I once listened to the director of recruitment for a major creative company speak on the biggest interview mistake she had ever witnessed.
… No ‘thank you’ note.
She had two candidates neck and neck for a c-suite role. Both were equally qualified, with glowing references. The director felt a strong connection to one candidate, though her colleagues favored the other.
In her speech, she admitted that she would have fought for her choice of candidate, but there was one major thing that irked her.
Three days after the interview, that candidate still hadn’t sent her a thank you note.
So the director went with her colleagues’ pick, and hired the other candidate for the role.
A few days later, a handwritten thank you note arrived from the candidate that had been passed over… The one the director had preferred.
Not sending a timely thank you really can make or break you. In fact, CareerBuilder found that nearly one third of hiring managers would think less of a candidate if they didn’t send a thank you note after an interview.
That’s pretty serious.
Needless to say, you cannot drop the ball on it. It will cost you the job.
Here are a few do’s and dont’s to help you write an effective post-interview thank you note.
- Don’t wait too long.
Timeliness of your thank you note is really everything. A whopping 86% of hiring managers feel that the lack of a timely thank you shows that a candidate lacks follow through . You want to stay fresh in your interviewer’s mind, and reinforce the positive impression you left on him or her sooner rather than later. Your thank you note should be sent on the same day that you had your interview. Ideally, within a few hours after the interview.
Don’t get it twisted – sending your thank you note as you’re walking out the front door of the interview is definitely too eager. But sending an hour or two after your interview has ended is completely appropriate.
- Do show your enthusiasm.
When you’re writing your thank you note, you want to come off as excited about the potential role – without sounding too desperate. A line or two reiterating how much you’d enjoy the scope of work you’d potentially be doing is enough to get the point across.
For example: “I’m very excited about the opportunity to join [company name] and help [bring in new clients / develop world-class content / anything else awesome you would be doing] with your team.”
…It’s short, sweet and to the point.
- Don’t keep it too casual.
Even if you and your interviewer totally hit it off and were acting like BFFs as things were wrapping up, it’s still not appropriate to address him or her like you’re pals. At the end of the day, it’s great to be likable – but until the offer is signed and sealed, you’re still under consideration. Hold your energy and stay professional.
- Do reiterate the position and title you interviewed for.
On average, hiring managers interview 10 or so candidates for each role, and are often working to fill multiple roles at a time. Make it easy for them to remember which position you came in for by stating this early on in your email. For example, “Thank you so much for taking the time to meet with me about the [insert position and title here]” would be a perfectly appropriate way to start things off.
- Don’t over explain.
If you forgot to bring up a certain point during your interview, your thank you email is unfortunately not the place to do it. It looks desperate when candidates do this, in my professional opinion. In fact, it appears as though you’re trying to get more time with them than what they scheduled with you. Just don’t do it. Trust that if something is important, you would have brought it up in the initial conversation.
- Do share something memorable from your interview.
Share what really resonated for you during your interview. This could be something that your interviewer said, or something you gathered about the company in the interview or job description, and how it aligns with you as a candidate. Anything you can do to stay memorable in your interviewer’s mind will put you one step ahead of the other candidates.
- Don’t use the same template.
Thank you notes get circulated. Make sure you personalize each one to a small extent. This is exactly why you want to share what resonated with you in the interview, from the lens of what you and that person specifically discussed. This also means to make sure it doesn’t sound like you copy and pasted the note. Make it personalized to that job, and state what lined up for you during that particular interview.
- Do check your spelling.
I mean it: You have got to proofread this baby until you’re blue in the face. Why? 63% of hiring managers say they wouldn’t hire a candidate who made a typo during the interview process. As far as communication with potential employers goes, nothing is worse than a spelling or grammar mistake. Especially when it comes to spelling your interviewer’s name correctly. Even common names often have variations on their spelling (I’ve met Ashlees and even Ashleighs), so make sure you’ve got the right iteration in your thank you note. If you can’t remember your interviewer’s name, do some research on Linkedin until you find it.
The average number of people who apply for a job posting is 118. Twenty-three of those applicants get called in for an interview. And of course, only one gets the job.
Just like the faux pas the director experienced, the competition is often so close that one wrong move can – and will – make or break you.
That’s the power “thank you” holds when it comes to your job search.
This first appeared in Forbes.