Congratulations! You completed that coveted job interview… and so did the other applicants. Game over? Not yet! You have one last opportunity to gain a competitive edge: the thank you note.
Why? The thank you note offers another platform to put your name forward; showcase your skills; demonstrate business etiquette and interpersonal skills; and stand out from the crowd (many of whom neglect to write one). Send it within 24 hours following the interview (wine improves with age; thank you notes do not). Most HR managers agree that the thank you note is helpful when reviewing a candidate, and constitutes the final echo that resonates during the deliberation process.
Invest time and thought in composing this important document. Time is fleeting, and the reader is busy. Space, too, is limited. The thank you note should be one page, consisting of a salutation, a body, and the conclusion. This allows a few scant sentences – two or three brief paragraphs – in the body to deliver your main message.
Know the Audience for the Thank You Note
This is the cardinal rule for all communication. The audience for the thank you note consists of individuals who helped set up and conduct the interview. Open with a salutation, express gratitude for the individual’s time invested on your behalf, and cite when the interview occurred and the job title. You might also include something you learned during the interview or an aspect of the company you admire.
Dear Ms. Smyth,
Thank you for the opportunity to interview on August 31 for the position of Senior IT Program Manager. I enjoyed learning about Jones Company’s innovative approach to incorporating artificial intelligence into its operations. My skills complement this area.
Determine the Core Message
Hint: It is not “thank you.” Strategize the body to maximize its value. Determine the most salient points discussed in the interview, such as specific accomplishments or skills. Reinforce these, highlighting how the company can benefit by hiring you.
As you convey these stories: 1.) Emphasize your impact and enhance that thought with detail, providing the reader a mental yardstick to grasp the significance, 2.) Mention examples of demonstrated teamwork, leadership, initiative and your ability to communicate (written and verbal), and 3.) Avoid unnecessary, job-related jargon. The Before and After examples below demonstrate these tips:
BEFORE: As discussed, leveraging my expertise, I successfully automated inventory control through implementation of Mobility Inventory Control System (MICS), Property Unit Supply Enhanced (PUSE), Property Accountability Support System (PASS), Integrated Logistics System (ILS), and Joint Acquisition Product Tracking System (JAPTS) and overhauled my
current employer’s product tracking system. I am excited about applying my skills to the Jones Company. and am certain I can contribute similarly to its continued success.
Compare that to the below:
AFTER: As discussed, I led a 5-person team and leveraged my expertise in four major supply-related data bases to overhaul my current employer’s product tracking system. In only three months, we improved product distribution by 20% and saved the company $870,000. At my division chief’s request, I wrote a paper for the Vice President of Production detailing project and later briefed the corporate board. I am excited about applying my skills to the Jones Company and am certain I can contribute similarly to its continued success.
One final suggestion for the body of the thank you note: Did the interviewer relate anything personal, such as shared interests or a similar educational background? Including an element unique to your discussion will help the reader remember you. The body should be no longer than two or three paragraphs.
On a personal note, this is small world! I enjoyed discussing our mutual interest in touring Eastern Europe, especially Bulgaria, a beautiful country with an amazing culture!
Conclude Your Thank You on a Strong Note
Your final thoughts should include an enthusiastic statement about this opportunity, your availability to provide further information if needed, and contact information.
Thank you again for your consideration. I hope to have the opportunity to join your team. Please, don’t hesitate to reach out if you have additional questions.
[Email address] [Phone number]
Now, revise, edit, and proofread your draft, honing it to make each word count and every second of the reader’s time play to your advantage.
Purge Useless Words
Provided below is the pre-edited version of the opening paragraph:
Thank you for the opportunity to interview with you on August 31 for the position of Senior IT Program Manager. I enjoyed learning the many details about Jones Company’s forward-leaning, innovative approach to incorporating artificial intelligence into its ongoing operations. It provided me with insight into an area that my skills complement.
Eliminate Subtle Redundancies
I enjoyed learning about Jones Company’s forward-leaning, innovative approach. Guess which term you can eliminate?
Don’t Write as You Speak
Purge overly colloquial terms. For example, “I loved getting to hear about” is more professionally expressed as, “I enjoyed learning about.”
Finally, revise, edit, and proofread your draft. Mistakes in spelling, grammar, and punctuation indicate a lack of attention to detail and could torpedo your candidacy. Also, ensure the correct spelling of the name and address of the recipient; in our example, the name is Smyth, not Smith. Hint: Don’t rely exclusively on automated spell checkers. Can you find the errors below?
Thank you for the opportunity to interview on August 31 for the position, Senior IT Program Manager. I enjoyed learning about Jones Companys inovative approach to incorporating artificial intelligence into it’s operations. My skills compliment this effort.
You have three options to send this thank you note: 1) email, 2) a handwritten note, or 3) a letter, typed, signed, and mailed (as opposed to a scanned document attached to an email).
I recommend a combination of all three. A letter (typed on good quality paper, please) delivers your message with style, finesse, and the right touch of formality. It affords more space than a handwritten note and demonstrates effort beyond that associated with an email. Add a handwritten, concluding thought on the bottom of the page to lend that personal touch. Finally, email the recipient that you sent a more formal correspondence via the mail system.
The thank you note is your final opportunity to engage the decision-makers. Write to influence!
Carla D. Bass, Colonel, USAF (Ret) is author of the award-winning book, “Write to Influence!” The second edition includes new material developed for her highly acclaimed workshops.