Should I write a job interview thank you email?

Handwritten thank-you notes could be even more effective.
Handwritten thank-you notes could be even more effective.
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Job hunting, especially in a hurting economy, is a stressful process. After you have the resume and the cover letter down, and you actually scored and aced an interview, you might think you're done. But you'd be wrong.

At this point, you shouldn't wash your hands of the process and relax, nor should you stress yourself out thinking about if you'll get the job or not. If you want to show proper business etiquette, you should take this time after the interview to send a thank-you message.

But this isn't just about politeness or strictly obeying etiquette. You'll be doing yourself a favor if you send a thank-you note. Especially if you're applying for a competitive position, a thank-you message will be another opportunity to make an impression on an employer. It'll also make you look better in comparison to someone who forgets this important step. But don't take our word for it: Virtually every job hunting guide recommends this step. And, even more important, several surveys of employers show that they prefer a thank-you note. Job Search Training Systems, Inc. found that 80 percent find it beneficial to your chances of landing the job, and CareerBuilder.com found that 15 percent would disqualify candidates who didn't send one [sources: Farr, Haefner].

And a thank-you letter, if done well, can be much more than just that. If you forget to mention something that you wanted to in the interview, or if you didn't answer a question to your satisfaction, you can use the opportunity to remedy this. At the very least, you can use the message to reiterate your excitement for the position.

If you interviewed with more than one person at a company, it's a good idea to send a separate thank-you note to each person. To keep everyone straight, ask for their business cards. After you leave, write a quick identifying note on each card that'll help you remember who's who. This will also help you spell names right.

Next, we'll talk about what to say in a thank-you letter, as well as what to do if you're turned down for the job.

How to Write a Post-interview Thank-you Letter

Don't wait to send a thank-you note. Send it right away -- no later than the next day.

Experts disagree, however, about whether to send the note in an e-mail or to send it in the mail. Some say that e-mail should be a last resort. These experts maintain that a letter sent via mail on quality paper is best. But speed is important, so they recommend sending it express so that it arrives the next day [source: Darlington]. Others are not so stringent and believe that some employers actually prefer e-mail. And still others say to send both. A survey showed a pretty close split between what format employers prefer [source: Haefner]. For hard copies, you also might want to write out the letter by hand to make it extra personal -- but only do this if you have excellent handwriting [source: Farr].

Although every thank-you note should be personalized to the job and the interviewer, we'll explain a recommended structure. The salutation should use a last name, unless the interviewer explicitly allowed you to use a first name. The note should be brief -- about three short paragraphs. The first paragraph thanks the interviewer for the opportunity and his or her time. If you can, throw in a reference to something discussed in your interview that might help the interviewer distinguish you from others [source: Darlington].

The second paragraph should include some subtle and gentle reminders of your qualifications while reiterating your excitement for the job. This paragraph can also include anything you forgot to mention. Finally, the third paragraph can give thanks again and offer something hopeful, like "I look forward to hearing from you." Throughout, the tone should be professional, but warm.

Now that the thank-you note is all finished, it's finally time to sit back and wait. Although this might be a stressful time for you, it would be a mistake to pester the employer about a decision. However, if the interviewer gave you an idea when the decision would be made, and that time comes and goes without a word, it would be fine to send an e-mail politely asking how much longer you should expect to wait.

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Sources

  • Darlington, Joy, Nancy Schumann. "The Everything Job Interview Book." Adams Media Corporation, 2008.
  • Farr, Michael, Dick Gaither. "Next-day Job Interview." JIST Works, 2008.
  • Guffey, Mary Ellen, et al. "Business Communications: Process and Product." Cengage Learning, 2009. (Aug. 20, 2010)http://books.google.com/books?id=W6DCJ0cLf3MC
  • Haefner, Rosemary. "No Thank You Could Mean No Job." CareerBuilder.com. Last updated Sept. 29, 2009. (Aug. 20, 2010)http://www.careerbuilder.com/Article/CB-300-Getting-Hired-No-Thank-You-Could-Mean-No-Job/?ArticleID=300&cbRecursionCnt=1&cbsid=d16bbc3525ba413fb3cddb0a74fbe416-335614452-VI-4
  • Weiss, Tara. "How to Write a Winning Thank-You Note." Forbes.com. April 16, 2008. (Aug. 20, 2010) http://www.forbes.com/2008/04/15/job-interview-thankyou-lead-careers-cx_tw_0415bizbasics.html