On Our Minds
Job interviews can be nerve-wracking, but the process doesn't end when you walk out of the interview room. A crucial step that often gets overlooked is sending a thank you letter to your interviewers.
This simple gesture can go a long way in leaving a positive impression and potentially landing you the job. It serves as recognition of the significant time and effort invested by the hiring manager or interview committee. Additionally, it's a chance to demonstrate your appreciation, particularly when board members or volunteers are involved in the hiring process.
But how can you write a thank you letter that leaves a lasting impact?
Here are some of the dos—and don’ts—of writing an effective thank you letter:
1. Express Gratitude
Start your thank you letter with a sincere expression of gratitude. Make it clear that you value the time and effort your interviewers dedicated to your interview.
2. Share What You Learned
Personalize your thank you letter by mentioning specific details from the interview. This shows that you were an engaged and active participant in the conversation and that you’re taking the time to reflect on what you learned.
3. Continue the conversation
Consider including an invitation to continue the conversation or dive deeper into specific topics. I’ve seen candidates include an article that relates to something that was discussed during the interview in their thank you note. This not only shows your interest but also keeps the lines of communication open for future discussions.
4. Be concise
Your thank you letter doesn’t have to be long to be impactful. In fact, it should be short and to the point. Aim to write a letter that can be viewed on a computer screen without having to scroll. That comes out to about two or three paragraphs with no more than two sentences each.
5. Pay attention to detail
Be meticulous about spelling, punctuation, and grammar. Make sure that you are spelling the recipient's name correctly and using the correct pronouns. Sloppy mistakes in your letter can leave a negative impression. Proofread carefully to ensure your message is error-free.
6. Send multiple thank you notes
If you're going through multiple rounds of interviews or meeting with multiple interviewers, it's advisable to send a thank you note after each round to each interviewer. This demonstrates your commitment and interest in the role.
Personalize each of these notes based on the recipient. If you send the same note to multiple interviewers, there’s a good chance they’ll compare and notice. To avoid seeming insincere, adjust the wording and try to think of at least one thing specific to your conversation with each interviewer.
7. Acknowledge the support team
Don’t forget to thank the individuals who facilitated the interview process, such as executive assistants or schedulers. You don’t necessarily need to write a separate email to everyone involved but you should make sure to be courteous throughout the process and thank anyone you correspond with for their effort. Not only is this the decent thing to do, but it also demonstrates that you will be a thoughtful and kind coworker.
1. Make assumptions
Be cautious about making assumptions about your interviewer's identity or lived experience. I’ve seen candidates try to make inroads with an interviewer based on a shared identity when that identity was never discussed during the interview. For example, I once had a candidate use the phrase “As someone who shares my identity as an African American” in a thank you letter to an interviewer. Identifying as African American had not been discussed in the interview. The interviewer had not been raised in America and actually identified as Black, not African American. As a result, this attempt at highlighting a shared identity actually came across as off putting and invasive.
Even if your assumption about an interviewer’s identity is correct, referencing it can come across as tokenizing and invasive—especially if it's not an identity that you share.
You may feel that you could have answered a question better in your interview and be tempted to provide a more full answer or apologize for mis-speaking in your thank you letter. Resist that urge. Instead, follow the principles I outlined earlier and use your note as an invitation to continue the conversation.
If you feel you didn’t adequately cover something, note that you’d love to tell your interviewer more about it in the next round. This way, you keep the conversation going while keeping your note focused on gratitude. You also avoid the risk of pointing out an error that your interviewer didn’t even notice.
Email vs. snail mail
In today's virtual world, knowing where to send a physical thank you note can be a challenge. If your interviewer works remotely, they may never see your note. And remember, traditional mail is called “snail mail” for a reason, so even if they work in the office, they may not receive your letter until after they’ve already made a decision.
To ensure that your note reaches your interviewer in a timely manner, always send an email. If you want to send physical mail, do so in addition to your email and remember.
Limited contact information
In situations where you don't have direct access to an interviewer's email address, ask your point of contact for the necessary information. Politely request the email address of the interviewer, expressing your intention to send a thank you note. This ensures you have the correct contact information. If they aren’t able to give you the email, you can always ask that they pass the note along.
Sending a thank you letter after an interview is a simple yet powerful way to leave a positive impression on your potential employers. Remember to personalize your message and write with sincerity, while still respecting professional boundaries. Your thoughtful thank you note can be an important part in highlighting your attentiveness and character.