by offering additional information. “You want to ensure you are being as transparent as possible when it comes to post interview status. That includes prospective offers, other interviews, and any other unforeseen items that might affect the hiring decision,” Mellis and Avondogilo said. By letting a hiring manager know you have another offer, it may prompt them to make a decision sooner and allows you to negotiate offers if they decide to hire you.
- Polite closing and contact info. End the letter with good wishes to the interviewer and/or any takeaways you have from the interview. If they pointed out your inexperience or a weak point in your application, you can take this time to turn their negative into a positive learning experience. Your letter will have a lasting impression if it’s brief and impactful. The most important part is including your contact information after your name. They can’t get in touch with you if they don’t have a way to contact you.
- Proofread. Proofreading takes only a few minutes, but don’t forget to do it! The worst thing would be realizing you misspelled something after you sent the letter. A simple email reflects your abilities and, if it’s sloppily written, the thank you letter will backfire. No one wants to hire someone who makes silly mistakes like misspelling the word “the”.
Didn’t Get the Job?
If you learn that you didn’t get the job, a follow-up for the purposes of staying-in touch can turn into an asset later on. It might seem crazy but emailing a hiring manager will allow you to grow and find the weak points in your application. Hiring managers see a lot of applications and they could turn into a potential mentor for you in your field. Point out what you find inspirational about them and ask lots of questions. Setting up time to grab a coffee or just a chat over the phone with them will also help establish your network.
The more job applications you send out, the better. “Don’t stop your job search while you wait to hear back. This is so tempting, especially if the interview is for a role you really want! But processes can take varying amounts of time and you never want to put all your eggs in one basket,” Hutchins said. “As hard as it is, I recommend continuing to apply for other roles and continuing to do informational interviews while you wait.” Most colleges offer mock interviews you can sign up for, and they are a great way to practice if you find interviewing difficult.
If you’re still having difficulty writing a thank you note, this link shares four different formal and informal sample emails to get you started. These three other samples also provide examples of the different approaches you can take when writing a thank you note.