Writing Thank-You Notes

Once you've finished an interview (or a day of interviews), your work isn't quite done. Sending thank-you notes is not just polite, it's expected.

The main reason you are thanking the person or people who interviewed you is that they took time out of their work day to sit down and talk with you. For most people conducting interviews, hiring new employees is not something they do as a regular part of their job, but something they had to squeeze in among all the other things on their plate.

What's considered appropriate for thank-you notes has changed over time. Handwritten notes used to be the standard, with e-mail being appropriate only for technology companies and the like. Now, everything from applications to arranging interviews is likely to be done electronically. In my opinion, for most organizations, sending an e-mail thank you is fine.

It's to your benefit to get a thank-you note out as soon as possible (another reason I suggest e-mailing it). Decisions may be made quickly, even within the day if you're one of the last ones to be interviewed, and you don't want your notes still in the mail when they hire someone else. If you're set on writing handwritten notes and you know ahead of time who you're interviewing with, get the note(s) addressed and started before you go so you just need to personalize and sign them before leaving them at the front desk.

What makes a good thank-you note? Here are my suggestions:

  • Write an individual note to every person who interviewed you. Yes, even if it's 20 different people. Make your best effort to find e-mail addresses for everyone. Every one of those people took time out of their day to talk with you, and everyone appreciates being individually thanked (which may influence the feedback they provide about you).
  • Keep it short. You're already thanking them for their time — don't make them spend much more of it reading your note. It's the act of sending it as much as the content that matters.
  • Include a mention of the position you interviewed for. If they're hiring for multiple positions at the moment, it will help refresh their memory about who you are.
  • Personalize it. Mention something that came up during the interview so it's clear that you listened well and that you're not sending off a form letter. If you interview with multiple people, this is why I recommend asking questions about each person's area of work. Choose something that specific person mentioned in response to a question you had.
  • Reiterate your interest in the position. Explain how the interview process increased your interest or solidified your belief that this position would be a good fit for you.
  • If you need to clarify something, now's the time. If you walked away from the interview feeling like you didn't explain yourself well on a particular topic, left someone with a mistaken impression, or just should have mentioned something you forgot, you can include this in the thank-you note. Don't go overboard with explanations or apologies; just include a line saying something like, "I wanted to clarify that..."

Here's what it looks like all together:

Thank you very much for taking the time to talk with me this morning about the Marketing Intern position. It sounds like a great opportunity to put my skills into practice while gaining a lot of valuable experience, which is exactly what I'm looking for right now. It was great to hear your own experience about starting out as an intern at Nike. Thank you again for your time, and have a great day!