Never undermine the power of sending a thank you note after your interview.
Whether it's for a job or an internship, a thank you note is literally your last chance to sell yourself an employer. Aside from not sending one at all, many candidates make the mistake of writing one that's far too generic.
Here's an example of a strong thank you email, according to career experts at Yale University's Office of Career Strategy (click here to enlarge):
(Courtesy of Yale University, Office of Career Strategy)
Don't know where to start? Here are some essential tips on how to write the perfect thank you note:
1. Paper or email?
This is a tricky one.
While some hiring managers argue that handwritten letters are a lost art that can go a long way (provided that you have flawless penmanship), others prefer the email route because it's much more convenient for all parties.
The short answer? It depends on the company you're interviewing at. If it's more digitally-focused, for example, it'd make more sense to send your note electronically.
If in doubt, send your letter via email. That way, you won't have to worry about it getting lost or that your interviewer won't get it in a timely matter.
Also keep in mind that it's what you actually put in your note that counts, not how you send it.
2. Send one to each interviewer
If you spoke with several people at the company, be sure to ask for their business cards at the end of each interview.
Make sure that the letters are personalized with specific information that you discussed with each person. Even if the discussions were the same, your notes shouldn't be.
"Putting the time and effort into personalizing your notes shows that you were paying close attention to the information conveyed by each interviewer," a career expert at Yale explained. "This will benefit you when the interviewers compare notes — which they will do. "
3. Include the basics
While your letter should go beyond a simple thank you, you still need to:
- Reiterate your interest
- Express your appreciation for the interviewer's time
- Emphasize your best and most relevant qualities and skills
- Mention specific topic discussed in the interview that you found to be the most appealing
- Include one or two past experiences that prepared you for the responsibilities of the position
4. Go above and beyond
This is your chance to seriously show that you were listening attentively and took time to reflect on the interview.
Here are a few ways to go above and beyond in your thank you letter:
- Mention something exciting you learned about the company that makes you want to work there
- Talk about a skills shortage you now know they have that you're uniquely poised to fill
- Include links to projects or work samples you talked about in your interview
- Comment on a small detail that your interviewer mentioned (e.g., wish them safe travels if said they were going overseas for an upcoming vacation)
- Clarify something you said during the interview
- Highlight something you failed to mention
Also, a candidate that expresses eagerness and excitement for a role is always refreshing, so don't be afraid to add some personality. (But don't take it too far; your employer still wants to see that you have proper business etiquette.)
5. Keep it clear and short
Your thank you note should be concise and no more than one page. Typically, 250 to 300 words is fine.
If you're sending your note via email, your subject line should be simple (e.g.,"Thank you – Sales Marketing Associate interview").
6. Don't wait too long to send it
There's no need to send your thank you note immediately after the interview. The sweet spot is generally within the 24- to 48-hour period after the interview.
Helpful tip: As soon as you exit the building, jot down notes and specific details that you want to include in you letter. Everything will still be fresh in your head and you'll have a much easier time writing the letter when you get home.
7. Proofread, proofread, proofread…
A sloppily written letter can blow your chance at getting the job, so always do a thorough check before hitting that send button.
Beyond grammar and spelling, make sure that:
- Names, dates and email addresses are correct
- The correct company is mentioned, especially if you've been interviewing at other places (I once received a thank you email that included the name of our company's competitor)
- Similar to the previous point, you also want to make sure you included the correct job position that you interviewed for
Dustin McKissen is the founder of McKissen + Company, a strategic communications firm in St. Charles, Missouri. He was also named one of LinkedIn's"Top Voices in Management and Corporate Culture." Follow him on LinkedIn here.
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