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How to express thanks after a job interview 

By Ken Tysiac 
March 05 2014

Before the days of technology-enabled hyperconnectivity, the postal service was considered a fine option for job candidates to deliver a thank-you note following a job interview.

But the speed of business today has created new ground rules for thanking a potential employer, experts say. A handwritten thank-you note still can convey charm and a personal touch.

Nonetheless, in the two or three days it takes for a handwritten thank-you note to be delivered, a hurried hiring manager may move in a different direction, away from the candidate whose thank-you message does not arrive within a day after the interview.

Candidates should display their gratitude for the interview and interest in the position with an email thank-you note on the day of the interview or early the next day, said Beth A. Berk, CPA, CGMA, a self-employed, independent recruiter based near Washington, D.C.

Following up with another note in the mail also is a good idea, according to Berk. The note that’s sent in the mail can be handwritten, but only if the candidate’s handwriting is neat and legible, she said. Otherwise, a typewritten letter of thanks that includes the candidate’s signature should be mailed as a follow-up.

Berk said employers who use her services have told her that they have been surprised when high-calibre candidates haven’t communicated their thanks for the interview.

“I’m a big fan of thank yous,” she said.

Temporary finance and accounting staffing services firm Accountemps also says a timely, emailed thank you now is a must. The firm also suggests that sending only handwritten notes is a mistake, but says it’s a classy move to send a written note after the emailed response.

Eighty-seven per cent of managers interviewed by Accountemps in 2012 said email is an appropriate way to express thanks after meeting with a hiring manager. And 91% of managers said they like being thanked by promising job candidates.

Berk’s advice for job candidates on thank-you letters includes:

  • Collect contact information early. Before the interview, get the names – with correct spellings – and contact information of all the people who will be involved in the interview. Send an email thank you to each of them, if possible.
  • When sending emails to multiple people, vary the content. A candidate who sends the same email to everybody risks appearing uninterested in the position. Berk suggests personalising the individual letters to include something specific about each person or the conversation the candidate had with them.
  • Take notes. Immediately after an interview, Berk said, it’s a good idea for a job candidate to sit down and take notes on the important things that happened and who the candidate met. This can help the candidate provide specific, personalised information in thank-you notes.
  • Emphasise connections. If the candidate believes a connection was made with someone during the interview, mention that topic in the thank-you letter. “Either reiterate what was said [during the interview] or add additional information that [the candidate] may have forgotten to say about themselves,” Berk said.
  • Don’t be too humble. A job-search process is a time to highlight accomplishments – without sounding boastful. A thank-you note can provide an opportunity to mention a promotion or a key metric that demonstrates the quality of a candidate – in addition to reiterating interest in the job.
  • Turn possible problems into positives. Sometimes a candidate leaves an interview believing he or she didn’t provide a good answer when asked about a skillset that didn’t exactly match the job description. In those cases, Berk said a carefully worded thank-you note can emphasise how the candidate has a similar skill or can learn quickly. “They may want to address that in the thank you as well without making it seem like a negative,” Berk said.
  • Check for misspellings and typographical, grammar and formatting errors. These can reflect poorly on a candidate’s attention to detail. Formatting errors sometimes occur when a candidate types a thank-you letter in one programme and then pastes it into the body of an email. Berk suggests that candidates send a test email to themselves to review the formatting before sending it to the employer.

On some occasions, it’s also a good idea for a candidate who doesn’t get the job to send a final thank-you letter to the employer. If it takes many days or even weeks for the employer to decide, the candidate may want to thank the employer for considering him or her – and keep the lines of communication open in case another position becomes available in the future.

Berk said thank-you letters from job candidates should convey the necessary information, but still be concise.

If they’re too long, that’s not good, Berk said. “So it’s kind of finding the right balance between appreciating someone’s time and thanking them and finding something unique to that person, the role, or the conversation.”

Ken Tysiac (ktysiac@aicpa.org) is a CGMA Magazine senior editor.

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