In my many years as a headhunter, the level to which interviewees undervalue writing thank you notes to interviewers never ceases to amaze me. No matter what the job level or title is, the same rules will ALWAYS apply. The excuses for not writing these notes range from the mundane to the fantastic, but more than any other I hear blanket rejection of its efficacy. Yet, from experience, I can tell you that writing these notes is more than common courtesy; it is common sense. In fact, I’m hard pressed to think of a business meeting of any kind that doesn’t warrant a follow-up expressing thanks and finding common cause. A job interview, for obvious reasons, should immediately strike you as the consummate example of why this practice makes sense. You want to stick in the interviewer’s head and the best way to stick in their head is to show up in their email. With that in mind, here are the Viscusi Rules for interview follow-ups:
1. Always get the business card of every single person you meet. Did an HR rep walk you from office to office? Get a card! Did an employee strike up conversation while you were waiting in the lobby? Get a card! You don’t need to send follow-up emails to each of these people, but be sure to have all the information you might want when you sit down to write the notes. You’ll want proper spellings of names and email addresses at the very least!
2. A good rule of thumb is to send a note to everyone who you spent more than five minutes talking to. Definitely send a note to anyone who interviews you in a formal setting. This should be simple. Everyone you think you should send a note to, you should send a note to.
3. Always send an e-mail, not some cutesy card. A letter delivered by US mail doesn’t prove anything and it might not even arrive before they fill the position. Rather, prove you can send a well-crafted email and make sure to get it out within 24 hours. Try to use your computer instead of your cell phone to avoid typos and never send it from your current job’s email server. Avoid smiley faces, you are not writing to your kids or sweetheart! J
4. Bring up something that was mentioned in the interview or was otherwise unique to your experience. I know it can all feel the same sometimes, but if you can define yourself with some little detail, it will be that much easier for the interviewer to remember you. I always have a few strategies for slipping something into the conversation that I know will stand out. For example, if I see a book on the bookshelf that I’ve read, I’ll be sure to bring it up and then include it in the follow-up email.
5. Use the note as a chance to ask additional questions you might have. This is another excellent way to show that you were engaged in the conversation. Not every interview lends itself to genuine follow-up questions, but if you have some, this is the perfect place to ask them!
6. Get another pair of eyes on it. It’s always a good idea to let someone else look at this sort of email before you send it off. It should never be more than a few sentences, so it really isn’t much to ask from a friend or partner to just glance at it and edit it for typos. That’s really all you need, just another person making sure that there are no stupid mistakes. One typo, my clients tell me, can kill your chances of landing that job.
Bringing it full circle, my clients have told me that interviewers for every position at every level expect notes! Many will, in fact, pass on a candidate if they do not receive one, and most will pass if they get a letter with a typo in it. It needs to happen and it needs to be perfect! Keep it short and sweet and always get it sent in 24 hours!