Why Write a Thank-You Letter?
You’ve already gotten in the door for an interview using your professionally written resume and cover letter. You feel confident, and you were able to establish easy rapport with the interviewer, but you’re anxiously waiting for an invitation for a second interview or job offer. You’re excited, but you know that there is competition for the position. What can you do to gain a competitive edge over the other candidates for YOUR position?
The answer is a well-written thank-you letter – the letter that acknowledges the time and consideration of the interviewer, thanks him or her, and further expresses your interest in the position.
Your follow-up letter is not only a matter of professionalism and courtesy, it’s also an opportunity to affirm your positive impression on the interviewer/hiring manager. Sending an appropriate follow-up letter can also give you a definite competitive edge over other candidates, especially if it is written carefully and strategically.
Rules for Writing the Thank-You Letter
To craft an appropriate thank-you letter, use the following guidelines: Send a follow-up letter the same day as the interview, so that the recipient receives it within a day or two. Send a letter to every person you have met with – each one has input on whether you get hired!
Make sure that the letter is written on a computer (not a typewriter, and not hand written) and is carefully proofed and spell-checked. Even one typo can negate a positive impression. In addition, the letter should be free of coffee stains, white out, cross-outs, and smudges. Blemishes signal a lack of care.
Mail a hard copy, and follow that up with a shorter email version of the letter. A rule of thumb: the email version of your thank-you letter should be no longer than what can be read on the computer screen without scrolling down the page. Any longer than that, and it may not get read.
The hard copy shows you went out of your way and that you understand business etiquette – it is a must. Everyone, on the other hand, reads his or her email – it’s fast, it’s efficient, and it shows you’re computer savvy.
Both postal and email addresses are usually on an interviewer’s business card. If not, ask his or her assistant for those missing details as you leave the interview. Having the interviewer’s business card also ensures that you spell his or her name and title correctly – another must.
To ensure that your thank-you letter – and you – stand out from the competition, use your letter as a marketing piece to further sell yourself for the position. Mention specifics from the interview, including ways that you can add to the firm’s bottom line (how you can make money, save money, or save time for the organization) and points of discussion that arose during the meeting. Make the letter personal – a form letter is considered insulting. The key is showing enthusiasm and making a statement of interest in the job.
The Three Main Parts of a Thank-You Letter
As with any letter, there are three main parts: the introduction, the main body, and the closing. In the introductory paragraph(s), you thank the interviewer for one or more of the following: taking the time to see you, giving you better insight into the position and the organization you would be working for, and considering your qualifications in light of the available job.
“Dear Bill, Thank you for taking the time today to interview me for the creative director position with XYZ Corp. I appreciate you considering my qualifications for the job as well as explaining more details about the job duties. One of the things I found most valuable was your perspective on the ideal candidate for the position.”
Next, in the main body of the letter, you use one or more paragraphs to reinforce the positive impression you tried to make during the interview and briefly restate why you think you would be an asset to the organization. In addition, you may want to offer additional information about your qualifications that you didn’t have a chance to mention during the interview. If during the interview you promised to provide additional information, you can do so now.
“In our meeting, you mentioned that you were looking for someone who had the ability to solve problems. In my position as creative director with ABC Corp., I was asked by my boss to create an animated graphic of himself jumping up and down. At that time, I didn’t know anything about creating animated graphics, but within three days I had delivered the graphic he requested – in time for an important presentation he was to give. My boss was thrilled!”
Finally, you may address questions that arose during the interview that you were not fully prepared to answer at the time. If you feel that the interviewer has doubts about your qualifications, you can use this opportunity to overcome those doubts by providing proof to the contrary. Be sure you come across sounding professional – not defensive.
“You mentioned that you are looking for someone with five years of experience as a creative director. Although, as we discussed, I only have four years as an actual creative director, my previous work in graphic design really gives me an edge over others. I have an eye for design that has been an asset to my current employer. In fact, my boss recently told me that my design sense has helped ABC Corp. win several lucrative contracts.”
In the third part of the cover letter, you close by ending on a warm note, thanking the interviewer again. You can also tell the interviewer that you want the job, if you do.
“Thank you again for taking the time to interview me today. I would very much like to work for XYZ Corp. as its next creative director. I look forward to hearing from you soon. Sincerely, Jackie Jobseeker”
If the hiring manager has offered you an opportunity for an interview, she’s already interested and will, in most cases, carefully read any material you forward to her post-interview – including a powerful, well-written, sales-directed thank-you letter. Job search does not stop with the interview. On the contrary, job search continues throughout the entire process, until you are sitting at your new desk in your new position. Thank-you letters are a critical part of this ongoing process. Use them to your advantage to get the job you want at the salary you deserve!