Post-interview ‘Thank You’ notes

I’m quoted today in a WSJ Careerjournal article on writing thank you notes after an interview (subscription required…free trial offered). Speaking with Sarah about this a few weeks ago made me think about the practice and tips I could offer interviewees. First, let me say that I have never hired anyone because they sent me a thank you note. Writing one is akin to wearing a nice (not necessarily expensive) pair of shoes to the interview; nobody may notice, but if they do, that’s good. Plus it makes you feel great. And the difference it makes is subtle. It shows you are professional and care about the interview opportunity. It’s about presenting yourself in the best possible light.

So if you are going to write a note to the people that interviewed you, here are some tips:

1) Keep it brief…I think I’ve given these same words of advice on other topics (like cover letters). Get your point across (the point being: “I appreciate the time you spent with me”, “I’m interested”, etc.). You do not need to fill up a page with detailed elaboration about the depth and breadth of your interest. You have already had your opportunity to interview, so resist the temptation to use the note as an extension of the interview. It’s alright to highlight a few of your key selling points, but a recap of your career progression is unnecessary.

2) In the letter, mention something about the conversation you had during the interview. You want to jog their memory since they may have met several applicants for the position. Something like “It’s was so nice to meet someone that feels as strongly about the candidate experience as I do!” or “I am glad we were able to compare notes on the use of networking tools”. Whatever. Specific is good (“Thanks for the tips on OneNote…I can’t wait to use it in team meetings!”). They need to somehow tie the thank you note back to the person in the interview and unfortunately, names aren’t always enough (they should have notes on the conversation though).

3) Try to be objective about your performance in the interview. I know, easier said than done. But if you are like me, you mentally review the questions and answers in your head post mortem. And you invariably come up with something that you wish you had said (or didn’t say). Here’s the hard part: if you feel you said something that will truly keep you from getting the position, address it in the follow-up letter. But you have to weigh the benefit of adding the additional information with the risk of appearing to second-guess or vacillate. And really, this tactic is only going to work if they are on the fence about you and by addressing the issue, you are pulling them over to your side. If you need to, talk to a trusted friend about it and get their take. When in doubt, leave it out.

4) Even if they said “no”, write the letter, if you want to be considered at that company in the future. I have maintained relationships with people that I have declined in the past only to hire them later. You want to extend the relationship beyond that one interview experience. You should be able to pick up some hints from the recruiter as to whether this is worth your time and effort (if they encourage you to apply for other positions at the company, that is a good sign). The follow-up letter is the first step toward continuing the relationship and potentially exploring future opportunities.

5) I personally like the hand-written notes the best (on nice stationary, not a Ziggy greeting card, please). But using a business letter format or even an e-mail is fine. Here’s a link to some MS Office templates if you are looking for some ideas on how to structure the letter.

The post-interview letter is a great tool to use if there are several contenders for the position as well. It could make you stand out. If the company decides to move forward with an offer for you, it could confirm that they made a great decision and get them excited about getting you on-board. It will never make up for a bad interview performance (come on…we’ve all had those). But the worst thing that could happen is you don’t get the position. And at the very least, the small time expenditure on your part leaves the impression that the interviewing team met with a real professional. It’s not necessary, but it certainly doesn’t hurt.



Comments (24)

  1. I sent along the first thank you letter on a hand-made christmas card that my wife has done for this years family cards. Is that OK, or would that be considered tacky?

  2. HeatherLeigh says:

    I don’t think that’s tacky. It’s a nice gesture. I always hesitate to do anything "Christmas" because not everyone celebrates Christmas, but I bet the people that received them appreciated it!

  3. It’s a cute little snowman, and says "Thank You" as opposed to anything else, so that should be safely generic enough. <grin> Thanks for the advice.

  4. HeatherLeigh says:

    yeah, that sounds good (and cute!)

  5. Devin Reams says:

    Thanks for the tips, Heather..

  6. kayvaan says:

    it’s funny – my wife (who is a recruiter) – just cut that article out for me.

    i always send a thank you email but I usually make them *very* brief. 2-3 lines: thank them, reiterate interest in the position and encourage follow-up questions with contact info.


  7. David Perry says:

    Thank you notes for when you don’t get the offer are even more critical. Link to this article on my blog:

  8. DanF says:

    The Washington Post just ran an article talking about how critical Thank You notes are. Quote:

    "Most employers expect to receive a thank-you letter after an interview, according to a survey of 650 hiring managers conducted in May. Nearly 15 percent of those surveyed said they would not hire a candidate who failed to send one."


  9. HeatherLeigh says:

    Devin-you are welcome!

    Kayvaan-sounds like a nice wife! And kind of puts you at an advantage to have a wife in recruiting!

    David and Dan-thanks for the links guys!

  10. Marlo says:

    Sending a snowman thank-you letter is very unprofessional, unless you want to work at a Hallmark store. Use professional stationery!

  11. calela says:

    I just had an interview at a veterinary technician office but I do not know how to write a thank you note or I do not know if I should send a card with animals on it and write her a thank you note . help!

  12. Sonia says:

    So I just had an interview with 17 people. Some were senior people inthe company, others were junior level people and still others were VP level. I am somewhere on the junior level and I was wondering if I should send everyone at the company a thank you letter. I think everyone was helpful and gave me a good idea about what the company was about.

    So what is the etiquette in this situation?

  13. Kathryn says:

    To whom should I address the Thank You Letter if I was interviewed by HR, Manager and AVP? Should I send three different letters?

  14. HeatherLeigh says:

    Yes, three different letters

  15. Cheryl Dyal says:

    My husband had an interview for a job on March 24,2008. We sent a thank-you card the next day. Now, 4 weeks later he wants to send a resume or a letter. Is that a good idea? If so,what should he say?


                                                Cheryl Dyal

  16. HeatherLeigh says:

    Cheryl, I’m not sure I understand the question. He sent a thank you note after the interview and now he wants to send a resume or a letter? Did he not hear back the results of the interviews?

  17. Michael Twersky says:

    Is 6 days too late to send a thank you note? If so, would e-mail suffice or should I overnight a handwrittin or typed business letter? Thank you.

  18. HeatherLeigh says:

    Not too late at all. E-mail is fine. I wouldn’t go to the trouble of overnighting it.

  19. Sarah says:

    Hi. I interviewed today and I went out and bought blank thank you cards to hand write thank you notes. I am a recent college grad and I really want this position. Interviews were finished last week but they put me in anyway and I had my second interview with the group today, so I’m pretty confident about the position. Although I believe they like me, I want to do this right! Should I type my thank you or is it ok/better to hand write it? I do not have email addresses and there are 4 people to send notes to.

    Thank You

  20. Andrea Garrett says:

    Dear Ms. Hamilton,

    I just had an interview that unbeknownst to me before hand, included a test. The interviewer said it was timed and instructions would be sent in a separate attachment. The "instructions" were just her name and gibberish. I wondered if this were part of the test, tried to open the attachment in several formats, gave up and emailed her back and got no reply. I was afraid to waste too much time since I didn’t know if the test started when I received the email or when I began my editing. Needless to say I was upset and did not do as well as I could have on the test.

    After I turned it in I got an email saying "Oh sorry I was away from my desk. I didn’t send the instructions correctly, here they are." Too late. I replied that I hadn’t gotten them in time and she said ok.

    Today I learned I didn’t get the job. I want to send a thank you that says the test was not my best effort. Certainly implying fault with the interviewer but just asking to be considered not on the basis of that poor test.

    How can I do this? What should I say? I really wanted this job and am really unhappy that things turned out the way they did.


    Andrea Garrett