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FAQs About Job-Seeker Thank You Letters
by Katharine Hansen, Ph.D.
Answers to the most frequently asked questions from job-seekers about post-interview thank-you letters.
Nearly every career book advises job-seekers to send thank-you letters after being interviewed, but how many do? In the aggregate, only about 5 percent of those looking for jobs perform this simple yet crucial ritual. Thus, it's time to address some of the frequently asked questions about thank-you letters.
- Doesn't it come off as wimpy or even desperate to send a thank-you letter? Won't the employer think I'm sucking up?
- Will a thank-you note make or break my chances of getting a job?
- What's the best format for a thank-you note? Should it be a typed business letter or a handwritten social note?
- What about an e-mailed thank you note to the employer?
- So, if "just do it" is the byword, I don't have to put that much effort into it, right?
- Can I just borrow a sample thank-you letter from a book and adapt it to my interviewer?
- If I interview with several people, do I have to send a thank you to each one?
- How soon after your interview should you send a thank-you note to the employer?
- Should I bother with a thank-you note if I know the hiring decision will probably be made sooner than I can mail a thank-you letter?
- What if I do receive a job offer faster than I can send a thank you?
- Is there anything a job-seeker can do to make an even better impression with a thank you letter?
- If I have a second interview with the same person, do I send another thank you letter?
Doesn't it come off as wimpy or even desperate to send a thank-you letter? Won't the employer think I'm sucking up?
No. It's a very rare employer who isn't pleased to get a thank-you letter. Most consider it just common courtesy, a way to differentiate you from the pack, proof that you're really interested in the position, and a way to keep your name in front of them. Writing a thank-you note to the people who interview you is smart business etiquette.
Will a thank-you note make or break my chances of getting a job?
Well, probably not in most cases, but it could. Why take the chance? One of my former students told me that after he was hired for his first job out of college, his boss told him that he had wavered between my student and another finalist for the position. But then the boss got a thank-you letter from my student, and it made all the difference. Because of that simple gesture, my student got the job.
What's the best format for a thank-you note? Should it be a typed business letter or a handwritten social note?
Studies show it doesn't matter. The important thing is doing it. Tailor your letter to the culture of the company and the relationship you established with the person who interviewed you. If you feel the interviewer and the company call for a formal business letter, send that. If your rapport with the interviewer dictate a more personal touch, send a handwritten note.
What about an e-mailed thank you note to the employer?
Career experts are not in total agreement about the propriety of e-mailing a thank you, but again, the company's culture should guide you. If people in the company use e-mail heavily, your e-mailed thank you will seem right in step. It's also a fast solution if you know the company will be making its hiring decision quickly.
Even if e-mail fits in with the company culture, however, it's a good idea to follow up your e-mailed thank you with a hard-copy version.
So, if "just do it" is the byword, I don't have to put that much effort into it, right?
Wrong. We've heard of candidates on the verge of being hired getting suddenly discounted from consideration because they sent sloppy, poorly written thank-you letters, riddled with typos, misspellings, and grammatical errors. Writing skills are important in many jobs, and employers don't want to have to teach candidates remedial skills. Spellcheck, proofread, and have someone else read over your letter before you send it. Find more tips for writing thank-you letters in our article, 10 Tips for Writing a Job-Search Interview Thank-You Letter.
Can I just borrow a sample thank-you letter from a book and adapt it to my interviewer?
Well, "borrowing" is one thing. In fact we've provided some sample interview thank-you letters to show what thank-you letters should look like. But be sure to borrow just the basic structure, and perhaps a few key phrases; don't plagiarize the whole thing. We know of one employer who instantly recognized that a thank-you letter he received had been taken word for word from a text he was familiar with.
For more ideas on how best to write your thank-you letter see our article, Job Interview Thank-You Letter Formula for Job-Seekers.
If I interview with several people, do I have to send a thank you to each one?
That's the best approach. You can make it essentially the same letter to each, but vary at least a few sentences to individualize the letters to each interviewer -- in case your recipients compare notes.
How soon after your interview should you send a thank-you note to the employer?
The rule of thumb is to send it within 24 hours of the interview.
Should I bother with a thank-you note if I know the hiring decision will probably be made sooner than I can mail a thank-you letter?
The key word here is "mail." If mail is too slow for the hiring decision, find a faster way: e-mail, fax, air-express, or hand-delivery. In fact, if the interview was local, hand-delivery of the thank-you letter can make a super impression.
What if I do receive a job offer faster than I can send a thank you?
Send it anyway to thank the employer for the interview and the offer. Your letter can also accept or decline the offer. An acceptance letter can re-state your understanding or the terms of the offer (salary, benefits, vacations days, starting date, paid training, etc.); that way any discrepancies can be red-flagged by the employer and straightened out before you start.
Is there anything a job-seeker can do to make an even better impression with a thank you letter?
Find a way to personalize it. If you notice that the interviewer collects elephant figurines, for example, write your thank-you note on a notecard with an elephant picture on it. Or send a clipping of an article you think the interviewer would be interested in.
If I have a second interview with the same person, do I send another thank you letter?
Yes, most definitely send a second thank-you letter. The bigger task for you will be to find another way to write it and express your appreciation; you certainly do not want to just send the same -- or slightly different -- letter. Remember, though, the most important factor is showing your appreciation for the interviewer's time and effort. For additional help with crafting a winning thank-you letter, please refer to our free Post Job Interview Thank-You Letter Worksheet.
Have questions about other aspects of job-hunting? Find our entire collection of answers to the most frequently asked questions in the Quintessential Careers Career, Job-Search, and Job-Hunting FAQs for Job-Seekers.
Questions about some of the terminology used in this article? Get more information (definitions and links) on key college, career, and job-search terms by going to our Job-Seeker's Glossary of Job-Hunting Terms.
Katharine Hansen, Ph.D., creative director and associate publisher of Quintessential Careers, is an educator, author, and blogger who provides content for Quintessential Careers, edits QuintZine, an electronic newsletter for jobseekers, and blogs about storytelling in the job search at A Storied Career. Katharine, who earned her PhD in organizational behavior from Union Institute & University, Cincinnati, OH, is author of Dynamic Cover Letters for New Graduates and A Foot in the Door: Networking Your Way into the Hidden Job Market (both published by Ten Speed Press), as well as Top Notch Executive Resumes (Career Press); and with Randall S. Hansen, Ph.D., Dynamic Cover Letters, Write Your Way to a Higher GPA (Ten Speed), and The Complete Idiot's Guide to Study Skills (Alpha). Visit her personal Website or reach her by e-mail at kathy(at)quintcareers.com.
Check out all of the thank-you letter tools and resources in the Thank-You Letter Resources for Job-Seekers section of Quintessential Careers.