Contrary to popular belief, an interview doesn’t end when you leave the hiring manager’s office, wrap up with the final person on your itinerary, or even when you walk out the company’s front door – it isn’t over until each person you’ve met with receives a personal note from you thanking them for their time. The ‘thank you’ note, sadly, has been devalued and is now viewed by most job applicants as nothing more than an obligatory follow up to an interview, merely an afterthought. On the contrary, this note is an extension of your interview, an opportunity for you to strengthen the connection you’ve made with the people you’ve met, and a major factor in the management team’s first impression of you. Here are the rules for crafting and sending an effective ‘thank you’ note:
Use Email. Send your note via email – it will hit the recipient immediately, and the person will receive it even if they’re out of the office for a few days following your interview, via their mobile device. Don’t bother sending a hand-written card as well, it doesn’t at all influence the hiring manager’s opinion of you and ultimately ends up being a waste of your time. I hardly ever receive hand-written ‘thank you’ notes anymore and, to be completely honest, the candidates that do send me notes via snail mail are usually those I was less impressed with – they’re a bit odd and slightly out of touch. For all of you traditionalists that absolutely need to send a hand-written card, so be it, but be sure to also send a note via email.
Send It Sooner Rather Than Later. Your note needs to be sent within 24 hours of the end of your interview – no exceptions. Don’t wait until you have time to do it, make the time. The longer it takes you to send your note, the less serious you are about the position — at least that’s the perception on the receiving end.
Make Each Interviewer Unique. Each person you meet should receive a separate note that is, as much as possible, tailored specifically to the conversation you had with them. No two messages should read the same. By all means, do not send one note ‘cc’ing the entire interview panel and do not forward the same note to each person you met while simply changing the name in the greeting. Terrible. Take the time to craft personal notes to your interviewers, and show them that you connected with each of them individually. This can be a bit tedious, especially if you met with a number of people, but the extra effort goes a long way.
Don’t Make a Sales Pitch. Don’t feel the need to summarize all the ways you’re a technical fit for the open position or a cultural fit for the company – your interviewers have everything they need in your resume and their interview notes. Plus, it will appear as if you’re trying too hard. In my experience, the more candidates try to sell themselves to their audience, the less appropriate they are for the open position.
Keep It Simple. A ‘thank you’ note accomplishes three things – it thanks the interviewer for meeting with you, emphasizes your interest in the company and the open position (after all, interest is a job requirement), and reinforces any sort of personal connection you’ve made with the interviewer during your meeting (family, hobbies, favorite local sports teams, etc.). No more than that.
Don’t Write Too Much, Don’t Write Too Little. Keep your note to an appropriate length – 3 or 4 sentences will suffice. Anything longer than that all of a sudden becomes extra work for the recipient and won’t be as well received. Anything shorter than that means you don’t care enough to take the time to write an appropriate note. Either one makes you appear as an amateur and is a turn-off for the recipient.
Clean It Up. Be sure to proofread your note before you send it. If you have a habit of misspelling words and making grammatical errors in your email communications, have someone proofread the note for you so that you can make any necessary edits before sending. This may sound like overkill but, again, your note is part of the management team’s first impression of you – and, of course, how you do anything is how you do everything. If your 4-sentence ‘thank you’ note contains grammatical errors, what are your financial statements and SEC filings going to look like?
Everything you do during the interview process is a reflection of you as a professional and as a candidate for the open position – this includes how you say ‘Thank You’. The ‘thank you’ note is not simply a follow-up to your interview, but rather a vital part of the interview. As such, it should be given just as much attention as the interviewers themselves.
Fidler’s Law of Thank You Notes: The professionalism and enthusiasm with which you thank someone for the time they’ve taken to meet with you is directly proportional to how serious you are about pursuing the opportunity.
Article written by John Fidler for the Pennsylvania CPA Journal, winter 2014. Reprinted with permission from the Pennsylvania Institute of Certified Public Accountants.