When Do You Need a Thank-You Letter?

Follow Up

Well-written thank-you letters remind prospective employers that you're the best candidate of the bunch.

Phew! The job interview is over and it went great. So, is it time to relax, grab a cold slush and wait for the phone to ring with a job offer? No.  There is still work to do to transform an excellent interview into a paying job. It won't take long, but you must act fast.

Sending a thank-you card or letter is an easy way to keep your name on top of an employer's short list. Saying thanks for the interview is so simple most people don't do it.

The website of the York Technical Institute of Pennsylvania says only four percent of people send thank-you letters following a job interview.

"You should send it because most people don't. And that sets you apart," says Dorothy Leeds. Leeds is a keynote speaker, workshop leader and author of The 7 Powers of Questions: Secrets to Successful Communication in Life and at Work, and Marketing Yourself.

"I think it's always welcome. I don't think there's anyone in the world who does not appreciate a sincere thank you," she says.

Do It Fast

Cindy Sheppard is director of employment services at a YMCA. She says when it comes to thank-you letters, it's important to be fast and to know the purpose for your letter.

Some employers fill jobs within days of the interview, so there's no time to waste.

"A thank-you letter is written post interview and is done immediately. It can be sent the same day or the next day," Sheppard says.

Sheppard says if more than one person conducted the interview, you should either address the thank you to everyone or send each person a thank-you letter.

But Not Too Fast

But don't respond so fast that you forget to think. Take time to decide what you want to say. If you forgot to tell the interviewer about your school leadership experience, then this is the time.

Sheppard says the only time not to send a thank you is when the interviewer says don't send one. It's a good idea to send a thank you even if someone else gets the job.

"A young lady was interviewed for a position with a large firm. She sent a thank-you note but did not get the position," Sheppard says.

"About one year later, the individual who was in the position left, that young lady was called and offered the position because [in addition to her interview and skills] they remembered her from the card she sent."

Leeds adds that not saying thank you puts applicants behind their competitors.

"You miss an opportunity for people to think of you as a kind, considerate, thoughtful person. The risk is other people will be sending thank yous and you didn't," Leeds says.

Know What to Write

"The thank-you letter should be short and to the point. Two or three sentences," Sheppard says. "It can be in the form of a card, letter or e-mail.

"It should simply say, 'Thank you for the interview for the position of … I look forward to hearing from you.' It can add a line or two about something specific about the interview if appropriate such as, 'I really enjoyed the tour of your facility.'"

And remember to proofread for proper grammar and spelling.

Leeds says a creative touch helps too. The letter should get you noticed, tell the employer you want the job and let the interviewer know you've read up on the company.

"Send something different than saying, 'I had a nice time at this interview,'" Leeds says.

Leeds suggests using formal titles instead of first names even if an interviewer says it's OK to call him Bob. The letter itself can include statements such as, "It was wonderful to meet you and put a real face to the company I read about on your website."

This is your chance to do more than say thanks. Say how the company impressed you and you'd like to work for them.

"You have to give the impression you want the job, but don't need the job," Leeds says.

How to Send It

"This is a debate among people," Leeds says. "Probably the right thing to do is write it out and post it. It shows more thought, more caring. However, if a person is going on a lot of job interviews, it's not bad to e-mail."

Sheppard says electronic and traditional deliveries are both acceptable.

"Thank-you letters can be sent by e-mail. If you choose a card alternative, you can send it through the mail or simply drop it off if possible," she says.

Get It In the Right Hands

So how do you know what name and address to put on a thank-you card or letter? You only need to ask.

"At the end of each interview, you are generally asked if you have any questions," Sheppard says.

"You can take that opportunity to ask for the required information, or you can ask the receptionist on the way out. Names and titles are all that you need. The address can easily be gotten through a phone call, business cards, a conversation with the receptionist, a website or a brochure of the company."

Leeds says applicants can get information while waiting for the interview to begin. Ask the receptionist for a business card. You can also call the company and explain you'd like the proper spelling, title and address for a thank-you note. And when someone spells out a name or title, always repeat what you hear to make sure it's right.

Here's a poor example of a thank-you letter:

Dear Human Resources Officer,

Thanks for meeting me last week. I enjoyed sharing my expertise with you. I want to take this opportunity to remind you I am the best person for the technical vacancy at your company. I believe I demonstrated that during my interview when I pointed out various ways to improve the way you do business.

If you need more information, please call me at the numbers listed on my resume.

I'll be speaking with you soon.

Contrast the above sample with the proper thank-you letter below. How are the letters different?

Dear Mr. Jones:

Thank you for taking time to meet with me yesterday. Your company's commitment to providing clients fast, reliable computer service made a positive impact on me.

After the interview, I reflected on the skills and company values you spoke about. I share Jones Consulting's commitment to lifelong learning and teamwork. My experience as a team leader in the National High School Electronics Challenge taught me the value of keeping up with new technology and sharing that knowledge with my team. Together we won first place in our school category.

I am convinced that the technical support intern position would be a good move for me and that I would contribute to the success of Jones Consulting. I look forward to hearing from you.

So send a thank-you letter. But be quick, respect your reader and don't be shy about including specific qualities you offer the company. The extra effort will get noticed. It could launch you into a rewarding career.


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