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Job Interview Nerves: Should I Apologize for Being Nervous in My Thank You Letter?

Arguably, the absolute power of a thank you note to actually win you the job is limited. Still – whether you got nervous in your job interview or not – sending a thank you letter after the initial interview or even later on in the hiring process is quite simply a smart thing to do. But the question of mentioning nervousness in that note is another thing…

Whether you get those jittery  interview nerves or stay calm and cool as a cucumber, here are basic tips on post-interview thank you notes: you want them to be short and sweet – a nice reminder of who you are and how well you would fit in with the rest of the company. And if you do have something extremely relevant to add that will reinforce your value (a new degree, an award you just received, or a congratulations on something good that just happened to the company), by all means include that too.

But it’s best NOT to introduce anything new (like being nervous in your job interview) that might undo all the hard work you put into that interview. No pleasant meandering chit-chat. No long interesting story about something that just happened to you – unless it’s absolutely positively relevant to the company’s needs.

As for the interview nerves question…it’s worth thinking about. Bringing up the subject of getting nervous – or mentioning interview nervousness in any way – in your after interview thank you note could at least conceivably affect their hiring decision – depending on how it’s handled.

Could a post-interview thank you letter hurt my chances?

For the most part, it can’t. Especially if you stick to the basics.  (Of course there are rare exceptions.) But if you do look online for sample thank you letters, please remember to put them in your own words and don’t just copy them word for word. Some of the samples I see online are so stiff and unnatural…and they’re certainly not geared to your actual experience. The last thing you want a potential employer to think is you can’t even write your own thank you letter!

But since this post is specifically about whether a post-interview thank you note is a good place to explain getting nervous during an interview, my answer to whether you should use your note to try to explain away your nervousness is also short and sweet:  “Probably not!”

Employers expect candidates will get nervous – at least to some extent – during the interview process. So unless you were pouring buckets of sweat like Albert Brooks in Broadcast News, you probably were far more aware of your jangly nerves than they were.

And by mentioning it at all in a post interview thank you note, you’ll only be leaving a reminder of the nervous you – creating a new brain cell for the interviewer that in effect links your name PLUS the word “nervous”.  Why do that to yourself!

Now if you really fell all over yourself during the interview and feel you have nothing to lose by addressing how nervous you were – and maybe adding something like you’d love another chance to show them who you really are – well, it might be worth a shot. On that point, I was just looking through my archives and found this post about someone who really screwed up his interview:

I Messed Up My Job Interview – What Can I Do?

In his case, he had nothing to lose by trying to recover from an especially bad interview. It was therefore at least worth the effort to use a thank you note to try to change the employer’s mind about giving him another chance. Unfortunately, it didn’t help.  But there were many reasons he didn’t get the job way beyond his nerves.

If you absolutely feel driven to mention your nervousness, just say it ever so casually ” I know I was a bit nervous and thank everyone for being so easy to talk to!” Or some variation of that idea. This turns your mention of nerves into a  compliment for them and doesn’t in any way detract from you and your qualifications for the job.

But personally, I still think you’re much better off staying away from the topic altogether.  Keep your thank you note polite (not too stiff) and direct – and try your best to leave an impression that’s positive.

Good luck!

What do you think? Should a job seeker bring up their nerves in a thank you note? Have you ever been very noticeably nervous in an interview?

Related posts from Work Coach Cafe:

Why Do I Get So Nervous During a Job Interview?

15 Things I Look for When I Interview People

18 Things You Can Do to Ace Your Job Interview

Did I Screw Up My Job Interview Thank You Letter?

Scary Job Interview Thank You Note Story

Job Interviews: Where Do You See Yourself Five Years From Now?

Job Interviews: What’s Your Greatest Weakness?

Job Interviews: What’s Your Greatest Strength?

10 Impressions You Leave Behind After a Job Interview

Please Help Me Ace My Phone Interview!

After an Interview: Can Weekly Follow-up Calls and Emails Help Get You 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. You raise a good question. I don’t think the nervousness should be mentioned. It sounds too defensive. Strike a better chord by writing a really good thank you note that shows confidence and interest.

  2. Marsha Shirley says:

    One thing to bear in mind is no matter how nice the interviewer seems, the workplace is no place for emotion. Your nervousness will go in one ear and out the other.

  3. I agree with Arlene. I would not mention nervousness in my thank you letter. Some people are better at showing skills and abilities in written words rather than speaking. Writing a positive thank you letter and showing your written communications skills will definitely make a better impression than explaining why you were nervous.

  4. Thanks Arlene, Marsha and Jim!

    While I strongly suggested not mentioning anything about nervousness, I had left a bit of wiggle room for the possibility (in rare cases) of addressing nervousness in a way that might help. But after reading your replies and those on LinkedIn where I also posted this, I have to say I agree that a thank you note focused on the positive is a much smarter approach. Even if a candidate was nervous, the positive note may leave enough of an impression to give her or him another chance.

    Thanks to all for your wisdom!

    ~ Ronnie Ann

    • So… I just had an interview for a job I really want. Nerves and a warm room lead to a very sweaty brow. I had to wipe a few times to the point where the interviewer asked if I needed a Kleenex. I passed but man was it distracting. I cooled off after a bit and was ok for the next two interviews.

      I sent off a thank you note and have already received a response thanking me for my time etc.

      I wish I would have said something on the spot but now I am STRONGLY considering mentioning the following reply:
      Thank you for the great feedback and quick response. I’ll keep my fingers crossed for now.

      On a side not, I know “”you’re never supposed to let them see you sweat” so I wanted to mention that I worked out yesterday morning and was still running hot at the interview.

      I look forward to hearing from you soon…

      Is it worth it or should I just let the chips fall where they will?

      I have the night to hear back and decide if I should even bother. Would love to hear some feedback as this is not the first time this has happened to me.

      • Susan P. Joyce says:

        Hi Josh,

        Not knowing the organization or the business, it’s difficult to tell how potentially damaging your sweat was. I would imagine that most bankers and investment counselors look for “cool” and unflappable employees. On the other hand, someone in construction probably wouldn’t be concerned at all.

        If you felt that the interviewer was very distracted, you might want to add your side note. My guess is that you were much more conscious and distracted than the interviewer, but I wasn’t there.

        Are there any questions that you perhaps could have answered better or an answer that could be clarified? Add a line or two about that, too.

        Good luck with your job search!
        Susan

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