Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Give Thanks - After the Interview

It's that time again. This week we'll gather with family and friends and give heartfelt thanks for the blessings and people in our lives. Expressing gratitude is important in all facets of our daily lives. But in some situations, knowing how and when to say "thank you" can be tricky. One of those instances is the "after-the-interview-thank-you-note-challenge".

Sending a thank-you note following the job interview is one of those things you know you should do, but many people find this seemingly simple task to be an extremely difficult task. Do you send a handwritten thank-you note or is it OK to send an email? If you were interviewed by a selection committee, do you send a separate, differently worded note to each of the interviewers? When do you send the note - immediately after the interview, or within one or two days? Can it wait a week? And when is it too late to send the thank-you?

Of course it's professional and good etiquette to send a thank-you note. But just as importantly, the after-interview "thank-you" is a great opportunity to reinforce your fit for the job. It's a chance to sell yourself one more time as the ideal candidate and to expand on how your qualifications match the requirements of the job. It's a way for you to make one more great impression, and emphasize the benefit you can bring to the company. It's a great chance to distinguish yourself from your competitors. Don't miss the opportunity to get your name in front of the right people one more time – it gives them another reason to remember you.

So where do you start? Always send the thank you within 24 hours of the interview. The discussion will be fresh in your mind, your notes from the interview will make more sense and you'll be able to zero in on specifics from the interview more easily. Any longer than 24 hours will make the hiring manager think it was an afterthought, and they may not remember you at all.

There's disagreement among career experts on whether the thank-you note should be snail-mailed or emailed. It really depends on the company and on how quickly they intend to make a hiring decision. Emailed thank-you notes are probably fine in most cases, especially if it's a company where email communication is the norm. If the culture of the company seems more traditional, you may also want to follow up with a hard-copy version of your thank-you note. If your handwriting is legible and neat, go ahead and hand-write the note. If not, type it up, print it out and put it in the mail.

How should the thank-you note be structured? Make it short. This is not the time to go into an epic discussion of your qualifications. Thank the interviewer for his or her time, and mention one thing you like about the company as a whole. It might be that the culture, management style, executive leadership team, or long-term corporate growth objectives are a good match for you. Pull out something specific from the interview that is a differentiator for you. Maybe there was discussion of a problem you can help solve, or experience in your background that aligns with an important company initiative. Restate your enthusiasm for the position and your interest in the job. Be enthusiastic about the opportunity. Close by asking for the job. Don't beat around the bush. It's perfectly acceptable to say that you'd love the chance to work for the company.

By making the effort to show your interest in the job, highlighting the contributions you're prepared to make and the value you're willing to bring to a company, hopefully next Thanksgiving you'll have even for which to give thanks.