For someone with a killer resume and on-point interview skills, you probably think you’ve got this job or internship in the bag. There can’t be much more to it than that, right? Wrong. You’ve still got to thank the interviewer!
A lot of us remember writing thank you notes to all of our friends after our birthday parties when we were little, and we still might send one Grandma’s way after she sends us a birthday check. An interview thank you note isn’t much different! Interview thank you notes are quick notes, most often sent by email, that you send to follow up after interviews.
While many of us have heard about sending thank you notes following an interview, they can still be an enigma. How long should you wait to send them? Whom should you send them to? And what do you even write in them?
We talked with Shannon Curtis, the assistant director of Assumption College’s Career Development and Internship Center, as well as Barry Drexler, expert interview coach, to answer any questions you may have about writing the perfect thank you note.
Why are thank you notes important?
You might not think that a simple note could be important, but believe us, it is. According to Curtis, thank you notes are crucial, and for a bunch of different reasons.
“Following up with a well-written thank you note reaffirms your interest in the role and your excitement to be considered for the opportunity,” she says. “It also makes the interviewer think of you after you leave the office.”
Have you ever worried about making a strong impression on an interviewer? What about the number of other candidates for the job? Writing an awesome thank you note is a great way to tell an interviewer why you want this job more than anyone else and why you’ll do it better than anyone else. Thank you notes also show that you respect and value other people’s time, which is always an attractive quality in a prospective employee. By thanking the interviewer for their time, you’re making yourself stand out for understanding the importance of someone’s time.
How long should you wait to send it out?
We know what you’re thinking: Thank you notes do seem important, so after acing your interview, when should you send your thank you note out?
Curtis suggests doing so within a 48-hour period and being conscious of the hiring timeline. You want to make sure your thank you note reminds the interviewer of who you are and how awesome you are, so sending it a day after the interview, when you may have slipped a bit from the interviewer’s mind, is a good idea. Remember that some companies want quick turnaround on the hiring process—you don’t want to send your thank you note after they’ve hired someone else for the position!
If you specifically heard something about the hiring timeline, go off that. For instance, if the company is looking to hire someone within 24 hours, you should definitely get your thank you note out ASAP, according to Curtis.
Because you are being mindful of the hiring timeline, it’s usually safer to stick with email thank you notes. This ensures that the hiring manager will receive your thank you note before the hiring decision is made and that it’s not lost in transit on the way to their office. It’s usually best to send the email out during work hours (between the hours of 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.). Not only does this ensure that the hiring manager will see the email as soon as it arrives in his or her inbox, but it will show that you respect the boundary between the interviewer’s work and personal lives.
For a lot of cases, that 48-hour time period provides the perfect time frame to make sure you’re accomplishing both things: reminding the interviewer of your credentials and still getting it to him or her before it might be too late.
Whom should you send it to?
It might seem pretty basic that you’d send your thank you note to the hiring manager who interviewed you, but don’t forget to thank the people who helped you on the way to that interview.
“You should always send a thank you note directly to anyone who has helped you in the interview process,” Curtis says. “If you obtained the interview as a result of networking, thank the person who gave you the connection.”
That’s to say, you should be sending out an email to each individual person who interviewed you. It shouldn’t be a mass email—instead, personalize it. Remember, these people work in the same office and for the same company, and if you send them all an identical thank you note, they’ll know, and it will look completely impersonal and detached. Be sure to make your thank you emails unique to each individual!
Curtis suggests grabbing a business card from each person you talk to on the day of your interview to keep everyone you’ll be writing to straight. This is also a great way to obtain their contact information and to double-check that you have the spellings of their names correct.
Curtis also says that many interviewers ask for feedback from other people within the company, including secretaries, recruiters and anyone else who may have interacted with you throughout the application process. While you probably don’t need to send a thank you email to the secretary who signed you into the building, genuinely thanking him or her in person after he or she helps you is definitely a good idea. You never know who will be talking to the hiring manager, so it’s best to leave the most professional and gracious impression on everyone you encounter.
How much should you talk about yourself and your credentials?
We’ve said it once and we’ll say it again—your thank you note is one more chance to remind your interviewer of how great you are! Take this chance and run with it.
This isn’t to say you should regurgitate your resume on your thank you note; the interviewer already has your resume. Instead, touch upon a few of your skills that are really specific to the job you’re applying for.
Drexler suggests you say something like this: “As we discussed, I believe my [specific background] will enable me to contribute to your efforts to [cite key job responsibility]. I’m certain that I will add value quickly and have a significant impact at [company].”
Where he puts “specific background” in brackets, pick out what you think are the best traits you have for this specific job. You could mention your leadership skills from your time in student government or your experience with accounting from your internship last summer. This is your chance to highlight the skills that you have that some of the other candidates may not!
Where he puts “cite key job responsibility” in brackets, choose two or three of the many responsibilities the job listing probably provides you with. Following the interview, choose what you believe is both the most important responsibility of the job and that you feel you can accomplish the best.
How much should you talk about the interview?
Chances are, you’re not the only person applying for this job. You could be one of 10 or one of 100 applicants. Because of this, you need to remind the interviewer of the time you spent with him or her.
“The interviewer might not immediately remember who each candidate is,” Curtis says. “Reminding them about a conversation or something specific that you discussed can be helpful to the interviewer to make the connection.”
If you really hit it off with the interviewer about your passion for the company’s message, mention that conversation. If he or she gave you a really great answer to one of your questions, make sure to mention that you learned a lot about the job and the industry from him or her.
When writing this, you could say something like, “I loved discussing [this common interest] with you. I learned a lot about it, and feel I could learn even more and contribute [skills X,Y and Z] if given this opportunity.” Reiterate to the interviewer that an aspect of the job that came up in your interview is something that excites you and that you want to explore deeper.
What should you avoid writing?
Just like there are tons of things you should do in the thank you note, there are also plenty of things you shouldn’t do. There are the easy things to check for, like checking for proper grammar and spelling, as well as the use of informal language, but Curtis says there are many other practices to be wary of.
“Do not assume that you are moving forward in the interview process or receiving an offer,” she says. “Never discuss salary, benefits or any other compensation.”
Talking about salary and benefits before being offered the job is like asking someone you just met how much she makes at her job; it’s just a distasteful thing to do. It also shows that you’re assuming you’ll be getting the job, which might make the hiring manager think that you’re conceited. Nobody likes the overly presumptuous job candidate, so avoid saying things like, “I’d like to discuss the benefits package that goes along with this job,” or, “I’m open to salary negotiation.”
You don’t need to be sheepish or shy in your thank you note, either! Even if you’re avoiding subjects of compensation and assuming a job offer, you should still express an interest in continuing the application process.
Curtis suggests that you tell the interviewer that you’ll stay in touch with him or her, and that you look forward to hearing back from him or her.
Saying things like, “it was great speaking with you, and I look forward to talking again,” or, “I plan on keeping in touch, and am excited for further correspondence,” to conclude your note is not rude; it actually shows how excited you are for the opportunity and that you are confident that you can contribute something to the company. Close your note by being confident in your own abilities, and you’ll make the interviewer confident in your abilities.
How it should read
With all of this said, what should your thank you note say? It should appear something like this:
“Dear Mr./Ms. [interviewer’s name],
Thank you so much for meeting with me on [indicate date here]. You provided a lot of great information regarding [insert company name here] and [the job position], which makes me even more eager to join your team.
I really enjoyed discussing [insert common interest here]; it was really interesting when you said [insert anecdote here] and it made me think [insert thought here] about the job. [Use this space to connect your common interests to the job for which you’re applying]
As we discussed, I believe I offer [skills A, B and C] to your team. My experiences with [specific background experience] will truly shine in [insert specific job responsibilities here], and I would prove an asset to the company.
Once again, thank you so much for your time and your consideration. I plan on keeping in touch and am excited for further correspondence. As always, you can reach me by the below email and cell phone number.
When it comes to post-interview thank you notes, the key is to be sincere and enthusiastic. Remind the interviewer of why you’re a great fit for the job, why the company is a good fit for you and why you’re so enthusiastic. If you remember all of that, you’re good to go!