Nervous and uncertain – or, we hope, confident and assured, you sailed through your first-ever phone interview. You even made sure to ask the critical question in response to your interviewer’s ‘questions for me?’ query: “Where do we go from here?”
For that brilliant question, you got the standard, if temporising answer: “We have several more job candidates to talk to…”.
Hiring managers are very good at not giving a glimmer of hope to any interviewee; even the “What are your salary expectations?” question should not be construed as an indication that you will get the job.
What your prospective employers are waiting for is your next step. Do you know what it is? A well-written thank-you note!
Studies show that only about a quarter of all job applicants actually send a thank-you letter after their interview.
Those who are negligent of that small duty deprive themselves of a further opportunity to raise their profile and keep their name at the forefront of their interview panel’s considerations.
Your Superprof cannot bear for you to miss any opportunity for advancement; that is why we’ve put this article together on the politics of thanking and how it should be done.
Forget Miss Manners; this advice with have you covered!
Why Write a Letter?
The primary reason to write a thank-you note after the interview is that it is simply good manners; you should always thank someone who does something for you.
You might argue that an interviewer’s job is to conduct interviews of people who sent in applications; therefore it should not be incumbent on you to thank them for doing so.
Might we infer by that that you wouldn’t thank a server for bringing your food in a restaurant, a shop clerk for helping you find the very thing you were looking for and your family for lavishing gifts on you for your graduation?
Some hardened recipients of such benevolence would insistently aver that, indeed, you should not have to thank people for giving you your due or merely doing their job. Remember: that hiring manager took the time to go through your well-written CV and read your cover letter, and then conducted a phone interview; isn't this small formality the least you could do?
However, the majority of us reflect on all of those painstaking thank-you cards our parents made us write after reaping any holiday bounty, to those who thought enough of us to give us a gift. We might consider that early conditioning for a widely-accepted social norm.
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Why should thanking a prospective employer be outside of that norm?
After all, they hold the key to our possible future employment; treating them in a socially acceptable manner should be par for the course.
Far more than merely thanking them for their time, your thank-you note serves you in other ways.
Imagine the plight of the hiring manager: desk full of more- or less-well-written resumes and cover letters, scanning each one for signs of potential suitability for the job and compatibility with their corporate culture.
Out of possibly hundreds of applications – every one of which s/he must read, only a fraction of them might be deemed suitable for further scrutiny.
And then, there are the interviews. How many job candidates will s/he talk with? Where do you fall in? Were you the first, somewhere in the middle… dead last?
In this whirlwind of information that s/he is subjected to, how can you be sure your name will stand out? A thank-you note is the best way to keep yourself visible amid the storm.
It gives you the chance to bring up things you might have forgotten in the interview or expound on a topic the interviewer touched on. It also proves to them that you have taken time to reflect on the interview and have further thoughts you’d like to share.
Just do it carefully; consider the ‘what not do to’ segment at the end of this article.
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Writing an Actual Letter
In pondering your interview follow-up, why not consider a typed letter? After all, you’ve already typed up your cover letter and curriculum vitae; would printing and sending another letter hurt?
Although written letters are more in-line with face to face interviews, nothing says you can’t send such a missive, even if time would argue against it: by the time your intended recipient reads it, you might already be on Round Two of the interview process.
Still, should you decide that this is the format for your demonstration of courtesy and appreciation, here are a few simple rules to follow:
- Follow business letter formatting but omit the subject line. Be sure to write your interviewer’s name, not ‘To Whom it may Concern’!
- Make reference to the position you applied for
- Touch on a specific aspect of the interview – you might expound on an answer you gave, for example
- Indicate again that you have researched the company by reflecting on an aspect of its mission statement or the work done there.
- Sign off with ‘Sincerely’ or ‘Warm Regards’ rather than ‘For Your Consideration’ or, worse: ‘Cheers’
Your letter should not be more than one page long; remember that HR managers are busy and might not have a lot of time to read any correspondence. You should send your letter no later than one day after your interview.
Your turn to chime in: what is the best formula for interview-winning cover letters?
Sending a Thank You Email
Time and trends are bucking the quaint tradition of mailing letters; these days, communication is all about convenience and speed.
In your case, just coming off your phone interview, speed is of the essence.
The hiring manager is not waiting for any thank-you letters, emailed or otherwise; it’s quite possible s/he is already talking with the next job applicant by the time you get your thoughts in order and start typing.
What do you think the reaction would be if s/he returns to his/her workstation to check email after that interview, and sees your name pop up?
An electronic interview thank-you note takes a lot of the guesswork out of drafting a thank-you letter but you should exercise care in your writing and formatting.
First, what will you write about, besides phrases that show your appreciation?
Hopefully, you followed the advice from our ‘How to prepare for a phone interview’ article and took copious notes during your phone interview, especially of what your interviewer said. If so, it is time to put them to work.
Review your interview notes to find something specific you said during the interview that could use more clarification, or that you especially liked. For instance, your interviewer might have said something that particularly resonates with you.
The first paragraph of your thank-you email should contain ‘Thank you for taking the time to discuss with me aspects of the job I applied for.’ and more in that vein.
Your second paragraph should touch on something s/he said: ‘When you said ____, I really couldn’t help but think that this position is perfect for me because _____.’. In other words, draw another connection between yourself and your job.
A third paragraph might clarify something you said during the interview or, perhaps, reiterate that you understand something s/he explained to you.
A ‘Sincerely’ closing and you’re done!
Also, discover more about preparing for a phone interview…
What Not to Write in Your Thank You Note
Now that you’re completely sold on the idea of writing thank-you notes, we throw caution into the mix.
1. Less is more: no matter how lofty your ideas, try to keep them concise. Express yourself in short paragraphs, not long-winded dissertations – hiring managers have little time to untangle winding, convoluted thoughts.
2. Don’t write just because convention says you have to; as always, sincerity is key. A thoughtful follow-up that addresses a specific point or topic discussed in the interview is far more appropriate than a hollow ‘thank you for your time’. It will be better received, too!
3. Avoid copying: a common ‘complaint’ of hiring managers who conduct panel interviews is that everyone is treated to the same ‘thank you’. Rather than CC’ing everyone you think might enjoy hearing from you, write an original letter to each one. If that seems too much, write either the entire panel one letter or address it only to the lead interviewer.
In that same vein, don’t copy a letter you found online and send it!
4. Asking for social media connections: It’s a good idea to encourage further contact. It’s a bad idea to do so in your thank-you letter, especially if said media is Facebook or Instagram.
Professional sites such as LinkedIn are only marginally better but you still shouldn’t encourage social media connections this early in the hiring process.
5. Going over why you think you bombed: a thank-you letter is not the way to wheedle or explain your perceived interview shortcomings. Such tactics smack of the naughty child who swears s/he could be better if only s/he were given another chance – and will be received in kind.
6. Formatting your thank-you email like a business letter. An email should look like an email, not an electronic business letter. You don’t need to put your contact information, the date, the company’s address or a subject line in the email body.
And, as always, proofread before you send. In fact, get a few pairs of eyes on your thank-you letter; you never know what three people might miss that a fourth will catch.
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