By: Jason Alba
Have you ever written a thank you letter? I imagine you’ve written a thank you text, or a thank you email, but have you ever handwritten a letter on paper and then mailed it to someone?
Getting a thank you letter in the mail used to be more common, but now it’s something so rare that getting a paper thank you letter would be almost shocking. At the very least, it would be memorable. And, as a job-seeker, you want to be as memorable as possible.
In this post I want to share some interview thank you letter tips for writing a thank you letter after you’ve had a job interview. If you are thinking “that is too much work,” I’ve got good news for you. Most everyone else is thinking that too, and they won’t send the letter. This means your letter will stick out, and so will you.
Keith Ferrazzi, author of Never Eat Alone, says, “if you want to be better than 95% of your competition, all you need to do is follow-up.” I have found that follow-up (and I’m not just talking about handwritten thank you letters) is becoming a lost art.
How do you follow up? Some people think the only way to go is with cards or paper letters. That is great, and that will certainly help you stand out. But in my experience it’s not necessary. Just an email thank you letter is, sadly, more than what others will do. So don’t overthink it, just do it! And do it within 24 hours after your interview.
Please don’t use Dear sir or Dear ma’am, or anything like that. Personally, I don’t like be referred to as Mr. Alba — if we have had a conversation in an interview setting, please call me Jason. Going generic (Dear sir), or too formal (Dear Mr. Alba) is off-putting. It’s like we didn’t connect.
Aim to collect business cards from everyone you interview with when the interview wraps – this way you can easily personalize each thank you letter.
If an interviewer doesn’t have a business card, aim to get their email address (either from them, or from the recruiter who escorts you out of the interview). Again, this will help you when it comes time to personalize each thank you letter.
One of your goals at this point in your job search is to expand your network with relevant contacts, whether you get the job or not. Not only will writing separate letters ensure that each person gets one (instead of hoping that one person gets the letter, and shares it with others), it will make sure you are memorable to each person.
The letter should be quick and easy to read. A longer letter has two problems. First, it gives you too much opportunity to stray from what your real message is, and the purpose of the letter. Don’t mess up your opportunity by putting too much information in the thank you letter. Second, people are busy, and the shorter it is, the more likely they will read the whole thing.
If there was anything memorable — from what you wore to something you said — you can include that. As an interviewer I’ve been in the situation where the candidates did well, but after a dozen interviews candidates and their responses started running together. If you remind me that you were the one with the colorful socks (if that was a point of discussion in the interview), or you talked about the funny cat story, or something else that came out in discussion, mention it briefly in the thank you letter.
Also, talk about why you are right for this role. If there were any main points you wanted to emphasize with the interviewer, or go deeper on something you think would be important to him or her, this is a great opportunity. Keep it short, but add this meat to your thank you letter to make it more than just a “thanks for your time” note.
The job search is a weird time when employers are very careful about any communication they give to a job-seeker. They want to be sure they don’t give false hope, or get their company in trouble.
If you send a dozen thank you letters and get none in return, don’t worry. Your main objective is to send the letter, and that’s up to you. Silence doesn’t necessarily mean they aren’t interested in talking to you.
Just send your letters and keep doing your job search. If you are doing the right things you simply need to trust the process.
It might be better to send nothing at all rather than send something that shows you don’t have attention to detail in this important communication. It’s not a bad idea to type your letter into a word processor, or even an email client, and see if there are any errors. Take a few extra minutes to make sure your message reads well. If you’re still unsure, find a grammar nerd friend to give it a read, or use a tool like Grammarly.
If you decide to send a handwritten thank you letter, don’t let your handwriting be a distraction. Every communication you have with the interviewer is still part of the interview. They are judging everything, from what you write to when you send your letter. If you have horrible handwriting, consider having a friend write the thank you letter for you. Otherwise, take your time and write something that is easy to read.
The interview process is long and hard. Please don’t skip this important step to help you stay top-of-mind, and stand out from other interviewees!