Article written by Shelly Trent, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, CAE
Ah, Thanksgiving! Time for family gatherings, turkey, pumpkin pie, and football games. However, there is a very different type of giving thanks--the thank-you note in the job search. Although much has changed in the job search process, such as electronic applications, Skype interviews, and applicant tracking systems (ATS), one thing has remained timeless: the thank-you note.
Why Send a Thank You Note? Have a grateful heart! A recent survey conducted by TopResume showed that sixty-eight percent of respondents said, “receiving a thank-you note affected their decision-making process about a candidate.” However, only around ten percent of candidates send a thank-you note after an in-person or phone interview. That is unfortunate since it could make or break your chances for a job offer. That same study also showed that “nearly one in five interviewers have completely dismissed a candidate because they didn’t receive a thank-you e-mail or note after an interview.” It may seem old-fashioned, but good manners, a grateful attitude, and business etiquette never go out of style.
What Should a Thank You Note Contain? Not stuffing, but dressing! Be sure to offer your sincere thanks for the interviewer’s time and for providing you with the opportunity to discuss your qualifications. It is also a good time to express your continued interest in the position and to share anything you may have forgotten to mention in the interview. If multiple interviewers were involved, you should send each person an individualized note—not the same note. Request their business cards at the end of the meeting and try to recall something unique about each interviewer in your note. For example, one may have been a baseball fan, another may have been an Eagle Scout, and another may have just completed an MBA. Whatever these interests or qualities may be, mention them in your note to show that you were paying attention. Make the note personal—not like a generic form letter. Be sure to check your grammar and spelling!
Email or Handwritten Thank You Note? White or dark meat, yams or sweet potatoes? It depends. If the interviewer has been primarily connecting with you during the process via email, then it would be acceptable to send a thank-you note via email. However, if the interviewer has been calling you, consider a handwritten, professional-looking thank-you card. One positive aspect of sending an e-mail thank-you note is that is arrives right away. A mailed card could take two or more days to arrive. If a company is more casual in its approach, an email would be fine, but for organizations that are hierarchical and traditional, a hand-written note may fare better.
How Long Should You Wait to Send a Thank You Note? Don’t leave the pumpkin pie in the oven too long! Ideally, you should send it immediately, and no later than 24 hours following the interview. Usually, an organization has a small window of time in which their interviews for a position are conducted. For example, the top three candidates might be interviewed on the same day. Chances are high that a candidate will be selected after the last interview, which would be the end of that day. If your thank-you note has not been received by the time the interviewer(s) are making a decision, you may have lost out on a final positive impression, and it could cost you the job.
What If I Don’t Send a Thank You Note? Skip the after-dinner nap if you want to see the game! If all three of the final candidates are equal in their experience, education, and interview outcome, a thank you note could put you over the edge in comparison to the other candidates. A recent article on CNBC.com reported: Nearly one in five of the hiring managers and recruiters surveyed said that they'd dismissed a candidate because they didn't send a thank you note after the interview.” You may be the only one who shows appreciation and good business etiquette, which will make a very positive impression on the interviewer.
This “Thanksgiving” practice should be continued all year long when it comes to interview follow-up! No matter which method of thanks you choose, showing good manners and a grateful heart will help you win the game! Happy Thanksgiving and have a wonderful holiday season!