Interviewing and Thank You Notes

Thank you notes. Are they an antiquated custom or are they still relevant? Are digital thank you notes just as acceptable as handwritten ones? And how much do you have to say to make the note carry some weight?

I think it’s fair to say that certain thank you notes have fallen by the wayside, where others are still very much necessary. Sending someone a note when they’ve had you over for dinner is certainly a welcome pleasantry, but not an expected one. Thank you notes for wedding gifts and graduation gifts, however, are very much appreciated and expected. What I want to focus on is the expectation around writing a thank you note after having an executive-level interview. What are the acceptable procedures around this custom?

There are differing opinions about the details of a thank you note, but the team at Centennial is in full agreement that a thank you note should absolutely be sent. I’ll lay out some options for digital vs. snail mail and what information to include, but the key thing to remember is this: the worst thank you note is no thank you note. Let’s break it down.

Why send a thank you note?

There are a few great reasons to send a thank you note. First, it shows your respect for the people who took time to meet with you. Interviewing at an executive level means you are interviewing with the top people of the organization so you can be sure they’re not looking for ways to fill their time. Thank them for the time they spent with you.

Secondly, it sets you apart. When you dedicate time to carefully craft a personal message (more about that later) it sends a message about your character and your diligence to do the right thing.

Thirdly, it shows your interest in the role and their company. This extra step affirms that you are serious about their open position, and you appreciate their consideration.

Digital vs. Snail Mail

Both email and physical cards are acceptable ways to say thank you – there are advantages to both.  Email is sure to get to the right person in a timely manner whereas a physical card may take some time, especially as people work from home more and more.  But the great advantage to a handwritten note is that it is more memorable.  It could give you the edge you need when an organization is choosing between two great candidates.  Our recommendation?  Send both – a digital thank you and a physical thank you!

An email can provide all the great content that you want to communicate to the interviewer and the physical card can be the next level of appreciation.  Choosing to send both may not always be realistic, depending on your circumstances, but with either form, we recommend that you send it within 24 hours of your interview.  This conveys your eagerness but also provides you with adequate time to reflect and craft a meaningful message.

Who should receive a thank you note?

Write a thank you note to everyone you interviewed with.  That means writing individual notes to each person, not just a group email to all.  Make these notes personal and unique by mentioning something specific to that person.  Avoid sounding canned and generic!

If you have multiple interviews with the same company, send notes following each round of interviews.  To really set yourself apart, send a note to the receptionist or whoever may have been involved in coordinating the interview or greeting you at the door.  These extra notes don’t take long and can make a great impression.  Additionally, it could really make someone’s day!

Proofread your thank you note!

Don’t undo the good feelings of receiving a thank you note by having typos. Misspellings and grammar mistakes are more and more common in our fast-paced world.  However, don’t let that be an excuse for letting them slip through. Typos send a message – and it’s not a favorable one.

It can be hard to proofread your own work because your mind reads what you intend to say.  If you have someone who can read over them, do so.  If you don’t have anyone handy, I recommend reading the note out loud.  That’s a trick I learned in college that has saved me several times.  Another option is to set the note aside for an hour or more, then return to it with “fresh eyes” to reread what you’ve written.

Also, watch out for names!  Especially if you are sending a similar email to multiple people, double and triple check the name to be sure you have the correct name lined up with the right email address.

What do you write in your thank you note?

This bulleted list provides a good outline:

  • Express your appreciation for the interviewer’s time.
  • Briefly reinforce why you’re interested in the job and why you would be a good fit.
  • Include something that you and the interviewer discussed that makes the thank you more personal.
  • Clarify any topic that came up during your conversation that you feel needs more clarity now that you’ve had time to process.

The key to making your words really have impact is creating a customized message.  If you and the interviewer really connected about a personal commonality such as a local sports team or a love for art or both having kids in T-ball, etc., include a quick sentence about that.

The time commitment is worth it!

As you’ve read this article, you have probably come to realize that thank you notes are not something you can crank out in 30 seconds.  They take careful consideration and attention-to-detail.  However, those extra minutes could make the difference of being offered a job or not.

Even if you feel like you completely botched the interview, a thank you note is important.  Following up a poor experience with a positive note could go a long way in smoothing the road for future interactions.  You never know how influential the note can be.  I’ve even heard of an organization that reconsidered a candidate because of the thank you note following a less-than-excellent interview.

Thank you notes are worth the time.  Write them well to set yourself apart from your competition.

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