They're two simple words – thank you – but they could be the very thing that lands you the job. So, what does your thank-you letter need to contain?
- Your contact information
- The date
- The contact information of the person you're writing to
- A greeting (e.g., "Dear Mr. X")
- Body text that includes a simple, clear and straightforward thank-you and is no longer than four paragraphs. Run spellcheck and proofread carefully.
- Closing such as "Best" or "Sincerely"
- Handwritten signature, for mailed paper letters
- Typed signature
As the hiring process moves more toward automation and speed, taking the time to write a thank-you letter helps you stand out from the crowd and humanizes your application. A thoughtfully written thank-you note goes a long way for your interviewer, plus it provides you with the chance to reiterate your qualifications and add a touch of personality.
"Sending a personalized thank-you note is exactly that – personal," said Rebecca Kiki Weingarten, career transition coach and co-founder/education director at RWRNetwork. "In our high-tech world, it makes a high-touch impact that stands out."
Why are thank-you notes important?
Aside from showing common courtesy, a thank-you note serves other purposes, such as increasing your salary.
According to a study by iCIMS, 63% of recruiters said they would be more likely to hire a candidate who asked for more money and sent a thank-you note than a candidate who asked for less but did not send a note.
Additionally, failure to follow up could leave the impression you're not interested enough to go the extra mile and reach out afterward.
"First, it is a basic appreciation of the time the interviewer spent with you," said Jodi RR Smith, author and etiquette consultant at Mannersmith Etiquette Consulting. "Second, it is a signal to the interviewer that you are aware of higher-level interpersonal skills. Lastly, the thank-you note expresses your ongoing interest in the organization and the job opening."
Smith added that sending a note could show that you know other proper business etiquette, like standing when a client enters the room, not chewing gum in front of the CEO, holding doors open for others, arriving to meetings on time and dressing appropriately.
Following up with an email should be done within 24 hours of the interview, while you're still fresh in the interviewer's mind. Keep the content of the email brief, no more than two or three paragraphs, and reference particular points from the conversation.
Matt Ross, CEO and co-owner of The Slumber Yard, remembers a candidate who went the extra mile in mentioning personal details from their interview. "I briefly discussed my hometown, but what was amazing was that the candidate remembered my hometown and found a way to include it in his follow-up. He said his brother would be passing through [my town], so he made sure to tell him to pick up a cake from a popular bakery there. This not only showed me he was a good listener but also that he was willing to go above and beyond by doing research. It left me with a pretty good taste in my mouth (pun intended)."
What is the preferred method of sending a thank-you note?
Amanda Augustine, career advice expert for TopInterview and TopResume, said that email is the most common method for sending a post-interview thank-you note "because of its immediacy and ability to attach materials or hyperlink to additional information that can help advance their candidacy to the next interview round."
Augustine suggested that it is still important to check out the culture of the company and figure out which method they would prefer. If you're interviewing at a tech startup or see the company utilizes technology, email would likely be the most appropriate.
On the flip side, if the company seems more old-fashioned and stays to the more traditional side of things, a handwritten note mailed to the office might get you further.
"I prefer handwritten notes," said Rachel Sutherland, founder of Rachel Sutherland Communications. "Everyone loves getting mail, especially something you're not expecting. It's kind of funny to think of snail mail as being special, but in this case, it works."
If you're doing a handwritten note, your method of delivering it depends on the timing of the hiring process. Smith said that if you know they'll be making their decision the next day, write the note as quickly as possible. In that instance, Smith suggests writing the thank-you note in the lobby and asking the receptionist to deliver it as soon as possible.
"The content of the message is more important than the method of delivery, be it email or a handwritten note," said Beverly Friedmann, content manager at MyFoodSubscriptions. "That said, a handwritten card is certainly a nice gesture that you don't typically see these days."
What should be included?
Smith suggested including the following elements in your thank-you note:
- A salutation. Even if you have been referring to the interviewer in a more casual way, in the thank-you note, use the more formal form of address.
- A sincere and specific expression of appreciation along with a concise description of what is being appreciated.
- Remind them of something unique that they spoke to you about in the interview that they might not have discussed with other candidates. This will help the interviewer remember who you are.
- Confirm you're a good fit for the role.
- Close with final expression of gratitude.
Augustine cautioned against recapping your entire resume in your thank-you note, since the interviewer has already reviewed it and discussed it with you during the interview, but summarizing your qualifications is appropriate.
As with your resume and cover letter, customize your thank-you note. Double- and triple-check it for grammatical and spelling errors. A typo-filled follow-up can easily ruin the stellar impression you made during the interview. If you met with multiple people, send one note to each person, if you have his or her contact information.
Does sending a thank-you note really work?
It can, if the note is well written.
"There are times when the candidate has a terrible first round, usually due to nerves," Smith said. "But they took the time to write a sincere and well-considered note explaining their interest in the role and how their experience makes them uniquely qualified."
Other times, Smith notes, there are phone screens instead of in-person interviews, and those who write a thank-you note are automatically invited back for an in-person interview. Sutherland had a similar experience.
"I got my college internship at The Detroit News because I handwrote a thank-you note," Sutherland said. "How do I know? One day in the newsroom that summer, the editor told me I was the only one who wrote a thank-you."
Augustine noted that sending a thank-you note doesn't automatically increase your chances of getting the job; however, dismissing this bit of post-interview etiquette might decrease your chances of receiving an offer.
"While not every recruiter or hiring manager cares whether a candidate sends a thank-you message, I've never heard of a single one, in any industry, think poorly of a candidate for sending a thank-you note," she added.
Sample thank-you letters
Based on these tips, here are two templates you can follow for a thank-you letter after the interview:
Good afternoon, Jeanette,
Thank you for taking the time to speak with me yesterday about the staff writer position with Business News Daily.
It was a pleasure meeting with you, and I truly enjoyed learning more about the role and the company. I especially loved hearing about your in-office MVP vote – it sounds like a great way to boost employee morale!
After our conversation, I am confident that my skills in business writing and experience as a copy editor are a great match for this opportunity. I am very enthusiastic about the possibility of joining your team and would greatly appreciate a follow-up as you move forward with the hiring process.
If you need any further information, please do not hesitate to contact me by email or phone. Thanks again, and I hope to hear from you in the near future.
Dear Ms. Smith,
I wanted to reach out to thank you for taking the time to speak with me yesterday about the social media manager position at Business News Daily.
I really enjoyed meeting you and learning more about where your team is headed. Based on our discussion, it sounds like you have a very exciting year ahead with the site updates and customer base expansion.
With the team at such a critical juncture, I'd love to lend my experience and skills to help the team build a stronger customer base and social media presence – particularly bringing my unique lens as a marketer that we discussed from my time working at agencies.
I look forward to speaking further with you and your team to see how I might be able to help you reach your goals. If we're a good match, I would be very excited at the prospect of working together.
Take the time to personalize every letter you send – avoid copying and pasting the same basic form letter. Recruiters will notice these right away, and it won't do you any good.
After you send your email, keep an eye on your inbox. Don't panic if you don't hear back right away – it's normal for a company to take its time in reviewing applications. If several days or weeks go by, send a polite follow-up to ask if there has been any progress in making a decision.
However, don't take this as an invitation to bombard the hiring manager's inbox. Send no more than two well-spaced follow-up emails, and if you don't hear back after that, accept it as a rejection and move on.
For more tips on writing a great thank-you note, visit this Business News Daily article.
Additional reporting by Jennifer Post. Some source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.