Did I Screw Up My Job Interview Thank You Letter?

What should I say in my job interview thank you letter? Do I even need an interview thank you letter?

Good questions. Glad you asked. I get all kinds of questions about thank you notes to send out after a job interview. More of your questions: When do I send the thank you note? To whom do I send it? And please please please, Ronnie Ann, precisely what words should I use in my thank you letter even though you don’t know anything about me or the company? ;-)

So in response, I offer the following “secrets”:

Five Secrets of Job Interview Thank You Letters

I think most of this is about the nervous feelings we get after an interview.  Once the job interview is over, it’s out of our hands and we don’t like that. So, as normal human beings, we want to take action – hopefully something that will increase our chances of getting the job.

And we focus on something we can control and decide if we write the perfect job interview thank you letter, we will strengthen our chances of getting the job.

Thank you letter secret #1

If I don’t like you, no thank you letter will help. If I really like you, I won’t hold the lack of a thank you letter against you.

Surprised?

I’ve looked at lots of job interview advice sites, and some of them make it sound like the interview thank you e-mail (or snail mail) is the be all and end all of the job interview process. It isn’t. I’ve hired folks who never sent a thank you note. Now it’s true I usually mention sending them myself on this blog, mostly to give folks something to do but also because it shows something about you. But in all likelihood, the mere act of not sending or sending a thank you letter won’t lose you the job or get the job for you.

Thank you letter secret #2

So does this mean you shouldn’t send one? No. It’s smart to send one. Why? Because you may be dealing with someone who is a stickler or just folks who appreciate the little courtesies of life; best to play it safe. And also because in a competitive market, even a tiny edge is worth the effort. So by all means, send the note(s) to each of the people who interviewed you. (A separate note is really nice rather than a group e-mail, even if you had a group interview.)

Thank you letter secret #3

So when should you send the thank you note?  It’s customary to send it as soon as possible, to reinforce their memory of you. But let’s say they tell you they’re interviewing over a period of a week or two (or more).  Sometimes, all things being equal, the person at the end of the job interview process gets the benefit of being fresh in their minds. Not fair, but it happens.

So if you already sent your note and you know the interview period is an extended one, it might be nice to follow up with a second note toward the end of the interviews just to remind them of how wonderful you are. :)  (More than one note – one every few weeks for instance – may also be useful for a very extended waiting period. But be careful not to flood them with e-mail.)

So what do you say in your follow-up note? Maybe you saw an interesting article related to the company or took a 1-day class that might make a difference. A short note saying you’re still interested along with the new information could help. But…

Thank you letter secret #4

If you try to tell them too much or go on and on about all the things you screwed up in the original job interview and use the thank you note to try to straighten things out or win them over, you risk hurting your chances rather than helping. With job interview thank you notes, less is more. (Remember…some people get hundreds of e-mails a day!)

Keep it short. Keep it simple. Be pleasant. Basically, unless they specifically asked for something from you, you just want to tell them how much you enjoyed meeting them and let them know you look forward to hearing from them soon. Maybe in between mention one thing you connected with in the interview or something you learned that especially interested you to help them remember you. And stop there. Write it in your own style and voice. Which brings me to the last secret…

Thank you letter secret #5

PLEASE don’t take a sample interview thank you letter you find on some website and use it verbatim. It will be missing your voice and personality, and most likely wind up sounding stilted or just like every other person out there doing the same thing.

Now I don’t really think the company will spot the similarity and fault you for your dastardly crime of thank you note plagiarism. But c’mon…you certainly can create a short and sweet note of your own. And a few sites I’ve noticed have sample thank you letters  that would actually hurt you if you used them. So be careful.

Best to just write your own. Of course, peeking at a sample or two is fine. But, unlike resumes and cover letters, a thank you note doesn’t rise to the level of requiring all that much help. Basically, you just need to include this simple thought, in one way or another, preferably in your own words and style:

Thank you for the interview!

Now was that so hard? Hope that helps.

But seriously…it’s the job interview itself as well as your skills – along with the chemistry between you and the interviewer – that will get you the job in the end. Little stuff like thank you notes (without typos) certainly help build the whole picture of who you are and what you offer the company. But, while colorful exceptions are always possible (especially in certain more informal/ non-traditional companies), it’s exceedingly unlikely a dazzlingly-worded thank you note alone will get you the job. (It could get you a second look, though.)

So by all means send a thank you letter – just keep it reasonably short and sweet, ok?   Oh…and if you don’t hear back, please don’t take that as a sign of anything. There are many reasons for people not to respond that in no way reflect on your chances…but that’s a whole other post! (See links below for some of the reasons.)

What’s your take? Was there a time when a thank you letter changed your mind about hiring someone? Also…if you have a colorful exception story about an interview thank you letter that actually got you the job, I’d love to read about it!

Some related Work Coach Cafe posts

What the Heck Goes On Behind the Scenes After a Job Interview?

How To Tell If a Job Interview Went Well

10 Impressions You Leave Behind After a Job Interview

12 Ways to Stay Sane After a Job Interview

Stuck in the Waiting Game After 2nd Interview

I Got the Post-Interview Temporary OCD Blues

10 Reasons You Didn’t Get the Job

 

About the author…

Ronnie Ann, founder of Work Coach Cafe, bases her real-world advice on her many years as an organizational consultant where she helped interview and hire people, added to a certificate from NYU in Career Planning & Development and her own adventures as a serial job seeker. She can also be found on her new blog, and on Google+.

Comments

  1. I write my thank you notes on small note cards, to prevent over-filling or looking like I’m under-filling.

    And I don’t know if it got me the job or not, but at my last job, they replied to my thank you email to give me my acceptance and start date– so they can’t have disliked it.

  2. Hey TEB! So nice to hear from you. I’ve missed you. Hope thigs are going really well in your new job.

    Clever about the cards. And I think in the niche field you’re in, a snail mail note does make an impression. But if I may be so bold, I also know you and I am sure they would have offered you the job anyway. The card just made it all the easier for them. ;-)

  3. Holly Andrews says:

    Take care with the spelling and grammar in your notes. We heard a sad story this summer from an HR manager who eliminated a promising candidate because of several errors in a thank-you note. Always pay attention to detail!

  4. Thanks for adding to the discussion Holly. Yes…grammar and spelling can knock you out of the running for sure. In this case, you talk about an HR manager who made the call – even if maybe the person’s real potential manager would have let it go. Bummer.

    We never know who might be there behind the scenes scrutinizing everything we’ve submitted to get the job. So when it comes to thank you notes, you are so right…keep it short, sweet and typo-free!

  5. I write my thank you notes on small note cards, to prevent over-filling or looking like I’m under-filling.

    And I don’t know if it got me the job or not, but at my last job, they replied to my thank you email to give me my acceptance and start date– so they can’t have disliked it.

  6. Hi DC!

    I like the idea of the small card and your reasons for doing it that way. From my own hiring experience, if the person isn’t qualified, no card no matter how wonderful is going to get them the job. But for someone I do like anyway, a note like the one you sent helps me feel even better about the person. Congratulations!

    Best of luck in your new job. Aaaah…”new job”. That has such a nice ring, doesn’t it? ;-)

    Ronnie Ann

  7. Help! I just realized I omitted a word in my thank you note (i.e., I am very interested the position . . . .). The employer specifically mentioned they wanted someone who had good attention to detail. Now that I’ve noticed the error, does it make sense to “fess up” and send a follow-up email with corrected wording? I’m afraid this will blow the opportunity for me and I really want this job!

  8. Hi Sue!

    I just happened to be online when your comment appeared. Interestingly enough, I once had that happen to me.

    This is a tough call only you can make of course. Might they not notice the omission? I have to admit I missed it when I read your comment quickly the first time. You could just let it go and hope the whole is greater than the parts – especially if everything else went really well.

    If they didn’t notice it and you send an e-mail pointing out your error, will that be viewed as sloppiness the first time or good follow up? Then again, what if they did see it and that one tiny error is enough to get you eliminated?

    A tough call indeed. I will tell you in my own situation I decided to take the chance and “fess up”. My reasoning was rather than sit feeling powerless – and I accepted that I may blow it just by writing – I wound up sending a brief, polite (but light-in-tone) e-mail noting the small error and saying I am embarrassed since I’m usually the one who catches typos. I didn’t make a big deal of it. And then I just reiterated I am still very interested and hope they are too.

    I figured if they eliminated me for going out of my way to show attention to detail (which you are still showing) and concern for honesty, then maybe it wasn’t the place for me anyway. And btw…I got the offer.

    Not saying you should follow what I did. Just sharing my reasoning.

    Please let us know what you decide and how it goes. Good luck, Sue!!

    ~ Ronnie Ann

  9. Mickey G. says:

    Of all the articles I’ve read on the web discussing sending thank you letters after a job interview, I have never come a more enlightening article.

    And you are right that not sending a thank you letter doesn’t diminish your chances of getting an offer at all. I got my last job without sending a single thank you letter!

    I did waste a ton of time and nice paper stock writing personalized thank you letters to all the other companies who never acknowledged my letter or got back to me to let me know I was out of the running!

    Now I’m back in the job market and won’t bother sending thank you letters. If they like me, they like me. And if they don’t, well, at least I didn’t waste any more time on them! ;)

    Your article should be very helpful to a lot of people looking for work right now. Thanks!

  10. TO MY WONDERFUL READERS:

    I’m on a BLOGGING BREAK. But couldn’t leave without letting you know how much I appreciate your visits. I hope in the meantime you will help each other where possible.

    And if you’re wondering why the break:

    Blogging Overload: Do You Give Yourself a Break?

    ~ Ronnie Ann

    P.S. Thanks Micki. On the other hand…for some people in some situations it might help. Personally, I do it anyway. I mean…what the heck!

  11. College girl says:

    I just had an interview this week with a lab and they really liked my attitude expected that I revealed one of my family members had cancer. Since their work is important in studying brain cancer, it was a interesting thought. I regret it now because I wasn’t suppose to reveal that. I sent a thank you letter, but my writing skills are poor and I felt that I should remind them of my organization skills. Does that sound like desperate person?

    • I don’t think it should be a problem that you revealed a family member has cancer. I do think if your writing skills are poor, you should make sure that you have someone proof your work — and you may want to work on improving them…it’s important that lab reports are mistake free ideally…

      Good luck and all the best,
      Chandlee

  12. I had an interview 9 days ago that I felt went really well. I also did a typing test, a MS Word test, and a grammar test beforehand and scored very high. After my interview I sent a thank you email to the 3 people who interviewed me. Unfortunately my brain was not quite all there due to a recent death in the family and I made a few errors. First I sent it as a group email instead of individual emails and secondly I mistyped the hiring managers last name in her email address. Needless to say the email to the hiring manager bounced back at me and now the other 2 interviewers were reading an email where I had misspelt the managers name. Of note, I did not misspell her name in the body of the email just in the address field. After a long agonizing few minutes wondering what to do I sent an email to the correct address of the hiring manager and noted my error to her and apologized. I’m wondering what everyone’s thoughts are on this – would something like this mess up my chances at the job??!!! It’s day 9 and no call back yet even though they said they were hoping to make a decision within a week but if they weren’t able to they would let me know that. As we’re going into the holiday season now and no one is likely to be in the office next week should I follow up with a phone call today to the HR rep?

    • Sara,

      Sorry to hear about what happened. Hopefully, no one will notice. I recommend you follow-up with HR on January 3 or 4th and let them know of your continued interest in the job. That’s really all you can do; don’t rule yourself out — often searches and hiring notifications do take longer than they should.

      Keep up your search in the interim, always good to have more options than you think you will.

      Good luck,
      Chandlee

  13. fashionable says:

    I recently applied and was invited to attend a casting call at a luxury retailer. After the meeting I sent a Thank You email to the HR Manager expressing my appreciation for being invited to the casting call and so on. Shortly afterwards I received an email from the recruiting coordinator to set up an interview with the Department Manager. The first thing the manager told me is the reason she called me in is because she was very impressed with the Thank You note I sent her. You just never know. I say put your best foot forward throughout the entire process from A to Z. Courtesy never hurts.

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