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Simple Truths About Thank-You Letters

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Whatever the results of your personal interview evaluation, following up with a thank-you letter to the interviewer(s) is essential. It's astonishing that only a very small percentage of candidates actually follow through on sending thank-you letters. Yet, this is understandable, as it's so easy to rationalize skipping this step—especially in the throes of an intensive job search. You're busy every moment, following up on leads from networking contacts, combing the Internet and other sources for job opportunities, and perhaps even juggling one or more jobs simultaneously—all while coping with the day-to-day barrage of family issues, economic pressures, and assorted other emergencies that invariably plague all of us. In the time-starved lives many of us lead, any corner that can be cut becomes fair game. This particular corner, though, is one that should not be cut!

Here are 10 simple truths about thank-you letters:

  1. Sending thank-you letters to follow up on interviews is a vital step in the job-search process and can be decisive in winning job offers.
  2. Thank-you letters yield returns on investment, both immediate and long-term, that are well worth your time and effort.
  3. Send thank-you letters so that they arrive within 24 hours of your interview.
  4. Highlight key points that you believe are important to reiterate or clarify, or bring to the interviewer's attention (if they did not surface during your interview).
  5. Demonstrate that you have absorbed any information you learned about the organization during the interview.
  6. If you met other key people while you were visiting the organization, be sure to mention their names.
  7. Reconnect your skills and expertise to the organization's needs.
  8. Express your enthusiasm about the opportunity.
  9. Close with a call to action or by stating what your next step will be.
  10. If you decide for any reason that you no longer wish to pursue the opportunity, write to thank the interviewer and withdraw yourself from consideration.

The value of sending thank-you letters to everyone you interviewed with is well worth your investment of time and effort—and even postage! I've worked with numerous clients who are convinced that their thank-you letters were crucial in setting them apart from other candidates. They believe they would not have received their job offers and, ultimately, the jobs they pursued without having sent these potentially tie-breaking letters. In fact, a number of candidates were later told by their employers that their prompt and compelling thank you letters were ultimately the decisive, distinguishing factors in choosing from among very strong and similarly qualified candidates.

It's vital to send thank-you letters immediately. For optimal effect, take steps to ensure they arrive in the recipients’ hands within 24 hours of the interview, if at all possible. The target employer's timeline for filling the position is the key to determining your approach. If you believe that the hiring decision will be made imminently, then send an e-mail immediately following the interview. Follow it with a phone call within the next 24 to 48 hours, depending upon the target employer's stated schedule. Then send a letter, which can be a bit more extensive than the e-message, via overnight delivery.

Your interview experience should have provided you with some clues to the organizational culture, which will be helpful in deciding on the form that your thank-you communications should take. Remain mindful of time constraints imposed by the target employer's decision timeline. Faxing a conventional letter may be the most expedient option, depending on the circumstances and timing. Recognizing that it's dangerous to generalize, consider the following examples. It's often appropriate to send an e-mail to leading IT firms. By contrast, an exclusive, privately owned florist shop might warrant a handwritten note on elegant or quaint stationery or card, depending upon the nature of the shop. A conventional letter might be best for a community-based nonprofit organization. You might do well to send a uniquely designed, avant-garde, or classic card to an upscale, independent clothing store—again, depending on the type of merchandise and clientele. If you don't use fax or e-mail, and the recipient isn't local, it may be worth the cost and effort to send your communiqué via an overnight service to ensure next-day receipt.

Thank-you letters are important for all types of interviews, including in-person, telephone, video conference, and others. Be sure to make every effort to send some form of thanks to each and every person involved in the interview process. Mention the names of other people you met during your interview or tour of the organization. One of our clients sent 13 letters following an extensive process that involved two days of meetings with key stakeholders. She was pursuing a leadership position with a community-based nonprofit organization and had met with members of the board of directors and management staff, as well as government officials having agency oversight responsibility. It turned out that a couple of people scheduled to meet with her were suddenly unavailable. She sent letters to them, too. Each customized letter highlighted points of particular relevance to the stakeholder, and connected her qualifications directly to the organization's needs. The thank-you letters arrived the day after the last meeting, and she ultimately accepted their job offer.

There are three general categories of thank-you letters. After completing your interview self-evaluation, even if it's only a brief, initial assessment, it should be fairly clear which type of thank-you letter will serve your candidacy the most, and what its focus should be.

1. The pure thank-you. If you believe that you hit a home run and excelled beyond your wildest expectations, and that the interviewer was favorably impressed, then a simple expression of gratitude to the interviewer is adequate. Even if you feel highly confident, it's even more powerful to select a few key points mentioned during the interview as priorities for the position, and connect them to your qualifications. Be sure to include an enthusiastic reminder of why you are interested in working at that particular organization.

2. The reinforcer. This is to strengthen your candidacy if you believe any of the following are true: You could have more effectively related your competencies or experience to the needs of the organization, either voluntarily or in response to the interviewer's question(s); you didn't mention or adequately explain something that you believe is key to advancing your candidacy; or the interviewer was distracted by interruptions or appeared unfocused, and you wish to clearly state or reiterate key points that you believe were not adequately captured or fully understood by him or her.

3. The withdrawal. Another simple and universal truth is that it's best to leave doors open, or at least slightly ajar, whenever possible. A colleague's favorite saying is that a door is rarely closed without a window opening up somewhere else, often in a most unexpected place. So, even if you no longer wish to work at the organization, no matter the reason, it's a good idea to send a thank-you letter. Today's interviewer may be tomorrow's entrepreneur who may remember you years hence when he or she is seeking someone of your caliber. Or the interviewer may encounter another prospective employer seeking someone just like you tomorrow, or next week. If you have sent a cordial withdrawal letter, chances are much better that you'll be remembered with favor. Notice how networking operates all the time, in all situations. It may even turn out that whatever dissuaded you from pursuing the position will completely turn around in the near future. Suddenly, you may find yourself interested in pursuing an opportunity with this organization once again. If you leave on a sour note, your options will be much more limited than if you had behaved professionally and graciously.

Following are elements to be included in most thank-you letters, with examples:

• Return address, inside address, date, and salutation:

Zoe E. Mayberry

621 Lafayette Parkway

Penfield, New York 14526

585.586.9876

Zoey@localnet.net

August 1, 2008

Ms. Esmerelda Stevenson

Vice President, Human Resources

Enchanted Dolls of the World

1258 Village Green

Penfield, New York 14526

Dear Ms. Stevenson:

• Friendly, cordial, and quick reminder of the interview (date, special circumstances, and so on):

Thank you for the opportunity to interview for the Store Manager position at your satellite shop in the Medley Centre Mall yesterday.

• Applying new information learned at the interview, briefly review key points made during the interview that are especially relevant to the target position:

I appreciated your time, and very much enjoyed speaking with you about your plans for the new shoppe in Irondequoit, my hometown. It's delightful to be back after several years abroad, and to find that many of my regional contacts in the world of doll-making are still active in the field I love.

Especially in light of my strong interest and expertise in both bisque and soft-sculpture doll repair, I was thrilled to hear about your vision for the new doll hospital. I'm certain this will be a successful complement to doll sales. Your plans to begin offering selected antique dolls can only add to the appeal of this charming product line.

Reflecting on our conversation, I am even more convinced that my capabilities and experience seem tailor-made to excel in the role of store manager:

  • v Design and fabrication of one-of-a-kind dolls featured in Doll Fancy Magazine (January, 2001 and April, 2007 issues);
  • v Delicate, accurate repair of antique dolls using authentic, period materials.

• Close with a statement of your continuing enthusiasm and interest in the position, including a call to action or your planned follow-up:

As a doll enthusiast with over twenty years of experience creating, repairing and promoting dolls as collectibles as well as meaningful toys, I am even more enthusiastic about this opportunity than when we first met. I look forward to continuing our dialog about ways my skills and abilities can contribute to the growth and success of your new venture, and hope to hear from you soon regarding the next step.

Sincerely,

Zoe E. Mayberry

A number of sample letters have been included on the following pages from each of the categories discussed. Feel free to let them inspire you to develop your own correspondence. The goal is for you to express yourself honestly and directly in your own words, in order to optimally advance your candidacy.

Tips From the Pros

You can move forward more rapidly in your job search by utilizing every opportunity to send a letter to a potential employer. Surprisingly, only a small percentage of candidates send a letter after an interview. A thank you letter is an opportunity to show initiative, to emphasize a critical point about your background, to reflect personality and fit, and that may influence the hiring decision. Be sure to ask for a business card after an interview to check the spelling of names, and correct E-mail or snail mail address. The letter should be brief and if handwritten, legible.

Diane Irwin

Dynamic Résumés

The interview is over. Now what? Sending the interviewer(s) a professional, customized “Thank You” or “Follow-up” letter within 24 hours of the meeting is critical for the job seeker who wants to stand out from the competition. Not only does this show continued interest in the role, but it also brings the candidates name once again to the attention of the decision maker who will appreciate this professional courtesy of saying “Thanks for the opportunity!” Below is a sample of a follow-up letter that can be easily customized:

  • Dear Ms. «Last Name»,
  • Thank you for the opportunity to discuss your opening for a «job posting title». I enjoyed meeting with you to learn more about «company name» and this intriguing career opportunity.
  • During our conversation, I was especially impressed with your organization's commitment to «insert company attribute, mission, or accomplishment» as this is also a passion of mine. My values and strong work ethic are a good fit for your organizational culture. I feel my career experience will complement and add value to your firm.
  • In our meeting, you also stressed the importance of «job holder characteristics as indicated by the employer» as critical elements for success in this role. Allow me to reiterate my talents to support my ability and desire to surpass your expectations:
    • • «Insert relevant strength #1 from your resume»
    • • «Insert relevant strength #2 from your resume»
    • • «Insert relevant strength #3 from your resume»

I hope that after our meeting you will agree that my extensive hands-on experience as a «your current profession or title» coupled with my educational background and training will be a great asset as your «job posting title».

«Company name» will be the ideal organization to build on the career that I have established. I will be available immediately to begin work with your company.

Again, thank you for your time and I am looking forward to hearing from you soon.

Warm Regards,

Candice Candidate

Tanya Taylor, CHRP, CRS, TNT

Human Resources Management

Thank-you letters are “second-tier” marketing communications. They acknowledge the time and consideration of the hiring manager, thank him/her, and express your interest in the position. Don't stop selling your unique skills, qualifications, accomplishments, credentials and more. Relate how your experience is tied directly to the company's current challenges and needs. Share your past experiences in change management, reversing losses, delivering solid profit margins, successes in productivity and quality improvement, and all the other things you accomplished. Highlight how you solved similar problems to those of the hiring company. Share your past achievements in strengthening market position, expanding customer bases, and outperforming competitors. If the hiring company communicated an objection to hiring you, respond to it in the thank-you letter. If you forgot something really important about your experiences or qualifications during the interview, this is the tool to communicate those achievements, experiences, and qualifications. If there were no challenges, problems, objections and nothing that you forget to mention during the interview, then use the thank-you letter to further highlight your specific accomplishments. Thank-you letters don't have to be one-page long. Submit a powerful, well-worded, sales-directed, and competitive thank-you letter.

Doris Appelbaum, BA, MS

Appelbaum's Resume Professionals, Inc.

No-Nonsense Job Interviews © 2009 , Career Press, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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