Categorized | Job Hunting

The Case: Thank You Notes & Follow-Up Letters for Interviews

Posted on 10 October 2010

During a job interview, candidates will often try to sell themselves–their skills, experience, education, and personality–to a potential employer. But a great interview follow-up can really tip the scales in your favor. Though often neglected, interview follow-ups help potential employees close the deal.

Proactive Sales Tools

Experts agree: A well-prepared candidate will use a written interview follow-up to sell themselves to a company. Consider what these three professional recruiters had to say.

  • Clayton Glen has worked in human resources for 12 years, and has recruited for hundreds of positions in the United States, South Africa, and Europe. He describes interview follow-up letters as a proactive sales tool, one that says positive things about the writer. Yet most candidates choose not to take this step. “I’ve seen very little of it,” Glen says. “When people have done it, I’ve been very impressed.”
  • Colin Williams, who has worked in recruitment for 16 years, likens interviews to sales meetings. “If you go out to meet a client, you better believe you’d follow it up with a letter,” he says. Williams estimates he gets a follow-up letter for less than five percent of the interviews he conducts. Several times, he has seen people actually land the job based on the follow-up letter. “Their follow-up letter swung the whole thing in their favor,” he says.

    Write something that lets the interviewer know you learned something important about them, because it can tilt the balance.


  • Melissa Carlin, a recruiter for almost six years, says that while the follow-up won’t make or break the deal, “it’s another way of getting your name back on their desk and [allowing] them to entertain the possibility of giving you the job.” While not every employer will expect a follow-up, Carlin describes it as “another opportunity to sell yourself.”

How to Send Thank You Notes & Follow-Up Letters

pigeon letter icon The Case: Thank You Notes & Follow Up Letters for InterviewsThere is some disagreement as to the best way to send thank you notes. Ultimately, the candidate will have to decide upon the preferred method of delivery, based on company culture and the relationship with the interviewer.

Some industries, such as high-tech and software, prefer e-mail correspondence. Glen is in charge of people, finance, and administration at an audio recognition firm based in London and Palo Alto, CA. He wants follow-ups by e-mail only. “The company I represent is an extremely electronic organization,” he says, “we don’t have time to have bits of paper hanging around.”

At the other extreme is Carlin, who works for a New York-based firm that recruits for all industries. She adamantly prefers a handwritten note; if one’s handwriting is sloppy, a typed note on personalized stationary will suffice. “I think e-mails and faxes are terribly inappropriate,” she says. She cautions, however, against writing a thank you notes on a candidate’s current employer letterhead. “People will be judging your character and your ethics at every stage of the interview,” she says. “It’s unethical to use company letterhead for anything outside of business.”

Williams, currently the business development manager for a software consultancy based in Reading, England, is happy to receive interview correspondence by either snail mail or e-mail. “I think the main thing is that someone took the time to follow-up,” he says.

Whatever the mode of delivery, the important thing is to send it, preferably within 48 hours of the interview.

What to Write in Thank You Notes

thank you and Follow up The Case: Thank You Notes & Follow Up Letters for InterviewsIn their correspondence, candidates should mention what about the position interests them, and what qualities they have that make them suitable for the job. Carlin advises thanking the interviewer for their time in four sentences or less, keeping it simple and to the point. She also thinks it is wise to add a few personal touches.

Williams agrees. If you can write a thank you notes that lets the interviewer know you learned something important about them, it can tilt the balance. “If we support the same football team, we like the same band, it’s nice,” he says. He compares the interview process to dating. “Though there are those who like to play hard to get, we tend to like people who like us,” says Williams.

Always double-check for spelling and grammatical errors.

Well Worth the Effort

Why don’t more people follow up? Some are too timid. “People have an expectation that the company owns the channel of recruitment,” says Glen. “They think it might be perceived as forward to do that.” But most just don’t take the time.

Even if second or third interviews are scheduled, the employer always appreciates follow-up letters and thank you notes. “It’s the mark of a true professional,” adds Williams.

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1 Comments For This Post

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