I’m a Career Coach — Here’s the No. 1 Mistake My Clients Make After a Stellar Interview

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Trie Angeleva321
Dream-Job Career Coach
April 23, 2024 at 5:38PM UTC

With a huge smile on her face, Rachel walked out the door after completing her interview with Janna Gardner. She felt nearly certain the role she wanted so much—Assistant Brand Manager for a major fashion brand in its Soho office—would be offered to her by the end of the week.

She’d nailed her “Tell me about yourself” question just the way we’d practiced it, and she knew her body language was on point. One of the questions Rachel asked in the “Do you have any questions for me?” portion even drew a “Wow, that’s an insightful question” from Ms. Gardner.

Feeling on cloud nine, Rachel walked to the nearest Starbucks and treated herself to a Venti Cappuccino. She texted her husband, her best friend and her mom to let them know how well the interview went. She gave me a call so we could debrief while the experience was still fresh.

After a quick review of the major points, I asked Rachel if the interviewer had expressed any reservations about her potential fit for the role. Rachel said the only time she got any type of iffy feeling was when Ms. Gardner asked about her experience managing teams. She said she didn’t have any, but assured Janna she was a quick learner.

“You know what your next step is, right?” I asked Rachel. 

“If you mean a thank you note, I just emailed Ms. Gardner to thank her for her time,” Rachel said.

Great, but, there’s more to be done.

Thanking your interviewer right away via email is essential—it’s polite, it’s the right thing to do, it shows you are prompt and detail oriented and it gets noticed as a lot of people don’t take the time to do it. According to a 2017 survey by Accountemps, 80% of HR managers say a thank-you message is helpful, yet only 24% of them receive them from interviewees regularly.

While 94% of these HR managers say a thank-you via email is fine, your real opportunity is to follow up that email with a typed or handwritten thank-you note, crafted as a compelling and genuine marketing tool, to seal the deal. 

This is your chance to: 

  • Thank the interviewer(s) for their time (again)
  • Recap your strongest points
  • Reiterate your enthusiasm
  • State powerfully why you are the ideal fit for the job
  • Share how excited you are about the position
  • Be specific about follow-up and next steps.

Most of all, it’s your moment to address any concerns with new information. 

Now, had Rachel hit all these points in her original thank-you email, perhaps a follow-up note wouldn’t be necessary. In Rachel’s case, she needed to seize the opportunity to tackle the question about her experience managing teams. I reminded Rachel she’d told me how she’d led several group projects in grad school, which required organization, responsibility delegation and time management. 

She also had managed a group of dog walkers a couple of years ago, which required communication, scheduling and initiative. I suggested to Rachel that she think about one or two additional life experiences that would demonstrate she really wasn’t totally void of team management experience. If she couldn’t think of any, then she needed to come up with a couple of solid examples of how she indeed was a quick learner, as she’d said in the interview.

Rachel did so and converted it into a gracious and effective, handwritten thank-you card. She hand-delivered the card to Ms. Gardner’s office the next morning. By Friday she had the job.

Now, we don’t know exactly what role the thank-you note played in Rachel’s success in landing her dream job. At a minimum, it certainly complemented all the other things she’d done right; it also may have been the final piece that convinced Ms. Gardner Rachel was the right candidate for the position.

The biggest mistake candidates make after an interview is leaving the process a little unfinished. Imagine if Rachel hadn’t sent this thank-you note, but another equally competitive candidate had. Why take the chance to miss an opportunity to remind, reiterate and clarify why you’re absolutely the best candidate for a role you really want?

What's your no. 1 piece of advice for following up after a stellar interview? Share your answer in the comments to help other Fairygodboss'ers!

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This article was written by a Fairygodboss Contributor.

Trie Angeleva, MA, MA is a Certified Career Coach, Mindful Career Change Strategist, Founder of The Love Monday Method and Owner of Reimagine Monday. You can find her @reimaginemonday on Instagram or at reimaginemonday.com.

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