Do you know what the biggest secret is to writing a great thank you note? It’s simply being conscious of the fact that you will want to write one after the interview, but it’s being conscious of that fact before and during the interview! If you know you’re going to want to write a thank you note afterwards, well when you walk in and you see the receptionist’s business card on the front desk available for the taking, you’ll remember to take one! When you meet with the people who will be interviewing you, you’ll remember to ask them, “Do you have a business card?” and if they don’t, you’ll know to ask reception on the way out for that person’s email address. Have you ever tried to call get someone’s email address from the Receptionist? Personally I’ve found that to be hit or miss; sometimes you get it, sometimes you don’t. But if you are there in person, and the person at the front desk knows you were there for an interview, stopping by to ask on the way out, “Hi, I just finished a really great interview and I’d love to send [name] a thank you note. Do you know what his/her email address is so I can do that?” That might not work every time, but your chances are significantly greater doing it that way than by trying to call on the phone later. They get lots of calls from sales people trying to names and email addresses and they’ve been trained not to give that information out.
The other reasons to keep the thank you note in mind before the interview even starts is so you’ll be on the lookout for positive conversations and different events that happen throughout the interview that you can mention within your thank you note, AND you’ll remember to ask about a time frame to follow up after the interview, which again, you’ll mention in the thank you note.
And before we talk about specifically how to write the thank you note, let’s get the big thank you note debate out of the way right up front here. The debate of course is should you send it via email or hand write a note or both? Obviously if this is a well-known debate, there are strong opinions on both sides of the issue, I will grant that, but I’ll share my opinion here and why I believe so strongly in it. I recommend that you email it, every time. If you’re going to do both, okay, but email it the same day as the interview. If you just send it via snail mail, the job could be filled by the time they receive it. It’s also harder to forward that to other people on the team. They’d have to physically walk around to everyone and show it to them, and stand there when they read it, just awkward. Whereas with an email they can just forward it to that person. Why would they need to forward it, you ask? I’ll explain that when we talk about the elements that need to go into writing it, but for now, it’s important to know that emailing is really the best option…with ONE exception. I had a candidate once do something very unusual, but it went over really well with the client so I thought I would share it with you here in case you want to try it.
It was a hand written thank you note, and if you’re going to try this you really should have good hand writing skills, but what he did was he had pre-written most of his thank you note ahead of time. He addressed it, had one for each person he met with, and a couple extras that weren’t addressed in case he met with more people than he was expecting to. He just left the middle paragraph incomplete for each one and then left them in his car. After the interview, he went out to his car, finished the thank you notes very quickly, and then walked back in and handed them to the receptionist! He asked her if she could give them to the appropriate people, thanked her for her help with it, reiterated what a pleasant experience the day had been, including his interactions with her, and then left. That went over big. I know that VERY few people would be willing to give that a try, but I wanted to at least mention it just in case you are one of those people who would be willing to give it a shot. Even with that though, I’d still recommend following up with an email to make sure they were received. By doing so, you’re also giving each interviewer an easy way to get back to you by putting an email in their inbox. Now they don’t have to go looking for your resume to find your email address because it’s right there for them.
So let’s talk about how to write the thank you note itself. It should be brief, 3 to 4 paragraphs that are 1 to 4 sentences long at the most. And as we’ve talked about throughout this program so far, the best way to get someone interested in you is to be interested in them, not to tell them to be interested in you. So here’s where I disagree with most of the published information that you’ll find out there, which typically says that you should tell them why you fit the position and again, like we talked about earlier, that it’s in their best interest to offer you the job. They don’t say that in those exact words, instead they say to explain that you understand the position and then list the elements of your background that fit that description and that you would be the best candidate for the job. Statements that say, “I know I can help you do…” whatever it is they need done is very presumptuous. Being presumptuous is NOT a likable trait. Remember, they are going to hire the person that they like the best, not necessarily the most qualified person, so you need to stay focused on being someone whom they would enjoy being around, and that holds true here, even in the thank you note. I’m not saying don’t list your skills out and how they fit the position, but we’re going to do it in a little different manner than what you’ve seen before.
So let’s break this down. If you were calling each other by your first names throughout the interview, stay consistent here, “Dear [first name]”. If they were addressing you as Mr. or Ms., then do the same here.
The first paragraph needs to start by, of course, thanking them for the time they took out of their day and gave to you do discuss the position. That’s what they’re expecting to see there, so let’s make them feel comfortable by giving that to them. Here’s a good opening statement:
Thank you for taking the time to talk with me today about your [title] position. This seems like an exciting opportunity and I’m very interested in pursuing it further. I appreciate your consideration.”
The next paragraph is where you can identify some skills you have that match what they’re looking for, but you don’t want to do it in a presumptuous way. For example, if this was a job for our old friend Frank Ferter, who previously worked at Hot Dog, Incorporated as a Java Developer, he might say something like this:
“You mentioned the importance of the Java applications being developed for your largest client, and as a Java Developer with more than 10 years of experience, I would be excited to join your team and contribute to the success of those applications. I understand the significance of delivering quality to every client, especially to one so important to your company. I would love the opportunity to help.”
By phrasing this the way that Frank did here, he didn’t say, “I know I could add value immediately because I’m a top dog.” …sorry, I can’t let that analogy go. Frank Ferter just so you know was actually inspired by my first company I worked for as a recruiter way back in 1998, Parallel Partners, really great company owned by Frank and Saven Bellarmino. Well Frank Bellarmino always trained the new recruiters he had a sample resume he would always use of a candidate he named Frank Ferter, and he was real hot dog. Frank always got a kick of that and so did we, well Frank and Saven just recently decided to retire, actually the same month that I’m recording this video, so as a tribute to Frank and Saven Bellarmino, two of the greats in this industry, I just had keep Frank Ferter alive. Small tangent there, sorry, back to Frank Ferter’s thank you note. He didn’t say, “I know I can help you because I’m so great.” Instead, he focused on the importance of the project at hand, he identified himself as someone who has 10 years of experience, that delivering quality is important to him and that it means a great deal to the company that he delivers quality, and that he would LOVE the opportunity to help. Not that he knows he could help, but that he would love the opportunity to help. That gives an entirely different feeling to the reader, and the implied message isn’t calling into question whether or not Frank has the ability to help, which, “I know I can help with this” does call that into question, the reader thinks to themselves, “Can you really help? Let me look at your qualifications again to see if you really can.” No. Instead, this puts the emphasis on how important their project is and then the FEELING this person would get by helping. Franks ABILITY to help is assumed and isn’t in question. If anything is in question, it’s whether or not he would really LOVE to work on this project, but it’s NOT on whether or not can do the job. Does that make sense?
Now the 3rd paragraph can go in a couple different directions. First, if you feel like you really can do this job and you want this job, but you feel like you are probably not going to get the job because of a major mess up in the interview; you just didn’t do a good job of getting a point across, this is a good place to address it.
“During the interview I feel like I could have done a better job of explaining my experience using PHP. This truly is a strength of mine, having more than 5 years of hands on experience, however I fear that didn’t come across as I intended. I would welcome further conversation about it if you are open to another conversation.”
I know a paragraph like that is making the resume writers and business letter writers and the outplacement firms out there just cringe. “Hhhuhhh, you can’t say that! Just reiterate your strengths in that area, NEVER point out a weak spot in the interview!”
Here’s the thing, and you’ll hear me say this again and again through the interview training portion of this program. I’m a sales person, and I approach this whole job search process from a sales person’s perspective. Essentially, as a job seeker, you are a commissioned sales person. You need to make 1 sale, and to make that sale you need to understand the selling process. So all my tactics here through this program are inspired by selling, and hopefully you’re seeing a little bit of that in how the 2nd paragraph was constructed. It’s written in a way that will 1, generate interest by showing interest, 2, generate interest by instilling confidence in your skills, and 3 generate interest by showing your understanding of making them look good in front of others.
Now, if a good sales person walks out of a sales call and they know they messed something up, they don’t go back and try to sell the product even harder and emphasize the benefits of the product even more. No, they need to own up to the fact that a mistake was made and try to correct the mistake. By doing so, they directly address the fears of the potential buyer who saw the mistake. They display honesty in their approach, which is a very likable characteristic, and it helps build rapport with that person by showing vulnerability, and you know what? This might not work, but it for sure gives you a better chance to reviving the situation than just going back and trying to push harder that you are fully qualified, and that’s all we can really do here. Just give ourselves the best chance to make the sale, or, to get the offer.
However, I mentioned this 3rd paragraph can go in a couple of different directions. I would ONLY recommend addressing a weak spot in the interview like we just did if you are convinced it’s a show stopper; that you will not get the job because of whatever that mistake was. If there were some things that happened in the interview that honestly could have gone a little better, but they weren’t big enough to cost you an offer, don’t mention them. Remember, whatever you shine your spotlight on is what they are going to look at, and if you shine it on everything that went wrong in the interview, that’s what they’re going to remember about you. The purpose of this thank you letter is to get your name in front of them again, and generate positive feelings about you as they reflect back on the candidates they met with.
So here’s the other direction you can go in with this. Find a way to compliment someone else in the process very quickly here, and it can be anyone you met that day. I’ll give you an example:
“I also want to just quickly say that Kim at the front desk was exceptional. I arrived a bit early, and she was extremely friendly and conversational, really made me feel comfortable. I just thought you should know.”
This needs to come across as sincere, not like you’re just trying to compliment someone for the sake of complimenting someone. But even if you do, I’ll tell you that in my experience, less than 30% of people going on interviews are sending ANY kind of a thank you note, and 5% of those have typos on them, which is a killer by the way. So just sending a thank you note will be somewhat unexpected, and adding a quick compliment in there will definitely be unexpected.
But doing it will do 2 things for you. First, as the old saying goes, “What Patrick says about Peter, says more about Patrick that it does about Peter.” As you compliment others, you’re making a statement about yourself and what a good person you are.
Secondly, think about what will likely happen with that thank you note. Chances are EXCELLENT that it will be shared with Kim. That’s going to make the person forwarding it to Kim feel good for having the chance to send her a feel good letter like that, it’s going to make Kim feel good for getting a letter like that, and it’s going to give both of them an opportunity to have a feel good conversation about that nice letter. Now, I forgot, who was it that created all these good feelings? Oh yeah, that was YOU!! Now when they reflect back on the 3 finalists they interviewed for this position, who do you think they’re going to feel best about? Bingo.
And again, it’s another reason to send this via email, because it makes it easier to forward. If they have to walk it over, it might be forgotten about and might not happen.
If you’re not comfortable doing this, and you don’t have any major mishaps to address, don’t feel like this paragraph is a must, the others are each a must, but this one is just if you feel comfortable.
You can close the note with a very quick 3 line paragraph, such as, “Thanks again for your time today, I really enjoyed meeting you. As we discussed, I’ll follow up with you on Friday if I haven’t heard from you by then. I look forward to talking with you again soon.” And then a “Sincerely,” and your name.
If you met with more than one person, I do recommend sending a different note to each person, but personalize each one. Make sure you reference something unique that you talked about with that person. If you send the exact same note to 4 different people, or even 2 different people, and then they compare what you sent each of them, suddenly you’re not as sincerely and thoughtful as you once were.
Most importantly of all, and I briefly mentioned this earlier, but you absolutely have to proofread this many times over, and have someone else proofread it as well. If you’re working with a recruiter who knows the client, have them proofread it for you also because they might be able to offer a suggestion or two based on what they know about the people you met with. I’ve seen thank you notes cost people jobs that they were going to get because of the thank you note they sent. It had typos and grammatical errors on it, so they were out. So you must get that right. However if you’re going to send one, and you’re going to proofread it, you might as well also write one that will help sell you to the employer. Not by hard selling your skills, but by touching on the psychological buttons that have been proven to endear one person to another, thereby creating even more interest in you.
Just remember: Step 1, you need to know going in that you will want to send a thank you note afterwards so you get the contact information you need, and so you keep an eye out for things to write about, like the very nice receptionist, and then write a brief, compelling thank you note. You can do this, give it a try.
Sample Thank You Letter
Thank you for taking the time to talk with me today about your [title] position. This seems like an exciting opportunity and I’m very interested in pursuing it further. I appreciate your consideration.
You mentioned the importance of the Java applications being developed for your largest client, and as a Java Developer with more than 10 years of experience, I would be excited to join your team and contribute to the success of those applications. I understand the significance of delivering quality to every client, especially to one so important to your company. I would love the opportunity to help.
I also want to just quickly say that Kim at the front desk was exceptional. I arrived a bit early, and she was extremely friendly and conversational, really made me feel comfortable. I just thought you should know.
Thanks again for your time today, I really enjoyed meeting you. As we discussed, I’ll follow up with you on Friday if I haven’t heard from you by then. I look forward to talking with you again soon.