This weekend, a young woman asked me, “Do I really need to send a thank you note after my interview?”
Let me be blunt: I have interviewed and hired for dozens of jobs in my career, and I simply will not hire anyone who doesn’t send a thank you note following the interview. I know I am not alone in this policy. Several other colleagues I’ve worked with feel the same way.
So, the answer is unequivocally YES. You should most definitely send a thank you note. Why is the thank you note so critical?
1. The interview is not over when you walk out of the room.
If I’m considering hiring you, I want to know about more than just what you say. I want to know what you do. How will you handle work interactions? Are you a professional?
When you write a thank you note (or don’t), you are demonstrating your follow-up skills. From your approach to the thank you note, I’m evaluating your project management skills, and whether your written communication is compelling. I can also tell whether you can be creative and thoughtful.
Don’t just churn out the typical response (usually something like, “I’m very excited about the opportunity to join your company.”) Instead, add on to some of the topics you covered in the interview, or send some interesting follow up. For example: “I enjoyed our discussion about social media and its role in the marketing value chain. I thought this article from HBR might interest you.”
And reiterate with thoughtful detail why you are a compelling fit for the job. List three reasons that speak specifically to projects or job responsibilities covered in your interview.
If you met with several people, send them personalized emails. You can reuse some core elements, but customize them based on your conversations. (Which means you should take notes during the interviews so you can remember who said what.)
2. You need to show that you’re interested in the job.
The playing field for high quality jobs is very competitive. On average 100 people apply for each open position. Hiring managers want to hire people who are eager to have the job. So communicate your excitement about the job through your email follow up -- and make it prompt. In my opinion, you should follow up via email the same day under all circumstances.
If you aren’t clear in your intent and desires, you can be certain someone else will be -- and they’ll get the job instead of you.
Several people have asked me, “what about a handwritten note?” While I think a handwritten note is a lovely gesture in theory, I’m afraid it’s a bit obsolete. I’m looking to see how you’ll conduct business, and written thank you notes are just not a great indication. Plus, they just don’t have the immediacy - so I may have already made a decision about you before the snail mail makes its way to me.
If a written thank you note is a part of your personal style and you’re attached to it, then send it in addition to the email follow up.
3. This is about manners.
In addition to evaluating whether you can adequately perform the duties of the job, any good hiring manager is also using the interview process to determine whether you are someone they would actually want to work with. In my personal experience, it’s always important to find someone to hire who can fit will with the company culture, get along with others, and represent our team and company admirably when I can’t be there.
Manners are fundamental. If you don’t write a thank you note, I’d have to question whether you have the kind of manners that would make you a positive addition to the team. If you don’t send a thank you note, are you the kind of person who is going to be messy in the break room? Or unfriendly to your co-workers? What behavior are you bringing to the table?
The company only has a few data points about you on which to make a hiring decision -- so put your best foot forward.
Should you still send a thank you note, even if you don’t think you want the job?
Even if you don’t want the job, you should still ALWAYS send a thank you note. Every time you interview, you are making an impression and a new possible connection. It’s a small, small world and you never know how your path may cross again. So take the time to write a note anyway. It shouldn’t take more than ten minutes.
Am I just old fashioned?
Maybe….but maybe so is your interviewer. Do you really want to risk it?
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