Saying "thank you" is so simple and goes a long way no matter who is on the receiving end. But it can be even more rewarding if that phrase is in the form of a note, and the receiver is the person who just interviewed you for a job. Whether it's an email or a hand-written note, thanking the interviewer for their time could be the thing that separates you from every other candidate.
"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 can serve many other purposes.
"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 that 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, dressing appropriately, etc.
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 start-up or see the company utilizes technology, email seems like it would be the most appropriate. On the flip side, if the company seems to run a bit 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 sending will depend on the hiring process timing. 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 have it delivered as soon as possible.
On the other hand, if you know the interviewer won't be available for a bit due to travel or other circumstances, you can have the note delivered to wherever they are staying, or the temporary office they are working from.
What should be included?
Smith suggested many things that should be included in a professional thank-you note:
- A salutation. Even if you have been referring to the interviewer in a more casual way, in the thank you note, you'll want to 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.
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. 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," Smith said.
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 hand wrote 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.