This past weekend, a young woman asked me, “Do I really need to send a thank you note after my interview?”
Let me be blunt: I've been both the interviewee and the interviewer dozens of times in my career, and I simply will not hire anyone who doesn’t send a timely thank you note following the job interview. I know I am not alone in this policy. Several other hiring managers I’ve worked with feel the same way; it is never a good idea for a job seeker not to send a thank you note or follow-up email after an interview.
So, the answer is, unequivocally, YES. During a job search, candidates should most definitely send a follow-up email to prospective employers after an on-site interview, an informational interview, a phone interview or an in-person interview. So why is the thank you note so critical, and what should it include?
The interview is not over when you walk out of the room.
Maybe you spent hours on your job interview preparation. You may be feeling super confident about your responses to the questions you were asked. But if I’m considering hiring you, I want to know about more than just what you say and how you present yourself. I want to know what you do. And I’m going to gather that information by evaluating what you do after the meeting: Do you send a thank-you note? Do you have post-interview follow-up questions that you thoughtfully compose into an email?
Why do I care so much about your post-interview etiquette? Because I want to know whether your communication style is a good fit for me and my team. How will you handle work interactions? Will you follow up with clients? Are you a professional?
When you write a thank you letter (or don’t), you are demonstrating your follow-up skills. From your approach to the follow-up email, 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.”
Also, 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 job 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.)
The playing field for high-quality jobs is very competitive. On average, 100 people apply for each open position according to ERE. Hiring managers want to hire people who are eager to have the job offer. 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? Or sending a thank you card?” While I think a handwritten note is a lovely gesture in theory, I’m afraid it’s a bit obsolete in the age where everyone has an email address. Employers are looking to see how you’ll conduct business, and in my view, sending written thank you notes are just not a great indication of modern practices compared to a thank you email. 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 or letter is a part of your personal style and you’re attached to it, then send it in addition to the email follow up.
If your interviewer or interviewers don’t hand you a business card or you don’t know their email address, you can either ask them for it at the end of the interview (and explain that you’d like to have it for follow-up purposes), or you can email whoever arranged the interview to request it so that you can send a thank you email after interview.
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 well 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 or email, especially after an in-person interview, I’d have to question whether you have the kind of manners that would make you a positive addition to the team. If candidates don’t send a thank you letter, are they the kind of person who is going to be messy in the break room? Or unfriendly to coworkers? What behavior are you bringing to the table? The absence of a note is just not a good idea doesn't help the impression you're trying to make
The company only has a few data points about you on which to make a hiring decision — so put your best foot forward to help your chance of making a good impression in the decision-making process.
Even if you don’t want the job, you should ALWAYS still send an interview follow-up email. 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 10 minutes.
Am I just old-fashioned? Maybe…. but maybe so is your interviewer. Do you really want to risk it?
The short answer? You DON’T wait! Send a follow-up thank-you email as soon as you gather yourself, the notes you have, and any questions you might need further clarification on. Don’t wait longer than 24 hours before sending a thank you email. By then you’ll already be forgotten.
When you do follow up, remember to explicitly thank your interviewer and anyone you came in contact with throughout the interview. You can include comments and questions you might have post-interview, but every email should include a thank you.
Generally, your email should be a few short paragraphs long so you can adequately thank your interviewer for her time and comment on specific aspects of the interview you found noteworthy.
Try to include at least one or two specific comments about what you discussed, such as a task you're excited about performing or a responsibility you'd love to have. This shows that you were engaged and paying attention during the interview. Make sure you profess your enthusiasm for the job overall, too.
Now that you're (hopefully) convinced of the thank you note's importance, what should it look like?
Below is a basic template of what a well-written sample thank-you letter should include:
Thank you — (position you applied for) interview
Hi (interviewer name),
Thanks so much for the taking the time to meet with me today! After our conversation, I'm even more excited about the potential to become a (position name) at (company name). Based on what you told me about (x, y, and z — topics discussed in the interview, ideally) within the company, I see this position as an excellent match for my values and skillset. Given the opportunity, I truly believe I could be of value to you in (x, y, and z ways).
I look forward to hearing from you. And if there's any additional information with which I can provide you, please don't hesitate to let me know.
And there you have it! That wasn't so hard, was it?
Have you found an effective way to follow-up after an interview? If so, share your advice and opinions with other women in our community.
Romy Newman is President of Fairygodboss and the co-founder. She's on a mission to improve the workplace for women by creating greater transparency. Prior to founding Fairygodboss, Romy spent over ten years at The Wall Street Journal, Google and Estee Lauder, where she held various leadership roles. Romy earned her BA from Yale University and her MBA from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management.