You’ve sailed through a challenging job interview, and you’re pretty confident the position might be yours. Or maybe you feel you didn’t do too well, but your fingers are crossed about the outcome. Anyway, all you can do now is sit back and wait for the results, right? Wrong – there is one more thing you not only must do, it could just help you land that job. You must send a thank you letter to the interviewer(s).
According to Amanda Augustine, job search expert for The Ladders, “Based on my decade-long experience in conducting interviews, I can attest first-hand that failure to follow-up can be the deciding factor in rejecting a candidate who is otherwise a great fit.” Studies have revealed that as many as 25% of hiring managers say they wouldn’t hire someone who didn’t send a post interview thank you letter. Not only does a follow up letter show common courtesy and respect for protocol, it’s another chance to demonstrate your writing skills (after your well-crafted cover letter, which may or may not have been read).
Surveys also show that, roughly speaking, a majority of interviewees do not extend thank you letters. Most are unaware of how effective this step can be, or feel that the whole interview process is trying enough and should suffice for their efforts. This one step can grant you quite a competitive edge.
Don’t dawdle about this task either. Whitney Purcell, Associate Director of Career Development at Susquehanna University, advises you send the note within 24 hours of the interview. At the most, it should be sent within 48 hours. There are two reasons for this. One is that you want to put a second stamp on the impression you left with the interviewer. As time passes their recall of the meeting will fade, and the letter will counteract this. The second is that they may already be well into the selection process. If the gesture is to have any significance it must be timely.
A prompt follow-up is easy to do using email. (Once upon a time it was customary to “snail mail” or hand deliver a letter. Today it is perfectly acceptable to employ email.) Make sure, though, to send it during normal business hours. A 2:30 a.m. transmission will make you look like your schedule is out of kilter.
Dr. Deborah Good, a professor at the University of Pittsburgh Katz School of Business says the ideal follow-up letter possesses important traits:
- As with the cover letter, use a formal greeting. Having met with this person does not mean you are now on familiar terms with them. Of course, mention that you enjoyed the pleasant conversation.
- It should grab the reader’s attention as soon as possible. Otherwise there is a risk it will be dismissed as another mundane, perfunctory correspondence and fail to stand out. Spark their recollection of your meeting. Mention something you learned about the position, the company or the interviewer. Chances are the interview wasn’t flawless; use this as an opportunity to shore up points you may feel came across as weak, or reassure the interviewer about issues that may have given them reservations.
- Don‘t waste the reader’s time by reiterating the contents of your resume. This will come across as lazy or even insulting. Hiring managers are busy people who may have screened dozens or hundreds of resumes and cover letters, followed by numerous phone and in-person interviews, for this position alone. Wasting their time is not a good tactic.
- The body of the letter should be formal and matter-of-fact in tone. Keep this correspondence concise and salient. It should be a short but impactful note.
- Mention that the interviewer is welcome to contact you if they need clarification, outstanding documentation, or have any further questions. It is always possible the interviewer overlooked something.
- Conclude with a final reminder as to why you’d be perfect for the job. This is where you need to inject some creativity and style. Prove your suitability by showing that you really understand what the needs of the position and/or company are based on the conversation you had. Convince the reader that the interview was productive, informative and inspiring for you. If you really want the job, you should have let the interviewer know this in enthusiastic terms before departing, and this is a chance to say it again. You would be amazed how many candidates forget to tell the interviewer they do.
- It’s a good idea to remind them of the timeline for a decision to be made, information you should have obtained at the end of your interview.
To facilitate your thank you, always remember to ask the interviewer for a business card as you are leaving the appointment. This will include their direct email address and phone number. It demonstrates mindfulness and responsibility. Do this with everyone you meet in the interview process. If you happen to forget, a discrete call to the receptionist or HR department can usually provide this information.