Job Interview Thank-You Letter Don’ts

Posted: 01/11/2011 in Interviewing, Thank You Letters
Tags: , , , , , ,

The thank-you letter is an important part of the job interviewing process, and should always be sent as soon as possible after the interview. Remember those thank you notes you had to write as a kid for the flowered footie PJs you wouldn’t be caught dead in that your ditzy aunt sent for your birthday? Well, it’s a little like that. Except you don’t want to use notepaper with baby seals on it.

Here are a few  other thank you letter don’ts (sample letters in a later post):

  • Don’t handwrite the letter. You’re not, in fact, writing a thank you note to the aforementioned ditzy aunt. You may hear conflicting views on this point, but all the employers I’ve talked with say they would view a handwritten thank you letter as unprofessional, in addition to being hard to read. And if you think you have the neatest handwriting in the world, you’re probably in denial. The exception to this is if you interview with an extremely touchy-feely, older mom-and-pop company, in which case they might actually appreciate your sending a more traditional and personal type of thank you note. Otherwise, don’t.
  • If you interview on Friday and the employer plans to make a decision by Monday or Tuesday, don’t snail mail the letter. Snail mail is okay, though usually email is preferable (especially if the interviewers are under 30 or so). If a decision is going to be made quickly, though, you want to make sure they get it before they make their choice. if you write a strong letter expressing your enthusiasm about the job and highlighting a point or two discussed during the interview that clearly illustrates how you can slay the company’s dragons, the employer may more likely hire You the Dragon Slayer than Marty the Nose Picker who was interviewed the day before.
  • Don’t just send the letter to one person if 5 people interviewed you. Make sure you get the name and contact info for everyone who participated in the interview and send them each a letter, emphasizing each interviewer’s priority and focusing on what you talked about with that person. In other words, if you interviewed with the CEO and the IT Manager for an IT position, your letter to the CEO would be more focused on the “big picture” stuff, and the one to the IT Manager more specific to the tech problems the department wants you to help them fix. If you have a group interview with the director and their staff, you can email the director and “cc” the staff (by individual name), and start the letter with, “Thank you and your staff for talking with me about the blah blah position yesterday.”
  • Don’t send the letter to the wrong person, or misspell the name. Get the right name and spelling before sending anything. Besides making a really bad impression, the person who gets your letter who never met you might think they’re having blackouts or something.
  • Don’t say bad stuff. Be positive. You want to focus on your strengths that will allow you to help the company solve their problems and are a good match with what they’re looking for. You want to talk about one or two bits of info you learned in the interview that you liked about the company. You don’t want to say, “Although I don’t have experience in blah blah blah and essentially have no clue what I’m doing, I hope you give me a chance anyway.”
  • Don’t wait too long to send the letter. If you don’t send a thank you letter for a month, even if the employer hasn’t yet hired anyone for the position, if they still remember you it won’t be fondly.
  • Don’t make it too long. You’re not Tolstoy, and the employer doesn’t want to read War & Peace. One or two non-rambling paragraphs are enough.
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Comments
  1. lavpaige says:

    This is great advice. I’m about to graduate college (I’ve written all about it on my blog) and it’s good to get some tips that could help me land a job someday. Great post!

  2. Maggie says:

    Good advice, although I’ve always been taught to handwrite thank you letters because typed or emailed notes are supposedly seen as impersonal.

    Thank you for this post – and congratulations on getting Freshly Pressed! 🙂

  3. Great tips – it’s one of those things that can be overlooked, but is so important. My mom was a thank-you hound, and glad she was, as it carried into professional areas as well.

  4. Great tips, and it’s so true about the importance of spelling: I once had an applicant tell me he was proud of his experience as a “freelance waiter and editor.”

    Um. Yeah. I think he meant, “freelance writer.”

    Took him right out of the running for that one. Poor guy…

    😉

    • Unless he actually was a freelance waiter, but probably not.

      • Nope. Definitely a writer, as his list of clients next to the “freelance” entry included magazines and newspapers.

        Unless he was delivering take-out exclusively to journalistic sites? Now there’s a creative niche…

        😉

    • Assuming a normal QWERTY-keyboard, an “r” and an “a” are unlikely to be confused. I would not be surprised if he actually was a waiter—and just tried to give it a funny spin. Did you check his CV for details?

  5. Practical Advise 🙂
    Thanks for the interesting post.

    Hope to see more posting related to interview soon

    Cheers

  6. Hi Laurie, I really like these tips and I’m glad Freshly Pressed brought your blog to my attention. With regard to thank you notes, I’ve been told that my thank you notes (to everyone on the team who interviewed me) made a huge impression. I guess very few candidates write thank you notes any more. I’ve also received a very enthusiastic response to my hand-written thank you notes.

  7. auntbethany says:

    Thank you for these comments. I am about to begin the interview process for teaching gigs, and this will be beyond helpful. Kudos on being FP!

    Oh, and by the way…my straightjacket’s color is a stunning plaid…polka dots on the inside 🙂

  8. CrystalSpins says:

    Oh man! I wish I had read this around Thanksgiving when I interviews for a job! I waited a little too long to send the thank you cause I was so nervous about writing it. But I didn’t wait a month! It took me about a week to get up the guts and word it correctly. But they had already made a decision by then. 😦

    Thanks for the tips!

    Crystal
    http://www.crystalspins.com

  9. Great advice and I love you style! I actually agree with you about the handwritten note. Your post-interview, follow-up definitely needs to be customized to the company your interview was with. Congrats on Freshly Pressed!

    Amy

  10. Lindsay says:

    Good tips for someone who is on the prowl for a new job! Many thanks!

  11. Kevin says:

    Over a year ago, a former employer wrote me a letter of reference that helped me get into school. She moved shortly after, and I lost track of her.

    I have always wanted to write her a thank you, do you think it’s too late?

    • Well, it’s a different situation than after a job interview – if you can find her on LinkedIn or Facebook, you can always say you lost track of her and always meant to thank her. I’m sure she’d still appreciate it.

  12. It is AMAZING the number of people who refuse to proofread their resumes for errors. Great list!

  13. An excellent list of “Don’ts”… I used to work in recruitment for years, and you would be surprised the sort of letters we received, with grammar and spelling mistakes. Also, I would say, don’t go overboard in thanking etc- there is a very thin line between grateful and desperate…lol. Jobseekers- save this post!

  14. Good tips on when to e-mail.

  15. Lakia Gordon says:

    Thanks for the tips!

  16. D.A. says:

    Good tips on this post! Congrats on being freshly pressed!

  17. N Smith says:

    My friend told me about Employment Resource Mall. This helped me with interview questions and overall career advancement, I highly recommend this website http://employment-mall.com

    N. Smith

  18. J says:

    I use to be a recruiter for years and all of these tidbits are the truth. This is thank you letter 101. Great Post!Go big or go home: Adding color to black and whites.
    Black and white blah or BAM. How to turn simple contrasting colors, into an unforgettable outfit. http://www.copperetiquette.wordpress.com

  19. I never sent a letter but I do think it is a good idea, it couldn’t hurt.

  20. Catherine says:

    These are really great tips! However, I don’t mind getting a handwritten thank you note from someone I interivewed. I think it’s a personal touch and shows a little extra effort.

  21. writeway73 says:

    Great advice. I spent 4 months looking for a job after college graduation and I could swear my thank you letters after the interview landed me the job!

    http://writeway73.wordpress.com

  22. harmamae says:

    Wow. Never sent a “thank-you” letter after an interview… of course, I’ve only applied for student-y jobs where it didn’t seem to be a requirement for getting the job. But good to know for the future!

  23. reversepunch says:

    Great tips! I think you hit all of the right points! Thanks for the advice!

  24. ryoko861 says:

    My son and I read this together and he says “Don’t send chocolates”. I busted out laughing….

  25. An interesting post on a surprisingly controversial topic. I’ve been out of work for two years now, and every “career expert” has a different take on thank-you notes, just as they do on resumes, online job seeking, cold calls, and every other part of the job hunt that’s important to job seekers.

    I’ve seen people say you must send a thank-you note, that you should never send one, that they must be hand-written, that you should leave one with the secretary as you leave the interview, that they should only be sent by email, and more. It all ends up being contradictory and fairly unhelpful for the average job seeker who just wants to do their best.

    I say do what you feel is right, but that it’s better safe than sorry – in other words, send a note. It is far more likely to do good than to hurt your case.

    The one caveat to this is: Make your thank-you note a simple, sincere expression of gratitude. DON’T use it as a last-ditch effort to try to sell yourself, reinforce how you would be the ideal employee, or otherwise ingratiate yourself to the interviewers. The time to do that was during the interview; if you didn’t make your case then, an email or note sent as an afterthought won’t change their minds. What’s more, it is often a transparent, needy thing, and smart employers will see right through it. Send a note that simply and honestly expresses your gratitude for the interviewer’s time and the opportunity to meet them, or don’t send one at all.

  26. Emily Jane says:

    Great advice. I work in the pre-employment field and part of my job is to coach people on things ranging from the right way to do a resume, through what a cover letter is and onto acing the interview. And, THANK YOU LETTERS! If I had a dollar for every time someone told me they didn’t want to “suck up”… I always tell them, I’ve got every job I’ve ever applied for and sent a thank-you note after the interview. It really makes you stand out (if, as you said, done correctly :)) Sharing this with my colleagues!

  27. enjoibeing says:

    thanks for the great list. i must jot this down so i know what not to write.

    http://enjoibeing.wordpress.com/

  28. whenquiet says:

    Passing it on. Merci!

  29. Sounds perfectly reasonable and logical. Anything to make the dreaded interview process less of a hassle is god-sent in my opinion. Grats on being FP’d, and great/informative post 🙂

  30. […] rest is here: Job Interview Thank-You Letter Don'ts « Laurie's Job Search … I Love Social BookmarkingSubscribeDiggdel.icio.usStumbleUpon Bookmark It Hide […]

  31. kolembo says:

    Thanks for these!

  32. ricksrant says:

    only way to get ahead

  33. Evie Garone says:

    Good for you! I think Thank You everythings are under rated!

  34. educlaytion says:

    I always like it when someone like you explains something useful in an interesting and funny way. Good post.

  35. lisasub says:

    hmmm… if people need this type of business etiquette advice, I’d be concerned about how they would fare at the actual job!

  36. rtcrita says:

    I’m with Mr. Turnage up above. I’ve gotten so many different messages about Thank You notes. I do them sometimes, but most of the time I don’t. In all the jobs I’ve ever had before, I never wrote a Thank You note. The ones I did write one for, I didn’t get the job. I’m sure that’s just a coincidence. It probably doesn’t hurt to do it. But I do believe I would keep it brief.

  37. reilei says:

    Never thought about this… In my next job interview i´ll try this advice. I hope this finally gives a well paid job. A thing I never had since I finished college in Portugal.

    Best regards!

  38. I know someone who once ended up with a scholarship AFTER he had been turned down for it, on the strength of a thank you letter. Manners maketh man.

  39. newsy1 says:

    I agree it makes you stand out to send a thank-you note. If someone has had to interview many, it can’t hurt to have your name at the forefront one last time before a decision is made. Great blog.

  40. It was the best of interviews….it was the worst of interviews…

  41. Gina Welker says:

    Don’t write hand-written notes? Seriously? While we’re at it, should we also not bother with stuffy details like handshakes because we probably suck at those and will only risk spreading germs to our employer?

    Turnage is spot on. Do what’s timely and what you feel, based on the employer, will make the most impact.

    In my job search, I always wrote a thank you e-mail the day of the interview so I knew they got something asap, and then followed up with a handwritten note via snail mail for the personal touch.

    I also kept my correspondence to 2 to 3 sentences:
    * One to express my gratitude,
    * One to reference a specific detail regarding the position or company from our conversation, and
    * One to address next steps.

    If they’ve already seen your cover letter and resume and done an interview, they shouldn’t need, and probably won’t have time, to read more than that (unless there was a specific issue or request from the interview which required more in-depth follow up).

  42. I was taught to send a thank you note, plain and simple. I love how you say direct the style towards the company regarding handwritten. A younger company might think you are ‘quaint’ with a hand-written thank you. Congrats on being pressed!

  43. Andrew Hall says:

    Funny as always, Laurie.

  44. splitpease says:

    Seriously? I just logged onto word press and read your blog right after I put the stamps on my handwritten thank you notes to the ladies I interviewed with yesterday…uhgggg!!!!

  45. Great advice! Now I know what I should have done in my past interviews! 😦

  46. Rod says:

    I was in construction work.It is mostly or usually ‘contractual’ [short, time framed if not per project contracts]jobs. Sending ‘thank you’ message for being interviewed is strange to me. Must people really do that? Who started it all?

    I got my jobs because I knew employers saw what they were looking, what they needed, in me. And they had to get me quick or I’ll be in a similar project. I had the edge. Sometimes I did not, so I guess there were others better.

    And I bet that is universal of all employers during interviews, and follow-ups by applicants later are but …. I don’t know.

  47. Meghann says:

    I always send a handwritten thank you note. I do know I have pretty neat handwriting but I can understand why some would think it is unprofessional and sloppy. If you suggest something typed, what would you suggest as a thank you? an email? or a mailed typed note?

  48. xsastro says:

    mmm…. great advice. it’s good to get some tips that can help me find a good job. Great post dude!
    you can visit my SEXY ARTIST 2011 in http://www.squidoo.com/hots-megan-fox-tattoos

  49. Congrats on being Squished and Pressed! LOL.

    I, too, recently learned that email is preferable to snail mail when it comes to formal thank-you notes these days. Initially, my jaw kind of dropped; it makes sense though. Things move much faster today than they did when I learned about penning a proper thank-you 20 years ago.

    Come visit me at Lessons From Teachers and Twits. (I’m the Twit!)

    http://rasjacobson.wordpress.com

  50. misterking23 says:

    how important is it to send a thank you letter in the first place…I didn’t even know people did that.

  51. LL says:

    Wow. I just recently posted about my horrific job interview (for postaday2011/week) and my subsequent barely-civil thank you letter. My name is also Laurie, so I was doubly surprised (What? I don’t remember writing this!? Oh wait…). I don’t often encounter anyone with the same spelling name as me 🙂

    http://ellejelle.wordpress.com/2011/01/08/post-a-day-craziest-job-interview-of-2010/

    Well I sent the email the same day as the interview since he told me he was going to make the decision soon. So I read a few times that there is a happy medium between sending a thank you letter too soon or too late. I just wanted to get over it in this case.

    Thanks for your post! I always enjoy modern-day job-searching tips! Every time I search online there are articles from 2005 or earlier talking about handwritten thank you notes. Thank goodness that era is over.

  52. lbwong says:

    Even though I got the job….I not only hand wrote thank you notes to each person on the interview board, but I did so knowing I DO NOT have good handwriting–Yikes! And, this was information I got online as to the right way to send thank you notes. I’d much rather agree with your take on it! All of your points are great actually. Congrats on Freshly Pressed, LB

  53. Lucky says:

    In India, after an interview we usually do not send a thank you note. Maybe it is because we don’t know the interviewer’ name / address. But it is a good thought actually. However, I doubt if it would really be read by them either (in these areas).. :/

  54. new insight! I have been to more than 80 interview through the course of my 10 year career and I have never sent a thank you letter…

  55. richannkur says:

    Excellent article…. it will be very useful for all the job seekers… good work!!

  56. Really a great tips, Thanks so much.

  57. dinnanorris says:

    hei, im dinna, not tolstoy. ^_^.
    gud thinkin ya. thanks for share.
    and my color jackets is red, brown and black.

  58. Sajib says:

    I was wondering how am I supposed to know what the other guys do in the company and their contact info? :-/

  59. prabhu says:

    Cool stuff

  60. I honestly never ever actually thought about sending a thank you letter after being for an interview…. HAHA. Actually they should thank you! For coming! HAHA! Am i laughing alone?
    Congratulations on being freshly pressed!
    xx

  61. The takes on “thank you”s vary wildly, but let us say that your take is right in the majority of the cases (and it quite possibly is):

    What does that say about the lack of rationality in the company world? In a rational world the “thank you” would just be seen as a mutual waste of time—and the sender would receive minus points. It does not truly bring new information (unless the interviewee did a poor job during the interview), it does not show “follow-up skills” (on the outside, that the interviewee belongs to the school of insurance salesmen who get their deals through pestering customers until they sign in desperation), and if it brings the interviewer’s attention back to the interviewee, then more likely than not in a negative sense.

    It may well be that many interviewers are sufficiently irrational to actually be swayed the implicit pat on the back, irrespective of it being an obviously generic (in intent, not necessarily content) pat with a (not-so-)hidden agenda, which would have been given to any other interviewer. If so, the case for the company world is not exactly strengthened.

  62. Great advice. When interviewing, ask for business cards so you know the name and title of the individuals interviewing you. Email thank you notes are quicker and better than handwritten ones.
    http://www.moneyprovidesfreedom.wordpress.com

  63. babymom says:

    Good advice! Will use the pointers when I teach this lesson in class.

    Thanks!

  64. Riax says:

    interesting perspective. I’ve never sent a thank you letter after an interview ( that may be why i never got so many jobs). But i don’t know anyone else that has and its not something i’ve ever heard a recruitment agency tell me to do.

  65. hunter71 says:

    I am to young to have to worry about this yet. But, my sister just graduated from college and is going to start looking for a “real” job. I will forward your blog to her, because I know it will help. Hunter71 🙂 http://www.hcrproducts.com

  66. gps maps says:

    Searched Google and landed up here – its good so I posted the link on my Facebook account !

  67. wow. these are great tips. i will write them down and remember that for when i get a job interview! thank you!!

  68. thank you letter says:

    I found the tips presented in this article to be very informative and helpful to me to write my letter. I found an online creator to automatically make my thank you letter that I used and it worked great.

  69. Jay says:

    Why just stop at a thank you letter? Why not send a gift basket or tickets to great seats at a sporting event?

    In all seriousness, if your resume is solid and your interview went well, I do not believe that a thank you letter is very necessary. It just seems too routine to really have any impact, but then again, I guess it couldn’t hurt.

    This is actually a new concept to me. I have never sent a thank you letter for an interview in my entire career, and I have landed every job I have interviewed for. I would imagine that if omitting a thank you letter is going to be the deal breaker, you are probably better off not working at that place of employment anyways.

    • Hmm, a gift basket – probably tips that balance between courtesy and bribery….

      The thing is, you may very well get offers without sending thank-yous, but it’s still better to send than not to send, especially in a competitive job market – it’s generally considered a courtesy that employers appreciate. Although I always thought it’s too bad it’s not considered protocol for the employer to send interviewees thank-yous as well. Maybe next decade.

      • Ryan says:

        I concur with Jay. In my 15 years of working, I’ve never sent a thank you letter and have still landed about 90 percent of the interviews I’ve been on. I think the thank you letter is a nice touch to add but honestly even as an interviewer, i would rarely remember a candidate beyond a month even if they sent a letter. If their resume was solid, that had more of an impact on me as an interviewer than the thank you letter.

      • I agree that of course the resume is more important than the thank-you letter, and some employers might not care. A lot of employers I’ve talked with say the thank-you does sometimes make a difference, though. Again, in a competitive job market, might as well do it, rather than not do it.

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