Don't Think Thank You Notes Are Important After an Interview? Think Again

woman in suit holding card that says Thank you

There is a great phrase in a Don Henley song and it goes like this, “How can love survive in such a graceless age?” Now he’s talking about love and I am talking about courtesy, but you catch my drift. In this graceless age where people look at their phones when you are talking to them, only communicate via text or email, scroll head down on their phone while a speaker is presenting, post inappropriate pictures and commentary on Facebook, it’s no wonder many people do not send thank you notes. Don’t even get me started on newlyweds who don’t send one for a gift or even worse send a printed postcard -- but I guess that is better than no acknowledgment at all. At least I know they got the gift!

Recently, Biospace conducted a survey asking whether life sciences professionals as job seekers send a thank you note after the interview. Over 70% responded yes. In my experience as a professional, that seems high, however, this is great for the life sciences community. For the 30% who indicated that they do not send thank you notes, you may want to reconsider.

We always stress to our candidates to send a hand-written thank you note after an interview. If you are interviewing in person, we recommend you bring the notes with you, and after the interview, hand write a note in the car and deliver it back to the receptionist. If that is not possible -- for example it is a telephone interview, or the front desk isn’t staffed, or the office is closed by then, you can mail it. Many candidates ask me if an e-mail thank you is appropriate and while it is better than nothing, it doesn’t take that much time, effort or money to mail or drop off a handwritten note. You don’t know if that email ends up in the spam filter and the recipient never receives it. It is too easy to delete emails.

Why send a thank you note after the interview? It sets you apart from the rest of the pack and tells the interviewer you have manners. If they must decide between two qualified candidates, it could swing the decision in your favor. Many years ago, my daughter got an internship at a company because they saved her thank you note in a file after the job fair. When they were ready to hire, they went to that file. Even if you don’t get the job, it can leave a favorable impression for future opportunities.

A good thank note does not have to be long or flowery. It should be on nice paper or card stock – don’t tear it out of your binder or off your legal pad. You can purchase inexpensive boxes of thank you cards. If your handwriting is not legible, take the time to print it. Here are some phrases you can use:

  • Thank you so much for taking the time to visit with me. It was great to learn about your company and the position. I appreciate the opportunity to be considered and look forward to the next step. Sincerely, (Candidate and phone number).
  • If you want to make it a little longer, recommends:

Hello <Interviewer’s Name>,

I wanted to take a second to thank you for your time <yesterday/Friday/etc>. I enjoyed our conversation about lt;specific topic you discussed> and enjoyed learning about the <Job Title> position overall.

It sounds like an exciting opportunity, and an opportunity I could succeed and excel in! I’m looking forward to hearing any updates you can share, and don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any questions or concerns in the meantime.

Thanks again for the great conversation <yesterday/Friday/etc>.

Best Regards,

<Your Name>

  • And occasionally the interviewer may inform you that will not move forward. It is a still an opportunity to shine:

Thank you so much for taking the time to visit with me. It was great to learn about your company and the position. I appreciate your candor about my prospects for this position. I hope you will consider me in the future if something arises that would be a great fit. I would love to work for your organization. Thank you again.

Many years ago, a roommate of mine (straight A student) said, “You don’t have to do that much more to set yourself apart from the rest of the crowd.” A thank you note can do that.

And this has nothing to do with interviewing, but some of the most successful people I know send a note at least once a week to someone who has made an impact on their life or to congratulate someone or to say thank you for kindness or a job well done. They practice gratitude because to paraphrase Mr. Henley “that is how we can survive in such a graceless age.”

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